For MLK, Jr. Day, a few classmates and I decided to help a local community group by participating in a food drive for Hurricane Katrina relief. Those who volunteered were put together in teams who could work on various activities throughout the day.
There was one guy in the group who really pulled a foul number on the rest of us, or so I thought. He had promised to work a three-hour shift toward the end. About forty minutes into his first hour, he informed us that he was leaving to work on an assignment for class. At that moment I lost all respect for this guy. Here we all were; devoting our time and energy to helping others and this idiot decides that his other engagements are more important. I mean, it wasn't like we didn't all have the same assignment to do. The nerve of this guy! I mean, how inconsiderate can a person be?!
That night, I was sharing this story with another Christian in one of my classes. I mentioned to her how selfish and inconsiderate I thought this guy was for not contributing to our efforts. I went on to juxtapose him to greedy and selfish celebrities who would rather do for themselves than for others. I promised her and myself that I would never be like this guy. After all, I’m generous and giving, while he’s selfish!
My classmate looked at me and said, "You know. You often complain about how the church judges other people because of their differences. What makes you any different with this guy?”
At that point, it felt like someone pulled the covers off me and I was completely naked! Here I was with a gavel in one hand and a noose in the other shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”. It didn't take me long to realize that I was playing the role of the judge, jury, and executioner. I was in conflict with this guy because of our differences…or what I perceived to be our differences. Worse yet I was trying to form an "Amen Corner"; getting others to join me in my defamation of this guy.
She pulled out her Bible (I know that I'm in trouble when this happens) and turned to Romans 14. In this passage, Paul instructs us on how to live with one another without criticizing each other because of our differences (especially religiously). He knew that we could not function together in Christ while focusing our attention on what we perceived were the weaknesses of our brothers and sisters. She pointed out to me that I was in conflict with someone else because of our differences. After hearing that, I felt even more ashamed. As if that were possible...
Do you ever wonder why we judge people? I think it has to do with the perception of power that we have over other people. That perception of power then gives us a false sense of security. We find security in believing that we’re right and they’re wrong. That sense of security then leads to us having a false sense of superiority. When we feel superior to them, we don’t have to face our own issues. We say "They have to come up to my level. I don't have to go down to theirs..." By making them the enemy, we don’t have to love them and we can drop bombs on them whenever we want.
However, this is not the way of Jesus. Go back to the story of the adulterous woman (found in John 8). Jesus told the woman who should have been stoned for her sins, [Since no one can condemn you] “Neither do I condemn you. ” Jesus was able to incarnate God’s grace for sinners and express it because of His amazing acts of acceptance. We will never be healthy Christians until we accept our brother and sisters (even if we think that they are weaker), shift the focus onto our own shortcomings, and to eliminate our un-acceptance of people who are different. In doing so, we are making sure that we’re not the person in the crowd who is casting the first stone.