“Judge not, lest you be judged.”
This verse is taking residence with me today. Judgement. I guess most of the time when we see or hear that word, we picture God on His throne holding a list of wrongs in one hand and a lightning bolt in the other…just waiting. Isn’t that what we picture? But, lately I’m interpreting those verses a little differently. I’m seeing a little more of the “justice of God” and I’m understanding a little more how He works.
Recently, I was faced with an issue. A compromise. A sin. And, blindly or determinedly (I’m honestly not sure which, and yes, in this case it could have been purely either), I found myself head first in a mud puddle that I made. Mud puddle is too tame. An abyss. The craziness is it was a sin that I would never have seen myself committing, a sin that previously I had judged others for. Sad, but true. And there I was dealing with it, or trying to cope with it…managing it, mainly. I was trying to keep this sin, this tragic confusion from running out of control, and taking me and everyone else with it. Funny thing is…you can’t manage sin…ever.
In the midst of this depravity reckoning and wondering when and how and why and what, I ran across another in the same situation. Another person depressed at the outcome of a seemingly good situation, confronting the very issue that she had rose up in righteous indignation about with others. But, there she was…licking her wounds and begging for answers.
And another came along. A sin that had never seemed possible, a sin that had previously grossed him out and had angered him was holding onto him like a skirt clings to pantyhose. He was disappointed, heartbroken, devastated and discouraged. How could this happen to him? Who was to blame? “You are that man!” echoed in his ears and pierced his heart.
These were big issues,”big sins” so we like to call them. Huge interruptions to our religious understandings, and we were highly convicted. I think we could all say that we were feeling awfully condemned. Grace didn’t apply to the saved. We knew better, we talked better, we understood better. Mercy for those that spit in the face of their Saviour wasn’t expected or deserved. We battled those feelings, those thoughts, those lies for weeks, months, and some of us, years.
And then, we all heard the same word: LOVE.
We heard it and initially dismissed it. Not this. Not us. Not now. God is mad at us. He’s disappointed. We are evil.
Then, again that whisper: LOVE.
So we sought to understand, each in our own way, using our creative gifts, seeking our Creator to understand the impossible, the implausible, and the unbelievable. And, gratefully and gracefully, He met us. Each of us have our stories, our moments, our unbelievable miracles of faith, and they all led us to One. Christ.
It seems funny. We were all saved. We were all in some sort of ministry. We were all leading in some capacity. We knew well the name of Jesus. We were working for Him, serving Him, trying our best to be just like Him. Proving our righteousness by His blood.
And each of realized that all of us were wrong.
In that order, occupied by one…Jesus the Christ. He alone can prove righteous…by His blood…poured out of His great, unfathomable love.
Suddenly verses that we had memorized and mumbled became new life. Verses that we had brushed under the rug labeled “For the poor sinners” held meaning to us. Verses that reiterated the reason for the sacrifice rang true and offered hope.
And just as suddenly those others that were despicable and filthy didn’t seem so anymore. We were just like them. They were just like us. There is none righteous. They aren’t flippant words spoken without thought or conviction. Those are words of meaning and sacrifice. None of us are good enough. There is no righteous act that makes one more deserving than the other. My sin was big, but I was tempted to compare and to point, when all the time, God was teaching me a very important lesson.
“Judge not, lest you be judged.”
Still smoking from the fire, I backed up a little and realized the collected good works that I thought would save me from sin, protect me from falling, were simply a hill of accolades trampled by the feet of my pride. They meant nothing. Filthy rags with no power to sustain or to save.
The only difference between me and those I previously judged, was that I now saw and understood that Christ was the answer, the righteousness, the hope that I was looking for. Suddenly our righteous indignation and disappoint in them had turned into love and grace and a desire to help them understand they were not alone, they were not condemned, and God’s grace was sufficient for their needs…just like our needs…just like your needs.
All three of us are different. We aren’t too far removed from our sin, and we each hope we never become. Our sin and our salvation has become our testimony. The stones that we threw are now markers in the garden of “Remember when..” and with the fertilizer of our past, God is making something beautiful and new.
“Judge not, lest you be judged.”
God doesn’t want us to judge one another out of hatred or disgust. God would have us meet those struggling with sin in love and hope, the sinner and the saved. There is none without the potential to sin, none. Our Father knows this very well. He doesn’t save us just for a glorious adventure in heaven, He saves us from ourselves, the sinner and the saint. He saves us from the lies of the enemy that wants to deprive us of grace and make us question His love. He saves us so that we might show others. He saves us because we CANNOT save ourselves. And, when we refuse to see the mess our righteousness makes or the stench our pride puts off, He will allow us to walk a mile in their shoes. And when we come through, understand, and reach out, it becomes the sweet aroma of Christ Who came to seek that which is lost. Judgement? Revenge? Covered with grace, and walked out in earnest, it can be our blessed assurance.
One more thing my friends and I now make it a point to do: Be transparent. If we pretend that we are perfect, holy, or indivisible, it only makes our fall that much more painful. Be honest. We are all slipping in some way or another…only some of us hold the Life-line, willing and ready to yank us all up.
“Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.” James 1:2-4