"I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast towards you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you, you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory.
I glanced at the girls sitting around me in my Sunday church small group. As I looked around, I inwardly thought something of each one. To me, a few of the girls looked pretty put-together and outgoing, so I made a note to myself that I should stay away from them; they probably wouldn't want to be friends with someone like me. Some of the girls looked nice, and some of them looked very superior and had that Oh yes I can look on their faces. In a way, I was mindlessly evaluating each of them, judging them by their appearance and assuming what they'd act like based on hearing them speak for a few minutes or less. As I continued to look around me at the other girls, I started feeling inferior to them. I wished I could shrink down and hide, somewhere away from the girls I thought were cold and unfriendly. Because they seemed popular, unafraid, and had a good sense of humor, I decided they wouldn't be nice to those "inferior" to them. I judged them without knowing them personally, without talking to them ever directly, and I was afraid of them. I felt inferior.
And yet- all this stuff I was telling myself about them weren't even sound facts- just judgmental thoughts based on assumptions based on outward appearances. Because so and so had said so and so, I determined that they must be like so and so. But I didn't care about how sound my arguments were or not- I stuck to them. And so, I stayed away from the cooler girls and avoided eye contact, even going so far as to staying away from that Youth service time and instead going to the 12:00 service (we have four services).
That was earlier this year. Today, I am actually good friends with one of the girls that I thought wouldn't want to be friends with me. And it was her that actually reached out to me - contrary to my belief about the girl. She is actually the nicest person ever and is constantly encouraging us and making us laugh. She's so special, and I'm sorry I had been so quick to judge. If I hadn't avoided her, how much stronger would our friendship be now? How much did I miss?
And it was all because I had immediately jumped to conclusions and judged her without evidence. Family, how often do we do this! It is so automatic that we don't even have time to stop it before it takes root - or so we think! At a Youth Retreat earlier this year, the pastor spoke about this "Snap Judgment App" that we have downloaded somewhat permanently into our minds. As soon as we see someone new, we immediately find things to criticize and find fault, more often than not. It's often based on appearance. If we see someone whom we deem "ugly" we automatically assume she or he must be boring, dull, dumb, and even not as human as someone prettier or handsomer. If someone's clothes isn't perfectly matching, we automatically think she/he can't match in anything. We think they must be bad at so and so, and many other things. In a mere two seconds, we have whole lists of what the person supposedly can't do or can do!
It's not always just when meeting or seeing someone for the first time, though. Oftentimes, in our everyday lives, we judge our family members. Our friends. Our acquaintances, co-workers, those in authority over us. And it's not just in our heads- oftentimes we're quick to say it out loud to that person, or behind that person's back. We often judge a person based on their every action, and our view of them is ever-changing. Some of you are probably asking, Well, isn't a person's character based on their actions? Am I supposed to just trust everybody and let every sin go?
To tackle your first question - yes, that is definitely true! But James 4:12 says, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and destroy. But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?" We are not the ones who are called to judge others, at least not here on earth. That's for the Lord to do. And something else to keep in mind: Often, we aren't able to see the root problem in someone else's life, unless we look closely. A lot of times, those who are mean and judgmental to others are the ones who are insecure about themselves. When they're insecure, it makes them feel better about themselves by putting other people down. But when we don't understand that and try to encourage them and lift them up, we automatically just label that person as mean, or judgmental. Maybe that's you. How do you become less insecure? Pray. Read the Bible. You need to know what God says you are so that you don't let other people tell you differently. I cannot stress this enough: it is so, sooo important to know who you are in Christ!
And no, we're not supposed to let every sin go and treat it like nothing. But be sure to take the log out of your own eye before you point out the speck in someone else's eye! You have to have a good balance for when it's right to point it out and when you should let it go. In those cases, pray that God would show you what to do. And if you do confront them about it, be sure to do it with gentleness and love!
But regardless of who they may be truly or who they seem to be on the outside, we need to make sure we accept them as one made in the image of God. Hate the sin, not the sinner. We, as Christians and followers of Jesus, need to be welcoming everyone and anyone: should they be non-believers, haters, of other religions, criminals, "weirdos," gay, enemies, etc. Maybe we don’t agree with what they believe or say. That's okay. But there's no law in the Bible that says you have to be like someone else in order to love them. Love covers a multitude of sins- and love heals many. When you love without judging, love without certain standards or limits, when you love everyone you meet, even that snappy lady at the cashier (who might just be having a bad day!) - others will start to notice.
According to our old, sinful flesh, we should only be looking out for number one - yourself. You shouldn't be loving others - you should hate them, even, because they're trying to be number one and bump you down to number two. Just this last Sunday, someone said to me, "You'll probably just dislike me even more if I was your brother…" I was like, what? Dislike you? No! But it's the automatic assumption for a lot of people, that we're not supposed to get along and love -or even like- others. Or they've been put down so many times, told so many times that nobody loves them, that they've stopped trying to get up. They've lost hope that someone will not dislike them, ever. So when people see you loving others and putting other people's desires above yourself, regardless of whether they seem to deserve it or not, they're curious. I guarantee it'll open up opportunities to talk about the love that you experience from God and how you're able to share that with others. For some of you, this may seem impossible. You're probably like, what, I need to love my ultimate enemy? There's no way I can do that, even if I wanted to! I challenge you to just do one thing: pray. Pray that God would fill you with overflowing love for that person, and also pray for that person - it works, I promise you.
Satan wants you to jump to conclusions automatically - to believe his lies that he tells you about that person. I beg you, rebuke it as soon as you start thinking it! Don't let him tell you something that's not true. Don't assume things without evidence- remember, test everything that is said, and hold on to what is good! And love- I encourage you to love unconditionally, just like our God loves us unconditionally, even before we loved Him back.
"I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but take heart;
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"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all of my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds."