I hope I don’t get kicked out of my church for this one, because this is a true representation of how petty and sinful I can be.  I believe if we are honest, however, we can all admit that we have a problem with judging others.   I judge people’s actions, their clothes, their hair, how clean their house is, and how well behaved their children are.  You name it, I use bits and pieces of their lives to decide how cool or worthy I think a person is or isn’t. 

Some things I wrestle with because they are really important.  But other things are downright petty.  And, I would ascertain that judging others is even more prevalent and more destructive to our lives and the mission of Christ than we imagine. 

Today, I will address the downright petty stuff.  Why?  Because, it is the low hanging fruit.  It is obvious.  There are a lot of things that might be hard to understand about Christianity, but this is not one of them.  I don’t think there is a lot of gray area regarding what I will be discussing today and yet, I still do it, as do most people. 

Now, I do feel like there are a lot of layers to the subject of judging others and that it brings up a lot of questions.  Obviously, judging someone on their hairstyle is petty.  But what about judging someone’s actions, for example, if they are involved in an extramarital affair?  That doesn’t seem petty, but rather something that needs to happen.  Is judging just a form of speaking the truth?  Or, are we called not to judge at all?  And if we are called not to judge at all, does that mean we just ignore the truth from the Bible?  I don’t have a clear answer on these questions yet, and I’m not sure the answer is always the same.  Maybe loving someone and confronting them is different than confronting someone you don’t know or don’t confront out of love.

I’m honestly not ready to tackle all of those questions.  But I have become increasingly aware of times that I am clearly making a judgment when I should not be.  Not only should I be reserving judgment, in these cases but it is hindering my growth, my relationships with others, my ability to share Christ’s love and ultimately His ability to work through me.  So, I’m going to start here, with the low hanging fruit and then pray for wisdom and guidance on the rest of it. 

If you have read some of my earlier posts, you know that I almost always get something really, really meaningful from church.  I realize that church is about worshipping God and even though most of society probably judges church by what they get, I have come to realize that I am there just as much, or even more so, to worship God than for Him to give me anything.  But, He keeps giving me lessons, and most of the time, they are pretty big lessons.

On one particular Sunday, I don’t actually remember what the sermon was, but I remember in high definition the lesson I received that day.   To give a little bit of necessary background, there is one sin that I have committed that I regret more than any other.  There is no way to change it, but if I could, I definitely would.  Every time I read about it in my Bible, I get irritated with myself for getting sucked into it.  But, alas it happened and if nothing else, God has used it for good in our lives as only He could do.

So, on this Sunday, I was singing and watching a few late comers find their seats.  As I looked around, I saw a gal that I know but had not seen for at least a year or so.  Watching her find her seat, I thought “Uh, she should not be at our church!  If she is a Christian, she doesn’t act anything like a Christian.  I know what she has done.” 

I don’t know a lot about this gal’s life.  I don’t know her very well at all.  But I knew that she had committed the very same sin I had.  The same one!  And in my quest to be superior, in my arrogance, I felt the need to determine, without any actual information, that she could not be as remorseful as I am and that she doesn’t deserve to attend my church. 

I’m just going to say, I didn’t leave that service feeling particularly good about myself.  I don’t have a lot of verses in the bible memorized, but I do know the gist of a lot of them.  And, this is where God reached down and very, very quickly reminded me not to judge the speck in my sister’s eye when I had a log in my own.  (If you want the actual wording, you can find it in Matthew 7:3-5)  I realized at that moment, that I had a lot of work to do on my own heart. 

I was convicted in a different way this last week when we attended our Wednesday night service.   This is one additional night, twice a month that our church offers a service and in particular communion.  We have only made it to this service one other time when I was baptized.  So, this was a little bit of a new experience for us.

As we sat and I looked around, as I always do, I noticed that Wednesday night drew less of a crowd and somewhat of a different crowd.  Most of those in attendance were very different from us, or at least I perceived them to be.  I saw people by themselves, people who are older than I am, people with grown children, and people who basically looked different in style than me. 

Now, this is going to sound really shallow, and it is, so be prepared.  However, it illustrates a really important point.  So, I am going to share it, even if it does make me look shallow.  There was another lady in front of us.  She was really pretty, but when I looked at her, I immediately assumed that I didn’t have anything in common with her.  And you know why?  She had what I perceived as an out of date hairstyle and clothes that were maybe not what I would call hip.  Hmmmm…..

As He always does, if I will listen, God stepped in and at that very moment, I realized that each person in that church is a child of God.  I realized that inside of whatever I perceive on the outside, each person is a human being uniquely created by God and yearning for me as a Christian to show Christ’s love to them.  Each of us wants to be loved and accepted, especially in our church, and I was letting my pre-conceived notions convince me that I wouldn’t have anything in common with them.    I wasn’t judging her in a condemning way but rather in a way that might keep us from coming together in the body of Christ.

Maybe God was saying something along these lines…..”Hey, not sure if you have read My word lately, but paying a lot of attention and pouring a lot of money into the way you look really isn’t what you are on this earth for.  FYI.  Maybe instead of assuming you don’t have anything in common, you could learn something from all these people in church that seem different than you.” Ouch, yes I think so.

I feel like churches get a pretty bad wrap about not being welcoming enough to outsiders or just being uncomfortable for those that don’t normally attend church.  But I have to wonder aloud, if it is not us, with our preconceived notions, that judge the people at church and decide we don’t fit.  Maybe the sin in our lives has taken over our thinking making it really hard to come to church and feel accepted.   

Have you ever really thought about why we judge other people?  Some good friends and I were talking this week and we all agreed that it is to make ourselves feel better, superior in some way.  Why is it that I need to belittle someone else, to make myself feel ok?  Now that I write that down, I feel even worse about it. 

There are some lyrics to a song by Casting Crowns that could easily be my prayer today and every day.  The song is called, Jesus Friend of Sinners.  Here are some of the lyrics:

Jesus, friend of sinners, the truth’s become so hard to see
The world is on their way to You but they’re tripping over me
Always looking around but never looking up I’m so double minded
A plank eyed saint with dirty hands and a heart divided

Oh Jesus, friend of sinners
Open our eyes to the world at the end of our pointing fingers
Let our hearts be led by mercy
Help us reach with open hearts and open doors
Oh Jesus, friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks yours

Lord, I know people are tripping over me.  It is my prayer today that you will forgive me for my arrogance and judgmental ways and that you will “break my heart for what breaks yours”.  May my heart be undivided and led by mercy and may your work be done through me. 

 

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