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You Never Judged Me …

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You Never Judged Me …

I was sitting outside towards evening time and looked up to see the sun burning full and round at me through some nearby trees.  In that moment of warmth and light a thought flickered through my soul, traveled up to my mind, and out towards God: You never judged me.  It was a stunning realization.  For a long time I’ve been aware of the verse that there is no condemnation for those who are Christ Jesus.  But this is literally the first time that it has dawned on me that never, not once, not only in my lifetime, but from all of eternity past has God ever judged me.

In his foreknowledge he knew every sin I would commit and every good I would omit, every pattern, every choice, every hard-fought struggle against giving in to this flesh nature.  He knew my willful sins, the ones that I would delight in.  He knew of the times that I would “know better” and “do it anyway”.  Yet never has he pointed the finger of blame or crashed the gavel down to reverberate so hard as to knock me off my feet.  He has loved me with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3) and his thoughts about me outnumber the grains of sand (Psalm 139: 17-18).  His thoughts towards me are good and not evil, and his plans are to give me a future and a hope (Jeremiah 29:11).

There is a difference between knowing that a person will sin versus judging them for it, a difference between allowing the natural consequences of sin versus raging in anger over people about how wrong they are, a difference between God and man.  It is not God, but man who points the finger and slams the gavel and even takes Bible verses to point out how wrong others are and how much they are “God’s enemies” if they continue in their unrepentant ways.  It is not God, but man, who will flip out at this post and begin harvesting verses from their minds, looking in indexes and concordances to find stories or verses to negate what I say here: God doesn’t judge until the end.  Until then, he loves.  And that is all he has ever done.  And that was given to me, today. When the warmth and the light shone down on me.

Peace to all far and wide.  He is a God who has always loved us, and loves until our last breath. The choice to know him and love him back through a relationship with Jesus is ours, and at that point, condemnation shall never touch a hair on our head.

To See Is To Love

Oh me.  Another night of propaganda from an agenda focused Christian. It hurts my heart, truly.  Can you guess what religious agenda I’m referring to? There are probably only a handful of them.

The marquee sin folks.  Let’s put it this way rather, the “marquee” sin. Because really it’s not marquee.

I am referring to homosexuality.  I was reminded that few sins are so bad as to be called an abomination.  It made me wish I remembered the verse that lists about 8 other common sins – not so segregated, pinpointed, judged and despised – that are indeed called abominations.

Ugh. I can’t really defend my position or reason with my propagandist either because I can tell when a person is so blinded by religion and rules, so ingrained in perception and opinion, that they cannot receive an opposing view.  Only faith is flexible, only love lubricates, to enable movement like brave steps out of the confinement of rigidity that people lock themselves into.

On my drove home from this discouraging interaction, listening to the radio with a scattered mind, a voice spoke through,or  rather bored through my thoughts.  I love it when this happens.  It is totally superimposed, audible and clear in my mind’s ear, and I know it’s more than me.  It said, “How can you love me if you can’t even see me?”

Wow. Is this the voice of the shunned and judged homosexual, asking Christians (who say they love all people, who “love the person but hate the sin”) in painful honesty:

How can you love me? You can’t even see me. You only see my behavior.  You see what I do, and think that’s all that I am. How can you love someone you cannot see? You don’t see my heart, my thoughts, my likes. My contributions, my passions, my quirks. My personality, my brokenness, my potential. You know nothing of me.  Just my sin.  

Or was that arrow-driven phrase the voice of God? God asking people, “How can you love me when you can’t even see me?”

Double wow.  How can we love God, who is invisible, when we can’t even see (let alone love) people who are right in front of us, tangible, in the flesh, touchable, knowable, interactive?

How many believers rock out on Sunday with arms raised to Jesus, yet Monday through Saturday hold their arms out to keep others at bay (sinners, don’t mingle with them lest you be like them), or cross their arms in closed body language.

Eek.

Some time ago, whether before I knew Christ for real, or after, I know not, but some time ago, I read a verse that packed a powerful punch to what judgment may have been floating around me or attaching to me at the time.  It also shattered any future judgement like shards of glass with no possible recovery to ever be rebuilt again. It wasn’t even the whole verse, just the first part:

“Jesus looked at him and loved him…” (Mark 10:21 NIV)

I know that because God is love, that he loved this man.  But I also know that God saw this man, really, truly, deeply saw this man.  He had an interest in this guy. He liked him.  He probably laughed at some of his quirks and loved to just hang out with him. He knew the man’s humanity, the good and the bad. He understood the man’s history, cared enough to piece together all the things that made him who he was in that moment.  He saw the man, past, present, and future, and he LOVED him. Just by looking at him, he loved him.  And by ‘seeing’ him, on a deeper level of understanding and appreciation, he loved him.

We are so supposed to be like Jesus in this.  Made in His image, we should look at people physically and love them right off the bat.  We should also “see” people on a deeper level, and love them.  When we see a person, our heart should stir on some level if indeed the love of Christ is born in us.  It is only a natural overflow. Yes, our love will be small in comparison to God’s, our ‘seeing’ others physically and insightfully will be imperfect, but the spark should still be there. Ignition should happen when the eyes of a child of God, with love in their chest at the core of their being, should fall upon the sight of another human being.

And if we profess to love God, then we should also see him for who he really is: utterly open-handed, arms wide open to the world.  God is a reacher of humanity.  A friend of sinners.  He walks with people and gets to know them.  In the context of relationship and love, he teaches them, and he looks at them and is so filled with love, so stirred and brimming and impassioned for the one as well as the many.

God is love.  As he is, so he does.  And so should those of us who have that awe-inspiring mystery of mysteries abiding within us, God in us, and therefore Love in us.

 “My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality.” I John 3:18

Mercy: The Cure for Judging Others

Back in 2010 Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice, became an instant YouTube sensation due to his phenomenal radio announcer voice.  He appeared on television shows such as Today and Dr. Phil and was offered a paid-for rehab opportunity, which he left after only 12 days.  This is the last I have heard of Ted Williams, leaving me somber over the sad tragedy of addiction which drew him back in, and the loss of the radio job he was to begin.

I was musing on this the other day with someone.  I said that it broke my heart and that I always wondered what happened to Ted.  It was such an inspirational story, and I always loved his eyes and smile and presence. I love stories of human triumph and I had high hopes, along with the rest of the nation, for Mr. Williams.

My partner in conversation felt completely different and somewhat shocked me, stating that she had a hard time feeling sorry for people like that, meaning people who are given a chance only to blow it once, twice, or repeatedly.  It seemed to not matter how many times.  The ultimate verdict in her eyes was that he got what he deserved.  It was his fault he chose to return to his addiction, his fault he lost the once-in-a-lifetime chance he was given through his instant new-found fame.

Perhaps you notice that I said I was only “somewhat shocked.” This is because I am, for some reason, highly attuned to judgmental attitudes.  I pick up on judgment like a hound dog, sniffing it out in the slightest of comments that people make.  However, most people aren’t slight about their judging of others at all.  They seem to think there is nothing wrong with criticizing the flaws of others, and unfortunately backing it up with religion or the Bible.

Yes, sadly the Bible is a weapon in the hands of many who call themselves Christians.  I’m not just talking about the obvious kind of judgmental professed Christian who get labeled as hypocrites.  I’m talking about happy, smiling, high-on-Jesus professed Christians.  Or the very devoted church going professed Christians, like my partner in conversation who disdained this man’s mishandling of grace.

Judgment is so grossly prevalent in people of all walks of life.  If you’re paying attention, you’ll see that it literally oozes out of people’s mouths.  It taints their tone of voice even when they water their words down to appear less harsh and severe towards others. I see it as a deep sickness in the psyche of all of humanity.  I see it so much that very ironically, the hardest people for me not to judge are those who do judge.  Crazy twist, huh?

So what is the solution to this spiritual problem of judging others? Some people might think grace is the answer, and I do believe it can be an answer.  However grace is giving others what they don’t deserve.  It is gifting the person with goodness unearned.  To me, mercy is the more fitting answer.  Mercy is the withholding of punishment or consequences that are rightfully deserved.  It gives nothing, save for a pardon. It is letting people off the hook and not giving them the judgment their actions may naturally or morally call for.

I love mercy and grace both.  To me they are two sides of one coin, two hands of the same body.  I love stories of redemption, grace and mercy. Ted William’s story was one of grace.  He was discovered through that YouTube video, and as a result people wanted to give to him.  They gave him grace, they gave him things he didn’t earn on his own.  It was free and unmerited. But the minute he fell from grace, he fell out of the media, out of the public eye, and into the merciless attitudes of the many.

I have searched for information on Ted to see if there is anything new reported on what became of him.  The most recent date I find is May 2012, where he is reported to have written a book called The Golden Voice: How Faith, Hard Work, and Humility Brought Me from the Streets to Salvation. He started a project aimed at supporting homeless people and shelters, is a public speaker on the issue of homelessness, and lives and works in Boston.

Why haven’t these positive things been reported? Is it because people gave up after Ted forfeited his once in a lifetime chance? As if one chance were all he was allotted? And why is there nothing more about him on the internet or his website http://www.tedthegoldenvoice.com past May of 2012? Did Ted fall into old patterns again? Or do people want to cheer only when the cheering is popular, only when the redemption is extravagant, and only when the redeemed individual stays the course, minding his p’s and q’s?

I plan to get Ted’s book. I’d love to hear his story.  I’d love to see more of him, whether he’s transgressed, regressed, oppressed, or successed.  He is dearly loved by God, who is the only rightful Judge, yet who extends both grace and mercy not just once, but countless times, lavishly, ridiculously.  It is water to my soul to receive mercy and grace. It is nourishment in the deepest places to likewise see others experience mercy and grace.

Humanity is a caked and dried earth, crusted and brittle.  Hardened hearts unaccustomed to receiving mercy subsequently give its opposite of judgment.  The only way to break the cycle and heal this common sickness is to let mercy heal us first, to let our own selves off the hook and embrace God’s withholding of consequence and punishment. In the tendering of our own hearts by mercy, we will then feel softer, think kinder, and act more mercifully towards those who are no better or worse than us.

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