One of the most beautiful parts of walking with God through life is getting to hear someone’s story of restoration. It is inspiring and can often give us the strength we need to keep going. So let me ask you:
How has God restored you? What is your story? What about those you interact with: do you know their stories?
Not many years ago, I was blessed to have been on staff at Portland Rescue Mission. On a regular basis, I was floored to see how powerfully the Holy Spirit can move in someone’s life once they become a follower of Jesus Christ. It was a profound experience. But it was not always that way for me.
In fact, like most people, I had found myself at various points in my life making plenty of snap judgments about those experiencing homelessness or addiction. It would frustrate me. When it involved someone I knew, “frustrating” didn’t even begin to describe the feeling when time and time again, they would fall short of progress, and end up right back in the cycle.
In many cases, judging seemed completely justified. But over the years, those judgments built up into self-righteousness and a hard heart.
I would be driving in downtown Portland, or watching those cycles unravel on a TV show or in the news. Or maybe, I was just walking into a store or around town. Looking back, I can see now that I was, as Pastor Mike said in his message on Sunday, “playing tag while on base,” not realizing how blind I was to my own brokenness.
Let’s see what Jesus says so plainly in Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
In our latest section of His “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus’ statement springs from the unwavering truth that, as Paul writes in Romans 3:23-24, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
No one is beyond the need for forgiveness that is made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus: not even me. Our stories differ, but they all come back to this fact: We all need God’s grace, and we all come from the same place of brokenness before a holy and loving God.
If we find ourselves on the cusp of judging our neighbor, we would do well to remember that if we were to flip open the cover of their story, there is a book with many chapters, and many yet to be written, just as there is with us.
As we seek after our Savior and find Him, that genuine encounter with our holy God humbles us and reveals our place in His kingdom, as broken children in need of salvation. The truth is, our lives are just as messy as that neighbor’s life; just maybe in a different way. So let us not think we are more important than any other. And when we are freed from judging others, we are able to love and serve them.
As the prophet admits in Isaiah 6:1-5:
“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!’”
Translation: We serve a holy God, and we are all in desperate need of Him to come into our lives and make us clean from the inside out. There are no exceptions among us.
At Portland Rescue Mission, I met a lot of people who had gone through some of the worst miseries of life; some were victims, and others did it to themselves. But for anyone at the Mission who chose to give their hurts and struggles over to God and begin the process of restoration, God made them brand new without hesitation. I am so thankful I was able to hear their stories and even write many down. Without that experience, my snap judgments would have led my heart in another direction.
So, the next time we see that speck in someone’s eye, let’s think about all that we have been forgiven for, and praise God he has offered the same to them.
Let us not forget what Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that it is “For our sake God made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”
QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF …
- Do I have a tendency to judge others? Do I like to find reasons it is justifiable?
- What is my story? What brokenness has God rescued me from?
- How am I truly getting to know those I interact with better each day?
- What can I do to help myself become slower to judge?