After I reset the furniture in her room in about 15 minutes, my mother-in-law remarked, “You move so fast, Jerry. How do you get so much done so quickly?” I chuckled. She is 84 and does not move with speed. I got the work done while she was still thinking about which piece to move first. My quickness is both a curse and a blessing. I like things done now, finished well: wrapped up and presented with a bow, so to speak. But, that trait also makes me an impatient man. I like to get to the finish, resolve the issue, get the reward, enjoy the fruit of efforts. How about you?
If I have learned anything in my 6 decades, it is that life is mostly process. Our daily choices are woven into a complex network that involves the decisions of other people, with results that are affected by conditions outside of our control. Life has so many unforeseen consequences. It is a twisting, winding path one despite my best efforts at efficiency and my aim at gaining best results. That is why I try not to jump to conclusions about others or their situations, in a way I might have done as a younger man. I realize that where they are today grows from roots that spring from the decisions made in days and years past, but that trying to connect straight lines of cause and effect is largely beyond my wisdom.
That is one reason Jesus warns us against judging others. ” “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, NIV) Do not be quick to call others to account, to question their motives, to tell them that you know why they are in that situation. What a temptation we face in this regard sometimes, right? It just seems so obvious to us what our friend needs to change, how he should act, the choices he needs to make! “Come on,” we think, “what’s wrong with you? Why don’t you just get it together?” I hear your objection, “So, Jerry, are you suggesting that we just ignore the poor decisions, the sinful choices that our brothers make?”
My appeal is not for a lack of standards or an inability to see what is right. Rather, I urge a loving heart that comes alongside of the one that we seem to think is erring – first, in prayer, then in dialogue that seeks understanding, then with an offer to help. Encouraging is so much more costly to us than judging. Judgment allows us to step away, pointing the finger, and in essence throwing the blame back on the person who’s having a rough go in life. The loving heart that engages people living with sin is like Jesus. That love demands much of us – patience, willing to get involved, enduring pain, and yes; the risk of disappointment. Not everybody responds well. Some dig deeper into the mess, keep making poor choices, and spread their dysfunction and sin all over us.
Ready to pounce, having jumped to conclusions?
Consider this wisdom of the Word. “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.” (Galatians 6:1-5, NIV) That passage seems to be contradictory in regard to our responsibilities, doesn’t it?
We are told to carry each other’s burdens, but then we read that everyone should carry his own load. Digging deeper, we see that we must help one another with life’s crushing burdens all the while realizing that we must accept personal responsibility for ourselves. It is a familiar theme in God’s Word. We are part of His Body, called into close community, as inseparable as eye and ear and foot! Yet, we are seen by our Creator with our individual gifts and opportunities which He desires that we use in the best ways.
Choose well, today, Christian. Hear the caution and promise of these words that continue from the passage above. “Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!— harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.” (Galatians 6:7-10, The Message) Wisdom!
Lord, help us to live the process, to wait for the results, not to rush to judgment. Amen.