Dear Ones –
Sometimes our country feels so split. We argue about politics, religion, abortion, family, human rights, how to eat, how to raise or not-raise children and anything else that jumps into our day-to-day. We get so caught up on policies and ideas and principles that we forget about people.
We are split because we are always judging. We judge the way others think. We judge the way they respond to circumstances. We judge that there is no way others could be right, because that might make us wrong. We become so critical in our thinking that we forget to see the beauty in others. And, we forget to see the hurt. We miss that someone else might be defensive about abortion because when they were 15 they had one and have felt guilty and belittled ever since. We close our eyes to the fact that someone might speak harshly to their children because their parents beat them and this is the best they can do in order to not beat theirs.
We self-righteously put on airs around those who go to a different kind of church than us or worse yet, no church at all. I mean, after all, they must not really be getting into heaven if they believe differently than us. We are so blind to the fact that most people HAVE to put on some sort of armor just to make it through the day and don’t know any other way to protect themselves. We live in a world where only what we do is the right action and what others do generally is just a paltry comparison. And then we dare to call ourselves free.
Oh yeah, we’re free. Free to judge. Free to condemn. Free to look down. Free to fake compassion. Free to climb onto our own personal pedestals. Free to imprison ourselves in a cage of our own making. There is so, so much more.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to give all that up and be truly free? Have you ever wondered where you could go and who you could be if you were not restricted by the “freedom” you impose on yourself? Do you ever think – there has to be another way?
The answer is “yes – there is another way.”
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom.
Yesterday Hubs and I were listening to a local radio station and they were discussing this blog about the top 10 religious companies (excluding Chick-fil-a). They were talking about the different things that companies do that make them this way. Some companies stamp a scripture reference on the bottom of their bags. Some just reflect it in their business practices.
Then a woman called up and started saying that these companies which fall into the Christian status don’t go all the way and so they shouldn’t be counted as Christian companies. Then she said, “Well, who am I to judge? I guess I don’t really live Christian all the time either.”
How many times in life have you heard this sort of a “Christian” conversation? One person judging another and then saying that they shouldn’t do that because they don’t live up to those standards themselves all the time anyway, but still they DO judge the other one. They see clearly the splinter in another’s eye and think they should say something about pulling it out. This is often the Christian way. (Matthew 7:1-5) No matter how often we are told not to judge, we judge. Oh, we often say it’s “out of love”. We pretend that we’re just trying to help. I mean, if they could only see how false they are they would want to change, right? And so we should point it out, right? Because clearly, if we had the same problem we would want to have someone else point it out to us. Because we all want to change and be more “Christian”, right? We all want to live all “Christian” all the time…right? And we all want our faults and failures and lack of Christianity to be in the light, so everyone can see them, right? Because that will help us change, right? That will help us be “more Christian”.
Once this dinner of judgement happens, the dessert of guilt becomes the Christian taste of choice. There is the guilt of the judgement from other Christians, the guilt of judgement by non-Christians and the guilt of judgement from ourselves. And what is the guilt for? It’s for not living Christian enough. It’s for all those places we fall short of living just the way Jesus did. It’s for not measuring up to the list of standards placed on what Christians are supposed to be like.
When I heard that woman on the radio something inside of me began to jump up and down. It was like I suddenly heard these words, “What? Since when does being Christian mean being perfect?…Since when does being Christian mean we have all these have-to’s and do not’s?” I would like to contend that being a Christian means that you follow the ways of Christ, not that you ARE Christ. Because in my mind if being a Christian means being an exact replica of Christ then I do not know ONE person who is a Christian. None of us live perfectly. We all fall short on what we expect a Christian to be like. We ALL have at least a splinter, if not a whole log, in our eyes. We ALL trip and stumble on the path. We aren’t THE LIGHT. We are just following after THE LIGHT.
I believe that before God we are perfect. Before God we ALWAYS measure up. Because God sees us through Jesus. Jesus, the ONLY way to the Father, has redeemed us. As we live following Jesus on earth God is NOT looking at our earthly performance to see if we measure up to His standards. He looks at what Jesus has done and welcomes us. Once again I must say “Thank you Jesus. Without You, I would be up a creek without a paddle.”.
Because you see, sometimes I do feel guilty over my actions. I don’t always follow Christ. When I realize that I’ve yelled at my kids, I hate that feeling. When I have dis-honored my husband by speaking badly about him or made him feel inadequate as a partner the guilt settles over me like a heavy blanket. Why? Because that’s not how a “Christian” wife and mother should act. Some people get a guilty feeling when they leave someone’s presence and realize that they didn’t tell that person about Jesus and His great love for them. Some people feel guilty when they don’t pray for the sick (because maybe they didn’t want to feel the embarrassment of that person not being healed). I mean, after all, doesn’t the Bible say -lay hands on the sick and they shall recover? Maybe the real guilt comes from the fact that our actions often reveal a lack of trust in God rather than the profound and unique mindset that comes when we do live out of complete trust and faith in Him.
Have some things come to mind that make you a Guilty Christian? Flipping off another driver, modeling anger to your children, speeding, breaking a park rule, not helping an elderly lady find her car in the parking lot, being late for church, having a fight in the car on the way to church, not cleaning your house, watching too much TV, watching a show on TV that has a lot of bad stuff in it, listening to non-Christian music, not giving the homeless the shirt off your back or even $5 bucks, not caring for a sick person and the list could go on and on. You know where your guilt comes from.
And this is my challenge to you -LET GO OF THE JUDGEMENT AND GUILT. You don’t have to be Jesus. You don’t even have to live like Him. If you choose to, however, then you get to see amazing things. You get to feel amazing things. You get to do amazing things. Living like Jesus isn’t that hard, unless you try to live like Him in your own strength. When it’s you, you will always fall short. When you live like Him, in Him, that’s when you start to live really differently…the way your heart cries out to live. Trying to BE Jesus will only bring you stress and frustration because you cannot be Him. Following after Him…that’s where peace comes from. And that is what I believe a Christian is…a follower of the Way.
Please I ask you, stop judging one another. Stop judging yourself. Do your best and when you fall down, get back up and try again. Offer a hand to the fallen and support them in their journey. Follow after Christ and live the way He showed how to live. Those who do not follow will reflect whatever followers show them. If followers are judging each other they will see the hypocrisy of that and judge the followers too. If they see followers loving and supporting each other, then there is an opportunity for them to be drawn in by that love and come into relationship with Jesus. Without judging ourselves and each other, we have no reason to live in a guilty state. We can really be free the way the sacrifice of Jesus made a way for us. We can live in a state of thanksgiving instead of a state of guilt. I believe that is a much better place to live. So next time you are tempted to point out someone else’s splinter, let it go. They may not be living as completely Christian as they could, but is it really your place to point it out? And next time you fall short, let it go. You may not be acting out all Christian, so just turn and go the other way. Show your kids and others around you that a life lived in judgement and guilt is really no way to REALLY LIVE.
My small (or great) act for today is to let go of judgement and guilt and to grab onto freedom and LIVE. I would love to have you join me. Let me know if you’re in.
(‘Cause if our God is for us then who could ever stop us and if our God is with us then what could stand against us!)