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Monday, May 18, 2015

Give a little grace - they don't deserve it!

If you ever struggle with the tendency to look at another person and just begin to pick apart whatever they are saying or doing, as though it were the furthest thing from what they "should" be doing, then you are probably right there with the rest of us who have a little problem now and again with judging others. You see, it is human nature to judge others by some standard we hold up as the "yard stick" by which we will measure their actions.  Since the beginning of time we have record of how people make all kinds of misjudgments based on what they "believe" at a given moment.  Thinking back to two brothers who faced this struggle, and which ended poorly by the way, I would have to say whenever we choose to compare our actions with those of another, how another responds to our actions versus the actions of the other, or what we imagine to be the better response to a circumstance than how the other person is responding, we are kind of moving into dangerous territory.  The story of Cain and Abel weren't just put into the Bible to teach us a blood sacrifice would be required for the forgiveness of sins.  I think it is placed there as a way of helping us to understand just how "wrong" judgment can go when we get all wigged-out by our own "measures of success".  One son had his gift offering accepted, the other's gift not so much.  One was a farmer, the other a keeper of flocks.  Cain brought some of the food he had grown, while Abel brought the best part of his flock for an offering.  In a moment of "judgment", Cain never connected the value of his gift with the value of Abel's - he just saw the "favor" given to Abel and he began to rage with jealous anger.  That moment of judgment led to one of the worst actions anyone can take against another - the taking of a life. The moment is recorded for us, not so we know jealousy and anger are wrong, but so we understand the actions behind our judgments.  They may not be very "accurate" or "honorable" simply because we use a wrong measuring stick by which to measure the actions or responses of another!

So do you think that you can judge those other people? You are wrong. You too are guilty of sin. You judge them, but you do the same things they do. So when you judge them, you are really condemning yourself. God judges all who do such things, and we know his judgment is right. And since you do the same things as those people you judge, surely you understand that God will punish you too. How could you think you would be able to escape his judgment? God has been kind to you. He has been very patient, waiting for you to change. But you think nothing of his kindness. Maybe you don’t understand that God is kind to you so that you will decide to change your lives. (Romans 2:1-4 ERV)

We may not be "guilty" of exactly the same sin as another, but trust me on this one, we are "guilty" of some sin of our own - likely in the same "venue" or "bent" of the sin of another.  We don't like to admit this because it makes us fallible and it takes the eyes off the "other guy".  No one wants to admit we do the same "dumb" things the other guy does - especially when they are "marginally outside the expected actions" of a child of God.  We don't want to admit we gossip about others, so we call it "being concerned" about another. We don't want to admit to having a problem with anger, so we label it "righteous indignation".  We don't want to cop to the plea of "guilty" on any account, so we just hide behind our masks and try to fly under the radar.  God is the only one capable of "right judgment", so whenever we engage in judging another by some standard we have set within ourselves, we are going to judge by a wrong standard.  Even when we claim to use the Word of God as our standard, then launch into actions or activities which are then contrary to the standard laid out there, we are kind of acting a little hypocritical, don't you think?

The sad thing is that we are simply passing judgment on ourselves whenever we do this.  Mom always used to quote the adage, "It takes one to know one" - a simple reminder that we recognize the faults of another because those same faults rise up to give us a problem or two in our own lives.  The standard we would do well to consider in evaluating our actions and those of another is the one God uses toward us - that of GRACE.  Looking at our passage again, we can give a simple definition to God's grace:  Maybe you don't understand that God is kind to you so that you will decide to change your lives.  Grace is akin to giving someone a long enough rope to decide they don't want to hang themselves!  It is like God gives us enough "play", but never lets us go so far as to actually break that tie with him.  Grace brings us back close and even breaks the bonds of that tie to whatever sin we were pursuing so we don't want to go back to it. But...it doesn't happen because he "judges" us, but because he loves us enough to provide a way for us to no longer fall under the judgment we deserve!

Jesus made a way for us to step out from under the judgment and penalty we deserve by our actions.  I think God might just have this same mission in mind for each of us on behalf of the other guy in our lives who has been under the "judgment" of whatever standard we might have placed them under.  We need to make a way for them to step out from under our judgment and whatever penalty we want to hold over their heads.  Their actions may very well deserve some kind of judgment, but trust me on this one - God's actions on their part are always based in grace - so ours should also be based in similar grace!  Just sayin!