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John 8: 15

You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.

I didn’t expect my supper last night, to stimulate theological query. However, my table was next to some men who had apparently gathered for a men’s Bible study group. “How wonderful,” I thought as I began my meal. I was excited to see people gather in the name of the Lord and even more so to see it happen in a public place. So, good for them!

Unfortunately, that was the end of the good feelings. We could not avoid hearing a good amount of their conversation and they were serving up a volatile theological cocktail for the appetizer. They began by talking about one group of people who they can’t and won’t accept because they have classified them as sinners. Within just a few minutes, though, they were talking about another group of people whom they also classify as sinners but for whom they recognized the grace of God. One guy even said something like, “The same grace that saved us is given for them.” What??? How is it that God’s grace is good enough for you and your pet sinners but not for everyone? Are you kidding me with this?
The problem they were having was that they really don’t know how to judge people. Guess what! Neither do I. That is exactly why God didn’t give me the job of judge. I really didn’t see the badge of God on them either and I couldn’t help but think, “You who are without sin, cast the first stone.” Would that have reframed their thoughts? How about the one about the log that is in our eyes. Jesus tried to teach us to judge ourselves instead of others when he told us to take the log out of our eyes so that we could see to help others. He knew that when we looked at our righteousness we would find it impossible to pass a negative judgment on anyone.

I don’t judge these men either. We are all going along on this journey and we struggle with difficult questions. That is a good thing. However, if they could hear how sanctimonious and self-righteous their comments were, I think they would have been embarrassed. At least they are trying to learn Jesus’ ways but who is their leader? Who is teaching them about judgment, self-righteousness and condemnation? There is no more condemnation. Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death. We’ve heard the words now we must grasp the truth.

I remember thinking, “Who has made you lily white?” Better still, see my crimson robe and the blood that was shed because I was a wretched beast. If we don’t learn to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice at a very personal level it becomes easy to believe that we had something to do with our salvation. The more we understand what Jesus did for us, the less inclined we are to extend judgment towards another. Love is the only branch Jesus gave us to extend to the lost or even to the saved whom we believe are in sin. He did not give us a gavel. How are we going to bring all people to He whom we call a loving God if we continually condemn and criticize?

I think the church, that is you and I, need to have a hard look at ourselves and ask if we are following the course Jesus laid out for us. Are we lifting him up or are we just trying to bring others down? Jesus said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” (John 12: 32). There is the protocol for evangelism. It’s called love. Lifting up Jesus is the way to salvation. It reminds me of the song, “Love Lifted Me.” What grace and beauty are conveyed in those words. Let us not only remind ourselves that this is the model Jesus gave us but let us also begin to lead others. This is the way and it is the only way. Let us not be a Schizophrenic body but one devoted to one ideal. The truth in Christ and the God of love. We must believe God’s love is good enough and big enough for all people.

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