Dear Oak Grove Friends,
Last Sunday, the words “grace” and “mercy” flowed throughout my sermon as I spoke about forgiveness. This week I have been completing a required online course for the conference. In one section, I was asked to think about the churches and faith communities in my life and consider whether the characteristics of caring, grace-filled, safe, and healthy had been present in those communities.
As I considered Oak Grove UMC, I felt pretty good about the level of caring we have for each other and our efforts to be healthy in our interactions. At the same time, I wondered what I might do to help grow the grace-filled nature of our church. In my sermon, I focused on forgiving someone who has directly harmed us. Now, I want to look at how we see others who don’t necessarily harm us with their behavior, but behave in a particular way in which we disapprove. Bottom line here – I’m talking about judgment. I do it. You do it. We all do it. It is part of our human thinking process to make judgments about the value of a particular thing in our lives. Without judgment, we would not be able to set priorities, goals or values. The problem comes when we impose, either overtly or covertly, our priorities, goals, and values on another person.
I became acutely aware of my tendency to do this when I gave up complaining for Lent last year. It quickly became apparent that in order to quit complaining, I was going to have to suspend judgment of others and learn to be more forgiving. Too often, I would be put out with someone’s actions or inaction only later to learn that there were many circumstances in that person’s life that contributed to their “offense.” But, even in situations where that was not the case, it simply wasn’t my place to judge whether they had acted appropriately.
So this year, in addition to seeking rest and renewal, I am revising last year’s Lenten practice to pay attention to when I’m judging someone and practice offering grace and mercy instead. I invite you to join me in this practice both within our congregation and beyond our doors.
P.S. A few scripture passages that speak to this are:
Matthew 22:37-39 — He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Matthew 7:1-2 &— “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.”
John 13:34-35 34 — “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
1 John 4:19 - 5:1 — We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.