Why So Judgmental?

Why are Christians so judgmental, when it’s obvious that God is all about love? This is a hard question to answer. It’s normal to judge. We all do it. We depend on judgment. We depend on a shared moral code. Distinguishing good from bad preserves the peace. It guides us in our common life, as a community and a nation.

But God tells us not to judge. God tells us to replace judgment with forgiveness. He tells us to love each other as He has loved us. How do we make sense of this?

Suppose you’re sitting in a park on a sunny day. Maybe you’re even reading your Bible. You happen to see a guy drinking a couple of six packs, and he’s getting pretty drunk. You know what the Bible says about drunkenness, so what do you do? It’s really hard not to say, “Man, that guy is a bad person. He needs to change. He needs to find Jesus.”

Well, maybe he does need to find Jesus! Maybe you are right. But before you judge him to be a bad person, think about Jesus. What would Jesus do? I think He would look at the guy and say, “I see his heart. He was born into sin. Who wasn’t? Now he’s sinning. Who isn’t? I think I’ll go talk to him. I’ll go love on him.”

That’s what Jesus does. He doesn’t look at the guy and say, “What a bad person.” Jesus looks at the guy with love and understanding.

If that’s what Jesus does, then why should a Christian, a follower of Jesus, look down on the guy? Some Christians even judge a guy and then expect his admiration. I’ll let you in on something. It doesn’t work.

Some people treat their kids the same way. They drag them to church. They tell them, “You’re bad! You need to do better!” Kids hear that, and guess what? They feel bad!

This is terrible. It’s terrible that kids live in fear of their parents. It turns into fear of God, and I’m not talking about reverential fear. I’m talking about actual, scared fear. They will look at God and literally be scared of His judgment. “Mom and Dad think I’m bad. God must think I’m bad too.”

Teaching children to fear just wounds them. It drives them away from God. That’s not what we want! We want our children’s hearts to fill with love! We want them to love themselves and love their neighbors! But love only happens when children experience God’s love. Not their parents’ judgment.

Let’s go back to the guy in the park, the one you were tempted to judge. Judging him does not help him. It hurts him. It pushes him further away from God. It doesn’t help you either. Judging others hurts you because it draws you away from grace and into a judgment mentality.

Here’s what I try to do. I see that guy in the park, and I think, “Well, in my view, what he’s doing is wrong. I’m not going to go and get drunk with him. Does he need Jesus? Yes. But I’m not going to bring him to Jesus by smacking him in the back of the head with a Bible. He’s not going to love Jesus because I’m standing there, telling him he’s wrong.”

How about just loving on the guy?

A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

Replacing Suffering with Joy

I don’t know how to replicate what Jesus did for me.

I know it’s not by standing on a soap box. It’s not by holding up a sign, saying that without Christ you’re going to rot in hell for eternity. I don’t believe Jesus did it like that. Jesus did not walk through the villages and say, “You better accept me or else rot in hell.”

So how do I do it? I’ve spent years working on this question. I’ve read and prayed. I’ve asked God to show me how He wants me to reflect the love of Jesus. I’m not done yet. I think this is an ongoing part of the Christian life. But the effort so far has been worth it. I truly believe that God has given me an opportunity to reflect Jesus in an awesome way. God has shown me how to follow Jesus by becoming a servant leader.

As a servant leader, I get to help give suffering people every possible chance to experience joy. What a blessing! I want to do this! I want to ease their burdens. I want to help create new and sustainable ways of living through clean water, food, family, freedom, and fulfilling work. I want to help create joy in the very best way that I possibly, humanly, can. That’s the most that I can do, but it’s the least that Jesus does. He loves us so much!

Being a servant leader also means guiding and teaching. While I am doing my best to create joy in places where people suffer, I am also creating opportunities for young people to participate. I am nurturing them as servant leaders. To me, there’s no greater way to feel Jesus than that.

I love my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I will do whatever He asks. I want to know that He looks down on me and smiles. I want to feel that so much, and I can feel His smile when I do something good for somebody. I can feel His love reflected back to me.

That’s why I feel good when I go to bed at night. I lay my head down on my pillow and I feel great. I’m enjoying life so much!

You can do the same. You can go to bed saying, “I just helped someone get rescued from slavery today.” Or you can say, “I just helped a village of 1500 people get good drinking water.” You can say, “I just helped build an orphanage that will put shelter over kids’ heads and give them positive opportunities to learn and to be leaders.” Or you can say, “I just sent 200,000 meals to hungry families and fed them for a year.” Whatever! There are so many opportunities!

There are so many opportunities for us to create joy. Not a day goes by that we don’t receive the opportunity to reflect the love of Jesus into the world. And when you know that you’ve done it, man, that’s just an awesome feeling. You have received the love that He gives and then you’ve shared it. You’ll feel it because you’ve replicated it.

That’s the joy of bringing the kingdom!

See you Friday.

Writing on the Ground

Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?

She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” John 7:53-8:11

This is a familiar and famous story from the Bible, and the meaning seems obvious, except for one thing.

What was Jesus writing on the ground?

I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Well, I think He wrote all the sins of the woman’s accusers,” but I don’t think so. I really don’t. My theory is that He was writing the Ten Commandments. That could easily be what happened. He was trying to make a point about sin, and the Ten Commandments would have perfectly supported His point. We’re all bound by them, but we can’t do everything right all the time. No one can. We all sin.

Try looking at this story again, this time with this perspective in mind. Can you see it? Jesus started writing the Ten Commandments on the ground, and He was looking down at them while He spoke. He said, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” His point was so clear. Every single one of that woman’s accusers had broken these rules. Jesus knew it, they knew it, and we know it. Jesus said, “You’re coming at her with her adultery? Well, I’m coming at you because you didn’t honor your parents. Say, how many of you have served things other than God?”

Picture this, and then you’ll know what the scribes and Pharisees were facing. They had no choice but to say, “You’re right! Here I am, judging this woman, but I fall short in keeping the commandments. I may not be bad about honoring my parents, but just the other day I coveted something that isn’t mine.”

You can’t judge others. You really can’t. That’s why Jesus said, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” He could say that with complete confidence that no harm would come to her. He knew no one there had a leg to stand on!

We all sin. In this, we’re all the same. That’s why you rarely saw Jesus get upset with people. He looked at the adulteress, and He said, “Where are your accusers?” And she said, “They’re gone.” Alone with her, He didn’t yell at her. He didn’t condemn her. He simply said, “Well, I don’t accuse you either.”

When He looked at her, He understood. Jesus knows that in our weakness, in our flesh, we are going to sin. So He just released her. But not before telling her, “Go, and sin no more.” And I think she understood what He meant. This was God looking at her and saying, “In me, you have the ability to sin no more.”

And I think that’s where Jesus was just so good! He understood that people are not good. Not always. We aren’t! In our flesh, we sin.

We all have to understand that. We have to come to grips with it. And when we do, I think we will judge a whole lot less.

See you Tuesday.

A Well-Known Miracle

Last time, I wrote about the abundance that Jesus brings. Jesus is famous for feeding the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. But the Bible also tells us that He fed far more than five thousand people. He fed five thousand men, the Bible says, and the women and children who were with them.

This might be Jesus’s most well-known miracle, but there was so much more to it, right? Jesus didn’t simply feed those hungry people that day. We keep reading, and we see that they ate until they were full. Then they gathered up twelve baskets of leftovers! This is awesome! Jesus fed five thousand men and their families with just five loaves of bread and two fish. Everyone ate until they were full, and when they were done, they had more left over than when they started.

And then, Jesus told us, “Those who believe in me will do greater works than I have done.”

What? Greater works than feeding thousands of people with nothing more than a bit of bread and fish?

Yes!

We can bring the kingdom the same way that Jesus fed the five thousand: with leftovers to spare! We can bring the kingdom with abundance!

Our mission in life is to do as Jesus did. He was moved with compassion for people, and he healed the sick and fed the hungry. Then He gave that mission to Mary and a handful of apostles. He commissioned them. Later he called Paul the Apostle. If you don’t believe that we can do greater works than Jesus did, just look at what these people accomplished. It is estimated that by the end of the apostolic age, there were one million Christians. From fourteen people to one million! By the year 100!

Have faith that we can do great works, and do them with abundance. We’re not like Jesus. We’re not God. So we have to work together. But the greater our numbers, the more we can do. We can feed the hungry. We can bring abundance to those who are starving. We can help make their communities healthy and sustainable. That’s the same as leftovers! We’re not feeding them once. We’re feeding them while helping them build sustainable ways of feeding themselves and others.

If we help communities grow healthy and sustainable, then they will always have enough food. Enough, and then some. This is how we save lives. Our mission is to reach out to communities that are hungry, or struggling with sickness and disease because they don’t have clean water. We reach out with a Spirit-led passion for freedom from slavery, for plentiful food, clean water, housing, and industry. The communities we reach out to will have more than enough, so they’ll be able to live and thrive. They’ll enjoy the abundance of Jesus.

That’s what we bring. That’s bringing the Good News.

We’ll always have work to do. If we could solve the world’s hunger problems once and for all, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. We’ll always need Him, and He will come back. When He does, hunger will end. When He comes, He’ll say, “I have come to redeem the world. This is it. I died on the cross and now I have come back. Now it’s over. Now no pain. Now no hunger. Now no thirst.”

He will give us His fullness when He comes back. I truly believe that. But until He does, we’re called to be His ambassadors, and do our best to bring the Good News. We’re called to restore love and redemption to people as much as we can. This is the journey that He’s called us to undertake.

That’s why I’m going to do the most that I can do to make sure everyone can eat, and drink, and live, and understand who Jesus is. This is my life. I’m hoping you’ll make it yours, too, because the greater our numbers, the more we can do!

See you Friday.

Greater Works Than These

Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. John 14:12-14

Jesus said, “Greater works will you do when I leave than I have done.” Think about that. He’s talking about you and me, and He is saying that we’ll do greater things than He did. It’s almost mind-boggling!

Jesus expects us to take the Gospel into the world. He expects us to live out the Gospel in the world. We can do this. He isn’t asking the impossible. Not only is there no law against love, but He said that if we ask anything in His name, He will do it. And He keeps His promises.

To take the Gospel into the world and live it, we have to know what it is. The Gospel is the good news, right? The good news. It’s not hellfire and brimstone. The Gospel does not say, “I’m going to scare you to death.” It’s not the judgmental news. It is the good news. We can bring it to the world. We only have to do what Jesus did.

What did Jesus do? He loved on people! When they were hungry, he gave them something to eat. The Bible tells us that once, He fed five thousand people. In fact, it was way more than 5,000. The Bible says He fed 5,000 men, and all the women and children that were with them. And when you look at that passage, you’ll realize that He not only fed them, but He fed them until they were full. And then there were leftovers! He fed them so well, that there was more food left over than when He started.

This is abundance! Jesus says, “Where I am, there is abundance.” Where He is, there is enough and more left over. That’s good news! This is what Jesus expects us to bring to the world.

For two thousand years, Christians have been doing that. We have! Do we do it well? Not always! We can be selfish.

Our selfishness is a sin. When sin came into the world, the potential for suffering came with it. Selfishness causes hunger issues, and it perpetuates them.

Remember when Joseph was interpreting dreams? He told Pharaoh, “There’s going to be a famine, because food production is going to come to a halt. There’s going be dry areas. There’s going be times of no fruit. So you better store up.” Pharaoh listened to Joseph. He stored up against the famine, and the people survived.

We see famine in the Old Testament all the time, and we see it happening right now. But today’s corrupt governments don’t plan for famine. They don’t store up.

It’s the poor that pay the price. They pay with their lives.

There has to be a redemptive love for them. That is our job as ambassadors of Christ. Jesus expects us to bring the good news. He wants us to bring His kingdom to earth. And we get to do it the way He did it. We get to bring it with abundance.

We can do it! We have His example, His Spirit, and His promise.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.

New Creatures

It’s really difficult to understand God’s purpose when we look at what’s happening in the horn of Africa. A combination of drought, escalating food prices, and war has put an estimated 6 million people at risk of famine. It’s one thing to ask about God’s purpose for my life. I have a home and clean water. My children are not at risk of starving to death. But for many Somali families, that is exactly what they are facing. What is God’s purpose for their lives?

That’s a very tough question. I don’t know if I have the answer, but one thing that helps me get through it is the Lord’s Prayer. One day Jesus was praying, and when He finished one of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” And Jesus said, “When you pray, say, Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” (Luke 11:1-4)

Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. We pray for God’s kingdom to come to earth, just as Jesus taught us to do.

God didn’t have to create us to need food. He could have created us so that we’d never need to eat. I think maybe our hunger is the physical sign of our craving for God. It’s the material symbol of our hunger and thirst for righteousness. Without food and water, we physically die. Without righteousness, our souls suffer.

In the kingdom of heaven there is no hunger. Obviously there’s no hunger, because in the kingdom, we have Jesus. We have the fulfillment of everything. But here on earth there’s hunger. Now we hunger. Hundreds of thousands of Somali children could die in the coming famine. You and I hunger and thirst for righteousness.

God has promised that we will all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:6, Luke 6:21) Still, sometimes we look at the suffering around us and we ask, “When?” We ask, “How long, Lord? How long?

In the Bible it says we are new creatures in Christ Jesus. And before Jesus left, He said, “You are my best friends.”

That’s awesome. A master never reveals too much to his servants. A supervisor never reveals too much to her employees. But we are Jesus’s friends. He reveals everything to us! He says, “I’m your friend, so everything that my Father has taught me, I have taught you. I’m going to let you in on God’s ways.”

That’s why we are new creatures. We have a new life now. We’re not of this world. We have a Spirit that lives inside of us that says, “You are different. You are going to understand the ways of God.”

It’s His friendship that has made us into His ambassadors. We are ambassadors of Christ. As His representatives, we get to help bring His redemptive love to the ends of the earth. That’s bringing the kingdom. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. In heaven there is no hunger, because part of God’s way is helping to fill those that hunger.  So feeding the hungry? That’s bringing the kingdom to earth. That’s what His ambassadors do!

Now, I know that helping families in the Horn of Africa is probably tugging at you, but remember, it is only a start. Becoming new creatures in Christ is about something so much greater. It’s about that Spirit that dwells within.

More on that next time. See you Friday.