Spiritual Profiling (IBTR #45)

How fast can you size up someone as a dedicated Christian or not? Can you do it with a mere glance? If so, you may have a problem that pervades all of Christianity. It really thrives in the Independent Baptist world too. We too often become expert spiritual profilers!

Strangely, the idea for this post came from a family discussion we had in the van driving along. My son remembered an episode a few years back where we once just saw some people and said they must be Christians. It was based on how they were dressed. Then we saw them do something and said that we must have been wrong. My son remembered that episode and thought how silly we were. He was right!

We never spoke to them, nor really knew anything about them, but felt qualified to label them as sincere Christians. Then in a knee-jerk reaction, a few moments later, we felt equally capable of labeling them the opposite on the flimsiest of evidence. We have probably been more guilty of what I write of here than anything else, though we have dabbled in many of them.

It happens so often. Our pride convinces us we can tell with a glance, though somewhere deep inside we know better.

People are outraged when the police profile. As it usually goes, those who get profiled get far more angry than those who have the look the profiler finds acceptable. I could see the sense of it in radical cases (someone with a quintessential jihadist look in an airport), but beyond that it is only an inaccurate exercise at best.

In spiritual matters profiling is doomed from the start. It arrives at its conclusions with the wrong criteria. It’s like trying to add without arithmetic! Two people could walk by and one be dressed far more conservatively than the other, but how could that one thing prove which one is truly the dedicated Christian? The less conservative one may have prayed sincerely or just witnessed to someone while the more conservative one may have just yelled at some helpless sales clerk. I am not saying that one could not dress in a truly immodest way, nor am I suggesting profiling in the other direction either.

No, I am suggesting that we stop profiling all together. Jesus actually spoke of it in other terms. He said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” He was not saying that you could not call something sinful that was biblically defined as such, but that you must not size people up by outward appearances. You do not know someone’s heart, and the things we often use to try are all the wrong things!

How do you think spiritual profiling would have gone had you tried it with the Pharisee and the Publican? Probably not a good idea, is it?

Find all articles in the series here.





18 thoughts on “Spiritual Profiling (IBTR #45)

  1. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

  2. Another great article! Once I attended a high school athletic event. Two ladies were sitting in front of me. By all “appearance” they would be classified as Christians. What came from their mouths was anything but Christian .
    I have learned the hard way that what I thought was Christianity was a anything but.

    In John 13:35 Jesus said that people will know we are his disciples by our love one towards another .
    That is truly absent in many of our circles .

  3. Oh yes, we think God is a cookie cutter and if another person is not exactly like me then they cannot be saved and are on their way to Hell. Sometimes we would make a Pharisee blush.

    I cannot tell you how refreshing reading your blog is.

  4. As usual, your posts create the possibility for a wide range of discussion topics – so many things you bring up! In an attempt to be succinct, let’s start with this – why are we even thinking this way? Why are we making value judgments on faulty criteria? The human (sinful) condition is certainly one reason, but the second is that we are taught to think this way by false teachers who perpetrate error with our consent. A previous poster referenced John 13:35 – THAT’S the criteria, and SHOULD BE end of story. The solution – stop listening to people who are teaching us this unbiblical view.

    • We think this way because it is what we are told to think. A woman in pants must be a hussy. Men with long hair and earrings must be gay. People with headphones on must be listening to the wrong music. And so on and so on.

      We become so wrapped up with our standards and our very small social group that ends up all we can see. We in the IFB are pretty closed minded about the rest of the world because we want to see them through our prism. So when we see somebody that sort of looks like us we assume they must be like us.

  5. I think a good indicator of the quality of our judgment is WHY are you doing so? Is it because you care about them? Do you want to get to know them? Do you want to help them? Are you looking for something to gossip about? Are you looking for a way to make yourself feel better in the midst of your own insecurities? Are you trying to gain merit before God and comparing yourself to other people helps you feel better in His eyes? I personally do have a problem with this. I love to people watch. But in doing so, I often fall into the trap of thinking poorly of other people for no good reason. And I do feel that a huge part of it is this idea of personal insecurities. It just makes you feel better in some strange way to see all the wrong in other people, whether legit or not, it is legit to you, and it makes you feel good believing you’re better off than everyone else. When in reality, we are all the same. We are all depraved just the same, utterly worthless without the same Savior. We just don’t want to think that way. We don’t like to say it, but we’re all about intrinsic, personal goodness rather than Christ’s.

  6. The ugly side of this is the thought of how many preachers are sitting in jail today, or who are out of the ministry, have broken families, etc. because of grievous sins they committed while in the pulpit–looking for all the world the part of the great Christian. There used to be a day when knowing someone was a preacher would be considered trustworthy, but today, it seems that preachers have the opposite reputation. Yet, I know a girl who married a “biker dude”–with the long hair (including long facial hair), the tattoos, leather, etc. but he is the most kind, loving person, and a great, attentive, and caring father for his children, and an honest, conscientious man in his worldly dealings, and a believer. When she married him, people thought she had gone to the dogs, but the wonderful, short-haired, suit-and-tie, preacher boy she had dated before him beat her and verbally abused her constantly. Outward appearances mean absolutely nothing, especially these days. Satan himself disguises himself as an angel of light. If you make shallow criteria for people’s behavior, you make shallow judgments, and the result will be failure.

  7. I’d like to thank you for writing this blog. I stumbled across it while searching for shunning in the bible. My wife’s parents and brother have shunned her sister for decisions she made. Your article on the topic was very helpful. I would also like you to know that we were in an independent baptist church for 15 yrs, but began to struggle trying to rationalize many of the issues that you have written about. We spent two yrs trying to work through it, speaking to the pastor and others on staff about how I believed what was happening was wrong. I was told that it was my fault, because I was bitter. It finally got to the point where I was physically sickened at the thought of being in that church, and tended to only show up for bible study where our friends were. We knew this wasn’t enough, so we left the church. We struggled for 3 yrs trying to find a church home, and often felt like we were wandering in the desert. We were shunned by some, especially since our former pastor preached that sermon against us like you mentioned. They even setup card board cutouts of people with names like “doubter” written on them and ran over them with bulldozers during a ground breaking ceremony for the new auditorium. It was hard not to be suspicious of everyone. I knew I had emotional and spiritual baggage from the previous church. I was very angry. It took a while for God to cleanse that from my heart and mind. Recently, we’ve found a church that we are excited about (it doesn’t have the word “baptist” in the name). I’m not saying that I will never go to a baptist church again. Hopefully, with people like you in positions of respect planting seeds in peoples minds about what God’s word really says, some change will occur. Even though I wouldn’t recommend it, this experience has been good for me overall, because it forced me to take a hard look at the bible, and to have a stronger one-on-one relationship with God. It was the only way to survive the desert.

  8. Pingback: Do You Have Your Own Spiritual Litmus Test? (IBTR #74) | The Reagan Review

  9. Not sure why but this article made me think of Zaccheaus and how just because he was a publican we typically characterize him in a bad manner as Christians so maybe we are profiling him unfairly.

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