Over the past few weeks, in a class that a Pastor taught, he asked the participants to carry around a little counting machine, and every time they would think a judgmental thought, they clicked the counter. He said that most participates reached the hundreds pretty quickly. We all do it. Often we feel justified. For instance, when I came home today, I noticed that my neighbors had a bouncy house in their back yard. The last time they had a bouncy house in their yard, I could hear kids frolicking, which I think is such a sweet sound. Later on, they turned on some music that contained lyrics that would make anyone blush. I thought, wow, they are playing music with that kind of language with kids around? That’s a judgment some people may agree with. Obviously my neighbors (who are very nice people) have another opinion. A few years ago, I was in a motorcycle club. I would ride with a group, and I guess that a bunch of motorcycles pulling up to your church with some people who have long hair and tatoos can be a little scary for some people. But this was a Christian riding club. One Sunday we arrived at a church on one of our regular steeple chases (where we would visit churches and worship together), and some of the ushers or elders came out and said “you are welcome here as long as you are here to worship.” Well what else were we there for? We all have pre-conceived notions and judgments.
But the point is, whether a judgment we make is valid or not, judgments take up space in our minds, and they have no business being in there for any longer than a few seconds, where we can acknowledge them and then let them go. Because while thoughts like that are in our minds, it decreases our capacity to think about other things. If I wasn’t thinking a judgmental thought, what would I be thinking? Would it be something positive that I can do with my own life? Would it be something that I should be doing to make my life or someone else’s life better? The pastor who spoke about judgment in his sermon today said that when we are issuing judgments, we are cluttering up our minds with junk that may be preventing us from thinking other thoughts that may be more creative and loving in nature. I had never heard it put quite this way before, and I think it it true and worth repeating.
In our volatile world, some of our judgmental thoughts may cause us to wonder how people who don’t agree with us can possibly think that way. We may question their ability to love or their morality in our own minds. We may mull over these thoughts, and this may seriously affect our ability to just love them, whether we agree or disagree with them. Instead, we focus on their opinions and how we feel about those opinions. Judgmental thoughts not only stop us from taking action, they also may prevent our ability to love. (And I’m speaking to myself as well!).
In the book of Jonah, he was asked by God to go to Nineveh to tell the people of that city to stop their sinful ways and turn to Him. But Jonah didn’t want to go. He didn’t like the people of Nineveh. They were bad people. Why would God want to save such people, and why should Jonah have to be the person to do it? I find that a lot of us think this way. Some people have aggravated us so much, or their beliefs are so different, or they have offended us in some way (real or imagined), so why should we be the person to go and save them? And when Jonah balked, God could have said “fine, I’ll let someone else have the opportunity to glorify Me, you go on with your life!” But He didn’t! He wanted to use Jonah. Perhaps one of the lessons here is that we aren’t always going to like the people who we serve. We may feel that they don’t deserve it. Or maybe we don’t like where they are – their city (or neighborhood) may be dangerous. How often do we escape from doing what God wants us to do because we just don’t want to go there??? Again, we are basing our decisions on judgments, and we often rely on our own judgmental nature instead of God’s will.
And that is my final point. It is easy for us to sit around in bible studies and on Facebook and say we love everyone. We love the sinners but hate the sins. Most of us have said these things. Lately I’ve been getting a lot of chain mails on Facebook messenger that are filled with all kinds of indignation by Christians about the sins that others are committing or about things that are going wrong in the world. Well, guess what. God isn’t chalking up how many times you forward chain mails or post your moral indigations on Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, Facebook can be a ministry tool. We all post the occasional comforting warm and fuzzy meme, or bible verses designed to comfort and challenge us. I took great comfort from others who posted well wishes when I lost family members. We use Facebook and other social media to post service opportunities and other valuable information. And we post our blogs. But that’s not all we are supposed to be doing. God wants US – ALL OF US – out there serving others. And it may be people in places where we don’t want to go and people who we don’t “like” or agree with.
We are all called and challenged by God to go out and serve with the hearts of lions – not with a spirit of fear. We all should be able to love others to the extent that we will get up and go where others dare not. One way we will become successful in this is if we clear our minds from the clutter of judging others. Yes, some people are where they are because of dumb mistakes they have made. But I’ve made a lot of dumb mistakes too. Maybe I got away with it or hid it, and maybe others had to pay the penalty because they got caught or because they were treated differently. We don’t know. And because we don’t know, we can’t judge.
So, what is love? Love is serving. Love is seeing each individual according to his or her own story. Love is loving the unlovable and going to places that may be out of our comfort zones. It may even be dangerous, but I don’t see anywhere in the bible where it says we are all supposed to be comfortable in our own little worlds. I think we are all supposed to go out and change it.