I Think, Therefore I Judge

old rugged cross

Old Rugged Cross (c) Jason Stern

This was going to be the one where I tell you about the book I’m writing…  It’s actually coming along quite nicely and I’d say is about half-way finished, but first…

Something more important.

I had a great coffee meeting with my church elders Saturday morning.  We talked about how quickly misunderstandings and lack of knowledge can lead to judgments and slander.

I think it’s safe to say that we are all guilty of this kind of behavior. We all do it.  First, we observe something that another person does or overhear something they say.  Then, based on our own predisposition and preconceived notions, we conclude that what we saw had a certain meaning, or evil intent.

Then we are faced with a choice.  Do we assume we are right, or do we ask questions?

The bravest of us ask questions; we seek understanding. Of course, when the shoe is on the other foot, that is exactly what we would hope others would do for us.

I recognize this problem in myself more and more.  And so as I seek to be understood, I, in turn, must seek to understand.

I could tell you a story about how I’ve often been misunderstood–because that would be true–but I think I’ll take the guilty-as-charged approach instead.  Here’s how I saw it:

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Years ago, I had a pastor who used a heavy-handed approach to dealing with people.  He thought it was loving to call out a person’s perceived sins and force them to come face to face with their flaws. I bristled at this approach.  I still don’t like it, but there came a point when I sought to understand him and his motivation, instead of judging its merits.

I took the time to listen to him. I heard him share his heart. And I learned that he treated people the same way he treated himself. He was so overcome with the pain of sins’ consequences in his own life that he felt fatherly tenderness and anger when he perceived its damaging tentacles reaching out for a member of his church.

After that, though I still disagreed with his methods, I had compassion for him and could better pray for him. I hoped that others would also see past his angry words and feel the love that was beneath the surface.

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We really never know what God is doing in one of His children’s lives unless we take the time to listen.  God sometimes asks His people to do strange things which could easily be misunderstood.  Check out the lives of Ezekiel and Isaiah for examples.

Rather than assume that someone who proclaims the name of Christ is acting sinfully, it’s best for me and for others to remember that Jesus himself was called a “friend of sinners.” He went places where few dare to tread.  He said it was because “the sick need a physician, not the well.”

So, do me a favor.  If you ever see me doing something you think is peculiar, come ask me about it. I’ll be happy to explain. And I’ll do the same for you.

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