It’s All About Me — September 30, 2011

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We shouldn’t judge.

This is one of those universally offered mantra/slogan/sound byte/bumper sticker sayings that infests our society with notions which generates an assenting  nod from the horde–but little actual agreement in real time.

For after all, we all judge. Most of the television shows now have panels of experts who evaluate and critique everything from songs to appearance to dancing to even how a meal is cooked. We judge. I’ve even been known to sniff a cantaloupe in a grocery store to determine whether it was worthy for my cart.

So what did Jesus mean when he said, “Don’t judge–because you’ll be judged.” To understand that statement you have to comprehend the core of everything Jesus taught, which was, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Let’s start with God.  God has grace.  God makes decisions to extend gentleness in areas that we don’t understand–simply because He decides to do so. I am not geared to do that. Bluntly, I am not capable of unconditional love, so I wouldn’t  insult you by telling you that I offer it to you. I am a human being and my love is based upon whether or not I can extend mercy.  Mercy is my imitation of God’s grace.  It is only possible for me to do this when I am able to put my face on every person and mentally place my body in every situation. If I can’t do that, I will cease to be merciful and therefore my judgment will be harsher on you than I would render on myself.

So in the religious system, we teach that God’s grace is a given; a gift to mankind.  Now, if you happen to be a fundamentalist, you think that grace is based on faith, belief and good deed–good deeds in the sense of following the laws of God.  As a fundamentalist, you feel it is your responsibility to judge others who refuse to fall under God’s scrutiny and restrictions. You believe that you’re just being true to the word of God and not really judging anyone–just trying to remain faithful, keeping yourself in the literal good graces of the Almighty.

Now, if you’re a more liberal, mainline denominational person, you perceive that God’s grace is a free offering to everyone and is the essence of His being, desiring that all of his children be happy individuals and find their own paths to salvation. You bite your lip to the point of bleeding to keep from criticizing others because you feel that judgmentalism is the ultimate sin, but deep in your heart you have just as many misgivings about the actions of your fellow-humans as the fundamentalists.  You just have different language.

Let me simplify it.  Baptist: God’s grace is everlasting if you follow the rules of the Bible.   Methodist: the rules of the Bible are best followed by believing in God’s eternal grace.

Got it? It is pretzel logic, twisted in on itself. I find both paths to be absolutely devoid of practical application.   Here’s my insight: God has His grace. I don’t know what the limits of His grace are or when or how he decides to extend or retract them. I don’t care.  Grace is not my concern. My purpose is mercy–and mercy is what I grant to others as I teach myself to see my face in their countenance and my life in their actions. 

  • If I were a black man, how would I want to be treated?  There.  I have my marching orders.
  • If I were gay, what profile would I want others to take towards me? Clear as a bell.
  • If I were a fat man, bald and not very handsome…wait a second! That one’s easy.

It’s all about ME.  And the minute I begin to believe that I am magnanimous enough to afford God’s grace to others–or righteous enough to impart His wrath on the surrounding hapless masses, I have lost all contact with reality. Mercy is my imitation of God’s grace–a  decision to make everything “about me” before I decide my verdict.

I don’t reference the scriptures on the issue because I will not stand before God holding a Bible. I will be measured at the Judgment Day based upon the yardstick I have already selected for myself. I can show mercy without condoning people’s actions. I can give mercy without having to coddle individuals in their sin. Mercy is my decision to treat people the way I would want to be treated until it all plays out.

So you may ask, “What is the purpose for the Bible warning people about sin if we’re not supposed to preach against evil?” 

Well, there is a difference between generic judgment and personal judgment.  Some things are easy for me.  For instance, I think killing is wrong.  Period. I don’t favor war, I’m against abortion and I also oppose the death penalty. These are generic evaluations on my part. But if I meet a soldier who has been called to fight for freedom, I individualize the situation by placing myself in his boots.  If I meet a young woman in her teens who has an unwanted pregnancy, I place myself both in her mind and her womb. And if I meet a family who has a child who has been murdered by some maniac, I pause and reflect on the depth of their loss.

If God is not a God of individual circumstances, then what is the point of salvation? If God can’t separate one person from another and make specific releases of grace, then what is the reason for Him being all-knowing?

“Don’t judge.” Absolutely ridiculous.  We all judge. But our judgment should be true.  It should be based upon what it would feel like to us to be in the same situation and be under scrutiny. 

Mercy is my imitation of God’s grace. Jesus said that if I am merciful, then I obtain mercy.  If I can’t put my face on every face, then I should not be expecting to receive of God’s grace.

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