Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “Grace”

WHY WHACKED OUT STORIES IN THE BIBLE ACTUALLY MAKE SENSE

For those of you who think the Bible is out of date, irrelevant, and boring think again. The Old Testament is chock full of crazy stories, that not only make you scratch your head and say, “Seriously?” but they’re ripe with application for life today.

Check this out…

Many of you have heard this story before, but maybe not in this light. So hold on and read this whole thing…

There was this super old guy named Abram (whose name was later changed to Abraham). He was married to this super old chick named Sarai (whose name was later changed to Sarah). Not something we do much of today, but God—who changed their names—can pretty much do what He wants, right?

So these old folks have no kids. And they’re way past childbearing age. Like waaayy past. Abraham is around 85 years old, and Sarah is around 75. Sarah—feeling every bit of her old age—gets a bright idea to give her maid Hagar to Abraham to sleep with so that in some whacked out way they’ll have a family.

Seriously?

Yep.

Believe it or not, this works. Hagar gets pregnant by 85-year-old Abraham. And guess who’s feeling left out of the picture now? You got it…Sarah! Ya’ think? Totally! Dumb on her, but apparently that was normal back then.

Hagar, now prego with Abraham’s baby, begins to look down on Sarah. According to Sarah, Hagar was disrespectful to her and treated her like she was nothing. So get this…Sarah blames Abraham for the whole thing.

Wait, seriously? Wasn’t this debacle Sarah’s idea in the first place?

Yep.

In her frustration and lashing out at Abraham, Sarah says, “May the Lord decide who is right—you or me!” Now she’s bringing God into this mess, hoping He’ll side with her, not Abraham.

Here’s where the story gets interesting. And here’s where I get to the point of my blog. Abraham responds to Sarah by saying, “You decide. Your maid is your business.”

(As a side note, Sarah was probably angry at Abraham, Hagar, and God. She was the one who was barren. She made the choice to take matters in her own hands and create what she thought to be an amicable solution. But when it backfired, her anger probably ran deeply to those three in closest proximity—Abraham, Hagar the maid, and God. They became the targets of her misfortune.)

After Abraham lets God off the hook and tells Sarah to make a decision about the matter, the very next line in the Bible is, “Sarah was abusive to Hagar and Hagar ran away” (Genesis 16:6, MSG).

You see, Sarah didn’t just react or even overreact. No, she chose. She chose how she treated her maid Hagar. She chose to be abusive. She chose to mistreat her, humiliate her, and treat her cruelly. Granted, Hagar got a little uppity with Sarah and didn’t treat her well. So, I guess you could say Hagar deserved it.

But did she?

Sarah chose. Sarah decided. Sarah opted to take her frustration, anger, humiliation, brokenness, failure, feelings of inadequacy, bitterness, and hurt out on Hagar the maid. She became the target. The target that Sarah chose.

Do you get where I’m going? Sarah had the power to choose how she dealt with this situation when Abraham told her to decide. She could have chosen forgiveness. She could have chosen to build a bridge between herself and Hagar and not a wall. She could have chosen to be the better bigger person in the matter. She could have chosen integrity and honor and respect. She could have chosen to reach out and nurture and guide and love. But instead she chose the opposite.

It’s hard when people treat your poorly. It’s hard when life doesn’t seem fair. It’s hard to keep our frustrations in check. But we do have the power. It’s the power of choice. To choose to respond, not to react. It’s the power to choose love over hatred. To choose bridges, not walls. To choose grace over judgment. To choose mercy over malice.

The next time you’re feeling frustrated, angry, or hurt—and you’re looking to retaliate on those you love—why don’t you consider this whacked out story from an old book called the Bible? Because, you see, it actually makes sense.

At the end of the day, when the blame game ends, you have the power of choice. You control how you respond. Will you allow your emotions to override the right thing to do?

In the words of Abraham, “You decide.”

(***Spoiler Alert***) Abraham and Sarah actually do end up having a kid together…when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90. If that’s not whacked out, I don’t know what is.

8 THINGS TO STAND FOR IN A WORLD THAT’S FALLING DOWN

There’s a popular song on the radio that I really like to sing along with, but the lyrics trouble me.

Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for…What Do I Stand For?
What do I stand for?
Oh what do I stand for?
Most nights I don’t know any more…

Isn’t that sad? At the end of the day, when it’s all said and done, not to have any idea what you stand for. To be that clueless, or misguided, or misinformed, or confused, or torn. But I think, unfortunately, this would describe a growing number of people in the world.

Here’s the problem as I see it:  This crazy, messed up world we live in has hijacked our truth, our morals, our values, our ethics, our virtues, our integrity, our standards. We have no idea what we stand for because we live in a world where tolerance reigns and truth seems to be a moving target. We live in a world that celebrates boundary-less individuality. We live in a world where any behavior, any response, any treatment, any reaction is acceptable because, after all, “I’m just being ME.” Barf!

The great country music theologian Aaron Tippin sang a song back in the early 90’s which stated:

You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything
You’ve got to be your own man not a puppet on a string
Never compromise what’s right and uphold your family name
You’ve got to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything

Here’s what I think we should be standing for (otherwise we’ll fall for just about anything)…

Stand for:

  • Treating people fairly and justly–God loves people and so should we
  • Grace–even when you think you’re right, grace must win out
  • Giving, not getting–change your perspective from what you can get out of something to what you can contribute
  • Honesty–if you tell the truth the first time, you won’t have to remember what you said
  • Positivity–negativity is a buzz kill any way you slice it
  • Peace–though you can’t control the actions and reactions of others, you can control yours. As much as it depends on you, live at peace
  • Hard work–slothfulness and apathy will never get you where you want to be
  • Compassion–remember not everyone is as cool as you, as fortunate as you, as put together as you, as healthy as you, as problem-free as you, as smart as you, nor as talented as you

What about you? What do you stand for?

RETHINKING YOUR TO-DO LIST

“To-Do” lists. We jot them down on post-it notes, note cards, napkins, scrap paper, on our smart phones, in our minds, and even on our hands. Most of us are wired this way. We need some semblance of order in our lives as much as we need to feel the effects of accomplishment. So we create lists—things we need to do, places we need to go, people we need to talk to or email, items we need to purchase, etc. When those items on our “to-do” list get crossed off, we feel a much needed sense of accomplishment. For many of us, if it doesn’t get on the list, it doesn’t get done. All too often the “need-to-do” item gets filed away in our brain, in that “lost-and-only-sometimes-found” box.

Lists—our attempt to be organized, our attempt to achieve, our attempt to complete.

I’m not knocking the “to-do” lists at all. As a matter of fact, I’m quite a list gal. I operate best when I have the visual list in front of me. And yes, it sure feels great as I see the items on my “to-do” list get checked off one-by-one.

Rethinking Your To Do ListBut have you ever thought about creating a “to-BE” list? Yeah, you heard me right—a “to-BE” list. I was challenged with that thought a while back. A friend and I got together to discuss what exactly is on our spiritual “to-BE” lists. You see, all too often we are consumed with what needs to be done, hence the “to-do” lists. We do, do, and do some more until we’re blue in the face. We teach Sunday school, join the PTA, serve at the local soup kitchen, tithe our 10%, sing in the choir, coach little league, or volunteer at the homeless shelter. But in the grand scheme of things, which is more important: what you do or who you are? This is a tough question, isn’t it? The easy answer of course is who we are is more important than what we do. However, we can’t get wrapped up in the “to-BE” list and totally neglect the “to-DO” list.

Here’s my challenge for you:  Take some time this week to generate a spiritual “to-BE” list. Who do you want to become? What kind of person do you want to be? Who does God want you to become? What kind of characteristics does He want you to work on and adopt for yourself?

Once your list is created, ask yourself how willing you are to work on accomplishing those things. (Granted, most of what’s on your “to-BE” list are things that will be life-long endeavors for you.) In order to complete your “to-BE” list, what things do you need to pray about, surrender, be held accountable for, let go of, share with someone, admit, dig up, or drastically change?

Here’s the thing…I tend to believe that if we generate a spiritual “to-BE” list, and focus on all God wants us to become, our “to-do” lists will be accomplished with greater grace and purpose in mind.

In the words of the Apostle Paul: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6, ESV).

Go forth and do…but more importantly, go forth and BE!

WHAT DO GRACE AND FROGS HAVE IN COMMON?

I’m not a fan of long processes. But oddly enough I find myself in them all the time.

The “love someone for who they are, not what you want them to become” is one very…long…process. And I’m not a fan of it at all. Because it’s long. Because it’s arduous. Because it’s taxing. Because it’s not pleasant. Because it takes all my energy. Because it requires more than I am capable of. Just…because.

Think of the people in your life that get on your nerves, weigh you down, drain the life out of you, make you crazy, are hard to be around, challenge everything you say, and keep you constantly in the classroom called patience. Surely you know some of these people. I know lots. And truth be told, they’re hard to love.

What Grace & Frogs Have In CommonI want to love them. I really do. And just when I think I’m making progress in that direction it occurs to me I do not love them for who they are. I love them for who I want them to become. I love the “better” version of them that I’ve created in my mind and heart. It’s as if I idealize the “prince/princess” version of them instead of embracing the “frog” version of them.

But if I’m to love like Jesus, I’ve got to love people, blemishes and all. I’ve got to love people where they are. I’ve got to love people in spite of everything I said in paragraph #3 above.

And that’s a process. Ugh!

God’s been teaching me more and more about grace lately. And I firmly believe it’s this thing called grace that will allow us to love someone for who they are, not what we want them to become.

Strangely enough, however, I find this thing called grace is quite frightening to lots of people. You see, grace says that you’ll never change someone into that “better” version. Grace says you perhaps have lowered your standard. Grace says it’s okay to hang out with less than the absolute best. Grace just might tarnish your reputation. Grace says there’s no difference between the frog and the prince.

And grace, too, is a process. Ugh!

Who do you find difficult to love?
Who do you find challenging to embrace?
Who do you find hard be around?
Who do you find tough to like?

Rather than see the blemishes—the flaws, the ugliness, the bad attitude, the negativity, the crusty parts—seek this thing called grace. It just might be where the contempt ends and the love begins.

WHY CRITICISM IS THE BEST WAY TO GO

There are certain things I just don’t understand.
There are certain things I can’t relate to.
There are certain things I criticize.

It all comes in one bundle it seems. I’m not proud of it, it just happens. And it happens to you as well. Think about it: when we don’t understand something, we can’t relate to it. When we can’t relate to it, we criticize it.

It not only happens with circumstances and events and situations, it happens with people too. There are people I don’t understand. There are people I can’t relate to. There are people I criticize.

That which we don’t understand—that which we can’t relate to—we criticize.

Grace

We don’t understand why our friends do the things they do. We can’t relate to it. Therefore we criticize. We don’t understand why our family members act or react the way they do. We can’t relate to that. So we criticize. We don’t understand why our coworkers choose the lifestyle they choose. We can’t relate to it at all. And because of this, we end up criticizing them and their situation.

We criticize what we don’t understand and can’t relate to. Why do we do this? Why do our minds instantly go down the critical path and walk all over the things we don’t understand and can’t relate to?

I think part of it is that we don’t want to understand. We don’t want to relate. We don’t want to identify with these things at all. It would take effort to try and understand. It would take thought and maybe a conversation or two. And why would we bother with that? It’s easier to not understand, not relate, to criticize.

But here’s another reason why we so easily criticize that which we don’t understand and can’t relate to: we want to maintain that we are better than what (or who) we criticize. We don’t consciously do this. But subconsciously we criticize because we want to feel better about ourselves. And we want to appear as though we’re better in the company of our friends, family, and coworkers, so we criticize openly.

There’s a lot I don’t understand. There’s a lot I can’t relate to. There’s a lot I criticize. But I’ll tell you what I’ve been learning the last year or two. It’s this little thing called grace. And grace has taught me that God makes unique people with unique situations. Grace has taught me that at the end of the day, I am no better than that which I don’t understand or can’t relate to. Grace has taught me to embrace people—not necessarily their choices—and love them for the unique individuals that God created them to be. Grace has taught me that it’s fine and dandy for me to cast the first stone if indeed I am without sin. Grace has taught me that I’m not.

Criticism is far easier than grace. Criticism is a better road to journey down for those who want to reserve the right to be above the rest. It’s the best way to go if you want to look better, feel better, and pretend you’re better than the rest.

But here’s the thing… From where I sit, an amazing kind of grace has been given to me—not to hoard for myself, but to give to others. If I have been given much grace, can’t I extend a little bit to others—to the ones I don’t understand…to the ones I can’t relate to…to the ones I criticize?

Some people don’t understand me. Some people can’t relate to me. Some, perhaps more than I want to know, even criticize me. Maybe eventually grace will teach them a thing or two.

WHY DO CHRISTIANS HAVE TO BE SO LAME?

Why do Christians have to be so lame?

I’m telling you, there are some real dud Christians out there. There are Christians who bash others because of religious preference, sexual preference, political preference, choice of clothing or hairstyle or body art. There are Christians who criticize others because of their parenting style, lack of generosity, choice of music, whether or not you go to church, where you stand on abortion, or what neighborhood you live in. You name it, there are Christians out there who will go to great lengths to make sure you know your sinfulness, make sure you know how wrong you are, and make sure everyone else knows it as well.

UGH! All I can say is forgive us.

You see, I am a Christian. I have Democrat friends, Republican friends, gay friends, straight friends, black friends, Native American friends, Christian friends, non-Christian friends, tattooed and pierced friends, friends who drink, friends who cuss like sailors, friends who vote other than I do, wealthy friends, welfare friends, depressed friends, friends in therapy, divorced friends, friends who’ve had abortions, and on and on. I choose to love these people. I even choose to do life with them.

Here’s the thing…My identity in Christ doesn’t give me the upper hand on any of these folks. My identity in Christ doesn’t give me any authority to condemn other people just because they choose to do life differently than I. My identity in Christ doesn’t mean that I’m better, smarter, nicer, richer, saner, wiser, or more right than anyone else.

Unfortunately, however, there are Christians who firmly believe that if you do life differently than they do, you’re wrong and they’re right. We call ourselves Christians (Christ followers), yet our actions sometimes don’t resemble Christ at all. Again, why do Christians have to be so lame?

Let me enlighten those who are still reading… The world doesn’t get better by Christians going on the attack of everyone “different” than they are. The world gets better when Christians choose to embrace and live out what Jesus taught. And what Jesus taught wasn’t rocket science:

  • Love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. (Matthew 19:19)
  • Love your enemies and pray for the folks who do you wrong. (Matthew 5:44)
  • Do good to the people who don’t like you at all. (Luke 6:27)
  • Lend to your enemies without expecting to get anything back. (Luke 6:35)
  • Love…other…people…(PERIOD). (John 13:34)
  • Forgive people. (Mark 11:25)
  • Don’t judge. (Luke 6:37)
  • Be merciful. (Luke 6:36)
  • Turn the other cheek. (Matthew 5:39)
  • Be reconciled to others. (Matthew 5:24)
  • Treat people like you want to be treated. (Matthew 7:12)

In the words of The Lumineers:
Love, we need it now
Let’s hope for some
Cause oh, we’re bleeding out

Indeed, we’re bleeding out. The world is bleeding out. And Christians standing in condemnation of others just perpetuates the hemorrhaging.

To all my Christian brothers and sisters out there, stop being so lame! See others through eyes of Jesus. Have some compassion. Dole out some mercy. Lighten up on holding others in contempt of your judgmental court. Embrace humility. Serve somebody. Reach out. Be generous. Love the unlovable. Grab some grace and spread it thick.

Stop the hemorrhaging.

Stop being so lame!

 LOVE like Jesus … LIVE like Jesus!

ARE YOU GOD’S TARGET?

Do you ever feel like you are someone’s target? Like you’re the object of someone’s wrath or anger? Like, unbeknownst to you, you have a big bull’s-eye painted on your chest and the attacks from family, friends, co-workers, or even strangers just keep coming at you?

The insults, frustration, and jabs hurled at us by others can really pierce our heart, puncture our ego, knock us down, and wound us deeply, can’t they? Unfortunately we sometimes become the target of anger carried out by others—not because we’ve done anything wrong, but because we are perhaps a “safe” or “easy” target for others to nail. It’s not right, but it happens. And it’s not at all pleasant, is it?

targetBut let me ask you a different question. Have you ever felt like you were God’s target? Have you ever felt like He was the one aiming the arrows, piercing your heart, puncturing your ego, knocking you down, loading you up with one “wound” after another?

This is exactly the way Job felt. Job (yeah…that guy in the Old Testament) was a good guy. He hadn’t done anything wrong. But when everything was taken away from him (family, livestock, wealth, health, etc.), he felt like he was God’s target. He asked God, “Why have you made me Your target? Have I become a burden to you?” (Job 7:20). While speaking to his friends, Job said to them, “All was well with me, but [God] shattered me; He seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me His target” (Job 16:12). And again, Job lamented, “Like a bear lying in wait, like a lion in hiding, [God] dragged me from the path and mangled me and left me without help. He drew His bow and made me the target of His arrows” (Lamentations 3:10-12).

That just sounds awful, doesn’t it?

Personally, I don’t believe this is the kind of God we have. Believe it or not, He doesn’t sit up there in heaven searching the earth through cross-hairs for people who screw up, only to pummel them with arrows of sickness, failure, tragedy, financial strain, bitterness, etc. As a matter of fact, 2 Chronicles 16:9 says “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.”

So, maybe we indeed are God’s target. But not in the way Job thought. Not in the way you and I sometimes think. He targets us to strengthen us. He targets us to support us. He targets us to grow and encourage us. He targets us in order to bless us.

From time to time, we may end up being the target for others in our midst. They may lash out at us occasionally because we’re “safe” or “easy” even when we’ve done nothing to deserve it. We may get caught in the cross-hairs and feel “punished” by others who have had a bad day. It happens.

But the next time you’re struggling and feeling like nothing is going your way, remember God isn’t a grand punisher aiming His arsenal of painful, destructive weapons at you. No, His ammunition just the opposite. His “missiles” are made of unconditional love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, power, restoration, redemption, and this amazing thing called grace.

So, don’t cover up the target painted on your chest thinking God is launching an all out assault on you punishing you to no end. Uncover it and let Him load you up with all of the good stuff He longs to give you even when life gets difficult. After all, if God is who He says He is, He’s got perfect aim and will nail you every time.

Let the missile launch begin. 🙂

WHAT IS GRACE?

Grace. Isn’t that the thing you say before you eat a meal?

Grace. Isn’t she your Great Aunt that died 20 years ago?

Grace. Isn’t that the word we use to describe ice skaters or ballerinas?

What is grace?

What is grace?

I always heard as a kid that grace was an acronym for God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. And anytime some other kid gave this answer in Sunday school, they were applauded by the grown-ups as if this were the best definition of grace ever invented. I remember sitting there dazed and confused every time someone used this acronym to describe grace. I still am.

Is grace really about God’s riches? Does grace benefit God in some way? I must admit, this thought continues to puzzle me.

What is grace?

The best definition of grace I’ve ever heard is simply this: getting something we don’t deserve. (FYI…similarly, the best definition of mercy I’ve ever heard is simply this: not getting something we do deserve.)

Grace is:

  • Unearned favor
  • Something that cannot be merited or purchased
  • Being blessed by something of incredible value, although nothing of value was given in exchange
  • A huge debt being paid in full with no questions asked
  • Unconditional love with no strings attached
  • A gift…one received…one given

What is grace?

Anne Lamott once said, “I do not understand the mystery of grace—only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.” Admittedly, I’m not an Anne Lamott fan per se, but I love this thought about grace.

You see, grace, fully formed and fully extended, should blow us away. When we truly understand grace, it should move us. When we stop to reflect on the abundance of grace given to us, it should touch us. Grace has the capacity to transform us from the inside out. Grace meets us in the mire, grabs hold of us, and gently cleanses us by the sheer tug of its wooing, loving hand.

That’s why the song says grace is amazing. That’s why the song calls it sweet. It is grace that enabled a wretched person like me to be saved from an eternity apart from God that I so deserve. It is grace that really does relieve our fears. It is grace that mysteriously, yet tenderly brings us through dangers, toils, and snares. It is by grace, and grace alone, that God made it possible to have a relationship with Him through His Son Jesus Christ. Not only are we privileged to be called children of God, but we get to spend an eternity with Him if we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord. We didn’t earn that. We didn’t work to receive it. We didn’t have to be nice enough, rich enough, good enough, smart enough, popular enough, or strong enough. Grace just happens.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

What is grace?

It is the extravagant gift of God. It is what you and I have been lavished with. Now…out of what we have been given in abundance, find a way to go give a little grace to those you encounter today.

WHAT IS SIN?

What is sin? It’s an ugly word, isn’t it? Matter of fact, it’s taboo in many circles, and sadly in many churches as well. If the word does enter into conversation, people squirm. Maybe we don’t squirm as much if we mention it in passing or discuss it at arm’s length as if it doesn’t relate to us. But, when it starts getting personal, when we are forced to look deeply into our own sin, we start getting uncomfortable. But what is it exactly? What is sin?

What is sin? On a surface level, sin is:

  • Blowing it
  • Messing up
  • Making a mistake
  • Breaking a rule
  • Hurting someone
  • Using a curse word

And “surface level” is where we like to keep our definition. It’s far easier to deal with if we identify our sins as “mistakes.”

But it goes much deeper than that. And this is where it gets ugly…and uncomfortable. What is sin? Let’s dig deeper. At the depths of the definition, sin is:

  • Total disregard for what God wants us to do or refrain from doing
  • Shaking our fist in the face of God, saying “Forget You…I’m doing it my way”
  • A breach in our relationship with the One who made us
  • Separation from the God of the universe who longs to be in relationship with us
  • Substantial damage to our souls

What is sin? The reason the word sounds ugly is because it is ugly. We are sinful people. And get this…we were born that way. Ouch! That’s not comfortable. That’s not something I want to shout from the mountain tops.

What is sin? It’s a condition of the heart. It’s a daily condition we live with. According to Genesis 4:7 “…sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it” (NIV). Sin is eager to control us. Sin’s desire is to devour us. If we don’t rule over the sin in our lives, the sin in our lives will rule over us. Plain and simple. It will slowly but surely wreak havoc on our heart, soul, and mind.

Here’s the thing…although we are sinful, we are not without hope. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (ESV). You see, in acknowledging our sins before God, two things happen. First, we are forgiven. No matter how big, bad, or ugly. Confession leads to forgiveness. And second, restoration of our relationship with God begins. We are forgiven and cleansed by God’s amazing grace. And to be restored to right relationship with the God of the universe is beyond what we can comprehend, but it is amazingly true.

Right relationship with us is what God longs for.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if right relationship with Him is what we also longed for?

JUDGE, JURY … AND JERK!

My son and I went to get haircuts this week. (Here’s where I have to admit that we don’t have appointed haircutters. We go wherever I have a coupon. I’m a fan of the $10 haircut. :-)) 

So, we walked in… And it happened… Immediately.

One of the stylists working that day was…shall we say…”unique.” She had tattoos and piercings everywhere, multi-colored hair that was partially covered by a somewhat trendy fedora-style hat (that she had presumably gotten at a thrift store), and was sloppily dressed at best (presumably from the same thrift store). And my immediate thought was, “Oh my! I hope she doesn’t cut my hair. No telling what I’ll look like when she gets through with me.” Now I confess, this was totally wrong thinking on my part. (It actually shocked me because I’m not typically this kind of person, but for whatever reason I was that day.) I quickly assumed the role of judge and jury, convicting this young 20-something of “bad haircutter schlub in the 1st degree.” I repeated this thought in my mind over and over again. Then I observed her cutting a little 4-year-old girl’s hair. She was sweet. She was kind. She was actually good at what she did. I was then convicted (in my own mind) of being “judge, jury, and jerk in the 1st degree.” Ugh!

Why do we judge? Why do we cast judgment on other people, convicting them in the first moments we see or meet them?

  • We judge because others don’t quite “align” with our set of beliefs, standards, paradigms, etc. It happens in all kinds of ways. They dress differently, have a different political affiliation or sexual orientation, live in different parts of town, go to a different church (or don’t attend at all), etc. And when people are “different,” we grab the gavel, hop on the bench, and start handing out sentences left and right.
  • We judge because it makes us feel better about ourselves. When we quickly point out the faults in others, our own faults and weaknesses become less prevalent. If we bring to light the shortcomings of others, it certainly keeps our own shortcomings in the dark…which is exactly where we want them kept.
  • We judge because we don’t have enough information or simply don’t understand. We often observe a situation, quickly assess it, and prematurely come to an incorrect conclusion about the people involved. We don’t know their backstory. We likely don’t know the context of the situation. We don’t even give people a chance to explain or defend themselves.
  • We judge because it’s popular. This is sad, but true. Kids and adults do it alike. Put-downs and criticisms run rampant. Everybody does it. It gets attention. It generates momentum in conversation. Think about it. The last time you were around someone who acted as judge and jury, how many other people chimed in?

Here’s the thing…we act as judge and jury so frequently, we’re oblivious. We no longer recognize it as such. It’s when we become so desensitized to the feelings, character, conscience, or reputation of others that we truly move from judge and jury status to jerk status.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” There’s the word we need to hear. GRACE! In the midst of our judge and jury rants, we not only must recall that word, we must apply it. GRACE! It’s what everybody is entitled to.

What other ways do we judge people unlike ourselves? Please feel free to share your thoughts… 

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