I read this last night, and it has never read so beautifully before.
“27 After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, 28 and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
– Luke 5:27-32
After that, I read this. Jesus said it. I like it.
“37 Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Luke 6:37-38; 41-42
If Christ, who was sinless and perfect, tells us not to judge each other, then how can we, as sinful people saved by grace, continue to go on judging? We do it in conversation. We do it in our minds and hearts. We do it when we pass people on the street or drive past them in our cars. We do it when we watch the news and hear about the different ways that people are trying to fill the voids in their lives with relationships and substances that continue to hurt them. We shake our heads and say, “How could they do something like that?” when really, what we should be saying, is “How wonderful would it be for that person if they allowed Jesus to fill that void. Thank God for His grace and mercy that allows me to feel whole, even amidst confusion.”
The other thing I would like to add in about that last section of verses from Luke, is the use of the word, brother. The relationship He is describing is between two Christ-followers, who are brothers through their new heritage in Christ. He is not talking about a relationship between a Christian and a non-Christian. We have no business, even after cleaning up our own lives, telling non-Christians about the sin in their lives. My pastor always says that there is nothing worse than a conversation between a Christian and a non-Christian in which our main goal is to “fix them.” It’s just gross.
It was one of those crazy weeks for me where God kept telling me the same thing so persistently that I would have to chop off both of my ears in order to NOT hear Him. I’m not down with the ear-chopping.
We were not put on this earth to judge one another. We just weren’t. At least five times, just this week, I have been on one side or the other of the following conversation:
“I didn’t want to talk to you about this/call you to talk because I was scared I’d be bothering you/I didn’t want to disappoint you/I didn’t want you to let you down.”
Translation? We are terrified of being judged by each other, and so we isolate. And when we isolate, we suffer even more, and that fear continues to build. Two nights ago I talked to my best friend for a good hour, and we both admitted to each other that we’d been scared to talk to each other about some things that we were dealing with. But the fear that we both felt was a lie. Through our conversation a film that had been covering our friendship over the past few months was lifted, and we were able to see clearly that we will receive nothing but love and understanding from one another. And yes, sometimes we tell each other that we are acting like morons. And that is a good thing, because it is based on love.
But why does that fear exist in the first place? Why do we get so scared to talk to each other about the truth of our lives? I think that sometimes the lack of grace we are surrounded by in this world becomes a direct correlation to how we perceive our relationships with one another. In the church, we deal with the anomaly of striving to become perfect in Christ while knowing in the deepest part of our hearts that we are nothing but a bunch of sinful bastards. We are given mercy through the faith that we have, not because of our perfection. We don’t deserve the Father that we have in Heaven, but He loves us just the same.
I think we know that we can’t hide our sins from Christ, but sometimes we start to believe that everything will be so much easier if we DO hide our sins from one another. The biggest problem with this, of course, is that the more perfect we try to appear, the more hypocritical we become, and also, the less likely it will be that anyone who is actually struggling, who is actually in pain, will be willing to talk to us about it. When we shut out God’s grace for ourselves, the grace that allows us to joyfully admit that we are imperfect, we also stop giving that grace to those around us.
“16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
I am talking to myself more than anyone, today. We have to get it out of our heads that being saved by grace makes us “better” than anyone else. We aren’t better, we are just incredibly blessed with the knowledge of a loving Savior. We have to stop freaking out about the minute things that make us think that our society is “going to hell in a handbag,” and start freaking out about the incomprehensible amount of suffering that is taking place around us. Jesus spent His time on earth with those who were suffering and confused. The outcasts. The people you’d never trust to babysit your kids or hold your purse or go to for advice. Those were the people He ate dinner with. So I guess what I’m trying to say, and struggling to do so, is that this judgement and fear that we live in is not the Gospel. It’s not the truth. Jesus loves us sinners, and He demands that we love others in the same grace-filled way that He does.
I feel so scattered today.
This week I had another conversation, too. This one tore me up, because it gave me, with clarity that I believe must have come from the Holy Spirit, an outsider’s view on the graceless, selfish “religion” that Christians today are always in danger of becoming, and often, have become.
I’m paraphrasing, but in unbelievable truth, a friend of mine said something pretty close to this:
“Do you want to know the reason that everyone who isn’t a Christian looks at the Church and laughs about what a big joke it all is? It’s because you people spend so much time judging non-Christian music and movies and listening to your contemporary Christian music and preaching at others about how they need to get “saved,” but in reality, your lives don’t look any different from ours. Your lives become about what you don’t do. Where are you being the hands and feet of Christ? Where are you actually being the light that is showing the world that you are different? No one gives a crap about what you have to say if you are living a life that is full of judgement towards us. Show me someone who is living like a light. Who is really trying to spread that love that Jesus gave. I’ll listen to that person.”
I think that God speaks in a lot of ways. Wednesday, this is how He spoke to me. And now there’s no going back to normalcy. Not when you get convicted like that.
Happy Sunday everyone. Let’s work on loving like Jesus loves.