You’ve heard me say it before….I freely admit it….I am judge-y by nature. (I prefer if we refer to it as being a critical thinker.) If you need an in-depth analysis on how you are screwing up your life, I am your girl. I hope you don’t ask me for that, though, because I probably don’t need to be encouraged to exercise that side of the trait. I would rather use that particular skill to solve real life problems or focus on the wonderful things that make up the masterpiece that is you. As with most of who we are, our strengths can be used as strengths….or they can teeter over the edge and become weaknesses.
If I spend too much time thinking about your shortcomings, which admittedly can sometimes be very fun, it can keep me from keeping myself in proper perspective. It keeps me from looking in the mirror…and seeing myself for what I really am. It keeps me from listening to that voice of the Spirit, who funnily enough speaks to me way more about me than about others. I suspect it does the same for you.
Usually I don’t need you to tell me my faults, and you don’t need me to tell you yours. Yes, there are some times when it is necessary and as a friend who is invested in my life you need to tell me I am wrong. It may be wrong thinking, wrong living, wrong treatment of other people, or exhibiting behavior that is unbecoming of a child of God. If that is the case, speak up. I think truthfulness and loving concern are the cornerstone of any relationship. Before you speak, though, think about whether you are willing to make an investment or are just carelessly throwing coins my way. Are you willing to help the person (me) do whatever it takes to change that particular behavior or are you just throwing opinions around because you are demonstrating your superiority and can?
When you offer your criticism, make sure you are telling me truth. And don’t tell me over and over and over again. Don’t allow the judgement, you telling me I am screwing up and how you think I should live, be the primary thing that defines our relationship. Acknowledging a person’s shortcomings can be a loving action, focusing on them seldom is. If I heard you when you told me the first time (and I am sure I did, whether I reacted or not, since I hear words of criticism even when not intended), constant repetition is probably not going to do anything but make me mad and frustrated and fill my head with negative thoughts and emotions. It’s probably not going to draw me closer to God….well, except when I beg him to smite you. (I do love that word…and God has heard it from me a few times. Usually I was joking.) I’ll consider what you said…the first time…and pray about it. I may not share with you my thoughts afterward. As I pray I will ask whether your words are God’s words. You can be 100% right about what you are saying, quote scripture chapter and verse, but your timing may not be God’s timing. Keep in mind Satan was quite adept at quoting scripture…that in itself means nothing. I need to take care that I am listening to and following the voice of God. Only. If you are my friend you should want that for me, and trust in God enough to lead me to make any necessary changes.
One of my favorite verses I learned long ago (when working with people who frustrated me by not listening to my “great wisdom”) is “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” I Cor. 3:7-9 Yes, God will probably use you to grow things. You are the dirt. You are the laborer. You are the house in which He lives. That’s pretty much it. Keep it in perspective.
I have a lot of areas to work on in my life. I’m not just a little bit of a sinner. I’m the one written about in that hymn where it says “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” My nature is to wander, my nature is to sin. Is it more or less than yours? I have no idea. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is I am a work in progress. God doesn’t make me tackle everything all at once or expect me to live a sinless life. I’ve noticed that is often the expectation of man.
Frustrated when I (or others) don’t do what you say? If I listen to you instead of responding to the prompting of God, that is in itself wrong. Instead of bringing positive change into my life, you are encouraging me toward sin. To follow you would be pure idolatry. What was God’s first commandment? “You should have no other gods before me.” You, my friend, can’t be my God. (Nothing personal!) Even if you think you know the best for me and God’s will for my life.
It’s been difficult for me lately. People seem to be very aware and vocal of everyone else’s sin to a point that almost brings me to despair. Or hatred. Usually I thrive on hearing diverse points of view and really love people with opinions, but I am so tired of hearing some of them at the moment. Some of the venom stuns me. The lack of personal reflection stuns me. Is everyone really a worse sinner than you? Really?
I am glad that God who hates my sin (with reason, because it is a total betrayal of Him) loves me in spite of it and gives me everything I need to help me escape it. He did that even knowing me way better than you do. In spite of me, He still sees himself when He looks my way…and I am still his cherished child. He is cheering me on, and wooing me, lovingly bandaging my cuts when I fall, and telling me he will take care of me….he is telling me to trust him, that everything is going to to be alright. He is telling me He knows I am a sinner…and knows that it is a constant struggle for me…but He has taken care of that for me. His voice is soothing and kind….unless I start to listen to people or myself or other voices but his. Then He will make any noise or take any action necessary to get my attention and bring my focus back to Him. Remember? He wants no other gods before Him.
There is that great verse in Matthew (7:3) that says “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?” We hear this verse all the time…. probably because we need to. Our first move toward sin is letting our eyes wander.
There are another couple of verses that begin what is probably my favorite chapter of the Bible. Well, at least the one I have to use as a checklist the most in my own life because I lose focus easily. I think these words are especially pertinent right now. “If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.“ (I Corinthians 1:1-2)
I’ve heard a lot of noise lately, gongs and cymbals that don’t seem to be in tune. I’ve seen a lot of faith that I would personally characterize as nothing, because love is not visible. Maybe it is there somewhere underneath it all….I don’t know. I am sure I have been a bit noisy myself…and obviously a bit judgemental. I can get a bit pious when the sin of others is not something I struggle with…or possibly because it is….and a bit angry when I think folks are not loving others well. I suspect you can, too. (And we know when I say “a bit” I mean “really, really”, right?)
Let’s examine the plank in our own eye. Let’s make sure our opinions of others are girded in love. If you’re impatient with people, unkind, easily angered….check that I Corinthians 13 list. It’s not love. You have some work to do yourself….with God, before you open your mouth on the subject.
Let’s try to recognize and work on our own sin. It’s easy to be judge-y. It’s hard to be holy. Let’s choose holy anyway.
And let’s encourage and celebrate the greatness we see taking place all around us. Has that plank made you miss it? God is at work…and (spoiler alert)……