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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Here Comes the Judge!


"When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself." - Wayne Dyer

I grew up in a fundamental religious home—a home filled with love and stability, no doubt, yet strict religiously.  I thought God was an angry old white man with a long beard who sat in heaven on His throne with a lightning bolt in His hand waiting for me to mess up so He could zap me with it. A vivid memory remains for me from a youth group camping trip when I was in the 8th grade. We were sitting around the fire and having “deep” spiritual conversations with the pastor. Being the deep spiritual kid I was, I posed a question to the pastor I was sure he would have to wrestle with before answering.

“Pastor – say I’m driving my car, and someone pulls out in front of me--making me get angry and I cuss at them, then when I go to hit the brakes they don’t work, and I hit them and die. Where would I go?”

Without even as much as taking a breath he looked at me and said, “You’d go to hell.”

Hell?!? For one little slip of the tongue? (Mind you, at this stage of my life, I had never uttered or even considered uttering anything close to a real cuss word) That night in my tent I was confessing sins I’d never even committed … making sure if I died before I woke up (what’s up with that tormenting childhood prayer they taught us?) that God was not sending me to hell. As a young man when I first started my ministry I was very judgmental of others. One day a young gal—19 years old or so—sat in my office with her boyfriend to confess to me she had had an abortion. This couple had crusaded right along with me just months before in some anti-abortion events I had lead and now they sat there confessing this dire sin …

Through her tears she told me how the doctor had told her if she tried to carry the baby to term that she could die. Without hesitation I said to her, “Then you should have died with the baby.”

I cringe now as I read those hateful, judgmental words that flowed so easily out of my mouth. I do not support abortion. I believe life is precious and begins at conception. Even so, I have no right to be the judge of any woman who has had an abortion. If that same gal were in my office today I would be speaking to her about grace, love and forgiveness.

The foundational theme that God is building Shiloh’s Lighthouse Ministry upon is in our purpose statement—“Seeing ALL people through the eyes of Jesus.” If you study the life of Jesus you must come to the understanding that He spent His time among the people—the common, non-religious folks who had “issues” that were easily judged by the religious establishment. He came to set us free—not to hold us in religious bondage. Last Friday at a local Pub, a benefit concert was held to help raise funds for the ministry. That’s right—we held an event in a bar to raise money to support this ministry. Three local bands volunteered their time and talent to perform; the waitresses donated their tips, and the Pub owner’s designated $5 per person cover charge—he gave all of it to SLM.

If curse words send people to hell, then many of the musicians there must be headed straight to it. Yet there they were, donating time and talents, because they had heard we had had our praise band musical equipment stolen—and to them, this was an awful thing; they wanted to help us, and their fellow ‘brothers and sisters in music,’ to regain our music gear. These heavy metal, tattooed, screaming misfits (any ‘typical’ church would judge them as) wanted to help us out! … When so many ‘Christians,’ who have heard about the theft of our musical equipment … have done nothing to come to our aid …

After each set I thanked the musicians involved. When the second band finished I was talking to the lead singer (Okay—screamer, but he gave it all he had) and his buddy who had come to the benefit. When I introduced myself as the pastor he said to me, “Pastor I’m F***ing sorry for all of the cussing I did up there, I tried to sensor myself. When we heard about what happened to your church we just wanted to help out.” He and his friend (who is a PK) then went on to tell me of their religious upbringing and how they just can’t find a church that accepts them. I hugged the young man and told him I was thankful for his time and talent, and that what he did was honoring God that night. I asked them if they knew John 3:16. In unison they said, “Sure! For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

I then asked them if they knew what the next verse said. They had no idea. I recited it to them.
“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”

After telling them what that verse was, I said, “Guys—God loves you and wants to have a personal relationship with you through His Son Jesus. He does not want to condemn you.”

They both took a step back and audibly gasped … then they shouted out, “Awesome!” and gave me high fives. I told them my church is open to them any time as well as my office door. There standing in a bar, a place where, as I child, I was taught to even enter such an establishment would assure my place in hell, I was able to share God’s love and grace with two young men who needed to hear it. Are they living perfect sin free lives? Of course not … are you, am I?

The doors at SLM are open to anyone—no matter their race, their beliefs, their sexual orientation, their profession, their social status or, even if they are Michigan State fans! God loves us all and it is not this pastor’s job to be their judge. My job, along with the others in this community of faith and love, is to ‘see everyone through the eyes of Jesus.’ It’s all about love!

Keep the faith ...

PD


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6 comments:

Stephen Tremp said...

I can think of numerous instances that I had said some really stupid thingsm thinking I was honoring God. Sheeesshh! Now I hav learned to love people regardless of the situation and thn go from there. Love coveres a multitude of sins.

Joyce Anthony said...

How well I know the feeling of being judged. It is one reason it took so long for me to find a church to call home--for it occurred to me that any church that judged did not contain the spirt of God within. There are many things in this world I personally feel I can not do for I don't feel they are "right"--yet one thing I have been heard to say often is "It isn't up to me to judge--that is between you (or her/him) and your (their) God." In the end, I have only myself and God to answer to--everyone should have that same right. Great post!

The Old Silly said...

Stephen - well said! ... even if not well edited (wink) - hey everyone, I'm this talented author's editor, so I can judge - not him, but his writing, lol. Seriously though, appreciate the comment, and I know that you know the Way of Christ is all about love - not condemnation.

Joyce - spot on, sister. And I'm so happy you could actually find a church you are comortable with in its nonjudgmentalism ... rare breeds these days, and shinging lights in the darkness, hmm?

Stanley said...

Now that's the kind of preaching we need more of in this country - and world. Great post, and way to go Pastor Dana. Those young men now have seeds of real Jesus Love sown in them. Something the 'church' they were shunned by could not, and would not do.

cliffcakes said...

PD what a great way to show the love of God to those young men!!!! We all need to live our lives without judging others. That's what I call 'loving Jesus OUT-LOUD'!

Vern said...

Mighty good manna, this morning. From one who came up in the "First Church of Judgement," my heart goes out to those who long to be loved but do not find it in those who seemingly are supposed to love them - those who call themselves Christian while harboring judgement in their hearts. Lord, help me love as Jesus so loved.