The other day I was talking with a friend from work. Sometimes she is reluctant to tell me about her life because of the way I choose to live my mine. She doesn’t have to tell me this. I just know that this is how she feels. The other day I called her on it. I told her she could feel free to tell me things and that I wouldn’t judge her. She then said something that keeps ringing in my ears… “Oh Maria, everyone judges.” I told her that wasn’t true and that I do not judge her. It is hard to have deep, meaningful conversations as my job because I work retail and conversations are constantly being interrupted by customers walking in or things that have to get done. Unfortunately, the conversation stopped there.
I suppose what she was saying was true. People do judge others. In Luke’s account of Jesus, in the 7th chapter, right after the passage on enemy love, Jesus urges His listeners, “Do no judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.” These are super simple instructions, however, super hard to actually execute. One thing that I know about myself is that I require so much grace from others when I mess up, but I am quite unwilling to extend grace and mercy to others. I am not a very patient person. I hate that about myself. There are many times I can see myself getting caught in the trap that society often sets for us and that is that some people are worthy of forgiveness and others simply are not. That is a lie. Jesus Himself put no restrictions on forgiveness, why should we. Sometimes we are too hurt to forgive, too angry, too scared…I don’t know you fill in the blank.
The judging thing kills me though. It goes back to the whole idea of walking a mile in someone else’s shoes. Instead of trying to understand the circumstances under which someone is acting, a lot of the time we will simply judge their actions as sinful, wrong or evil. God does not classify sin. He does not say the liar is better than the murderer or the adulterer is better than the fornicator. Why do we? If we look in the mirror I am sure we will all find a sinner that has been renewed and forgiven and that will be renewed and forgiven again tomorrow and the next day.
Later in that passage Jesus addresses those he refers to as “blind,” “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” We all have some type of 2x 4 in our eyes that impair our vision so why are we even attempting to extract wood chips out of someone else’s eye? Is the 2 x 4 worse than the wood chips? Vision is impaired either way.
I am not saying that when our friends live in a way that compromises the integrity of their faith that we sit by idle with hands off in the name of love, mercy and forgiveness. I am saying that anything constructive that you might say about someone’s life and the way they live it does not happen outside of a relationship and love. If you call someone out on their shit outside of a relationship with them they absolutely will not listen to you and you will have contributed to those in my friend’s statement. You will be part of the mass of “everyone judges.” However, when you do life with someone and are in true community with them that is where the transformation happens and love rules. It is there the specks will drop out of every eye because love reigns and it truly conquers all. My friend Scott once said that sharing Jesus cannot happen outside of relationship. Inside relationship and community judgment is replaced by a hand held out and scorn and shame is replaced with mercy and grace.
I have the most amazing friends in the world who aren’t afraid to question me on something in my life. They aren’t scared to challenge me on something they see in me that doesn’t line up with the faith I say I have and it is because they know they can. They know they have a place in my life where there is mutual respect and love. They come not with words of blind judgment and accusation but with understanding and respect.
I want to close with this. As Christians it is not our job to clean people up from the dirt we have deemed on them. It is very much our job, calling and purpose to love them and to show them Jesus. Jesus says at the end of the 13th chapter of John’s account of Jesus’ life, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”