Victor Chininin Buele
I was preaching last Sunday about the question of why would one of the ways God chose to reveal Himself would be through a list of laws–do not murder, love your neighbor as yourself, do not cover your neighbor’s wife, do not lie. You get the point.
I mentioned to the congregation that we have been observing the development of an interesting legal framework where approval and celebration are being enacted into popular law. I said we are all lawyers eager to defend ourselves and to make excuses for our behavior. I should add that we are also professionals at passing the blame to others.
If you call yourself a Christian and dare to not celebrate and give your seal of approval to something with which you may profoundly disagree, then the words of Jesus that were spoken from the mount and recorded in Matthew 7 are thrown at you–“Judge not, lest ye be judged!”
The inference is that the higher moral ground (for it is moral after all) is one of non-judgment on such matters. The evolved mind is one that never judges. Thus, the admonishment to you, lawbreaker, is to go and judge no more. Says who? Well, we all do. And Jesus, too. Get in line!
For a while I’ve been quite saddened by this because everyone judges, and moreover, that section of the gospel of Matthew that gets quoted incompletely is actually about the carpenter of Nazareth teaching us to judge rightly while highlighting our natural bend towards passing judgment on another quickly and without cautiously judging ourselves first. Take off the gigantic piece of wood out of your eye before you go attempt to remove the piece of sawdust out of your neighbor’s eye.
Your neighbor needs you to judge him.
If I were breaking my promise to my wife to love and care for her, to cherish her and provide for her, I would need you to judge me.
If somebody hits me over the head and takes my keys and drives my van away with my girls inside, I need you to judge this person and help.
If you have squandered God’s financial gifts to you and buried yourself in debt, your neighbor who is defaulting on 20 past due credit cards needs you to see your own situation rightly, get your act together, and help him to not do that again and to honor his creditors. You both need to judge each other as you walk through that difficult path together.
I have wanted to write this for quite some time because I don’t like words to get redefined. What kind of a friend would you be if you walk around whistling while I sin and throw my life away?
And then a decade-old tape makes its way through the media, perfectly timed before a presidential debate. I still feel filthy for having read the NPR report of it. So, my first reaction in social media was to try to take the gigantic piece of wood out of my eye. You think Donald Trump is bad? I would be terrified if you were to have full access to everything I’ve thought or said. I am no better. But God, being rich in mercy, changed it all. And I have to hope and trust in the BIG God who is the Creator and Sustainer of this now-broken world to actually be so merciful that He can change this man to the core were repentance to be sought by him. That this heart of stone can be changed, to use the biblical imagery. And after mourning for my own sin that required Jesus’s death, I am able to start talking about that issue.
While you weren’t watching, you got caught judging. We all did. The whole affair is so filthy. So disgusting. So appalling. And I am glad got caught.
And it is right that we judge. Do we really think that we don’t have a way to push for this man (who everybody has known all along was like this) to get out of the race? I read a very good article on The Washington Post by Collin Hansen about how this highlights the long overdue need for the death of the Religious Right. One comment asked a very good question for the person was sick and tired of articles like this not really telling us a solution, an action we can take. So, we can go there now. We have judged. Let’s get past only writing on electronic walls, and let’s make this happen. As my pastor is prone to remind us – when is the last time that we actually had the faith to pray for a miracle? I understand that we only have a month left. But is our faith and our industriousness so weak and laughable?
But I digress. My point is an invitation to transparency and honesty. Please ask, “I would want for you to approve of me and to celebrate my choices.” Don’t say, “Don’t judge me.” A faithful friend needs to have access to encourage and lift up your soul. The kind of friend we all desperately need can’t be closer than a brother to us if we don’t let them in when our ideas need to be challenged, refined, or rebuked. We need words to mean what they do. The last thing that everyone would like me to do if I were to tell you I have made the choice to become a thief would be for me to tell you not to judge me. That closes the door to any further discussion. I have clicked to close the window on you. I am done. Let’s not do that. Because we must. Joy is at stake. Life hangs in the balance.