The Contradictions of Christian Condemnation & Some Thoughts About Love

Christians have a lousy rep these days for being overly judgmental. This is bad for a lot of reasons.  The first reason is, of course, that judgment hurts. It hurts the minds and hearts of those burdened under the weight of the sneers and grumbles, and it also hurts the person judging, as they themselves fall into the darkness surrounding ignorance, and get stuck in that sightless space, blindly doing far more harm than good to the life inside of them and around them.

The second reason this is bad for our faith as Christians is that in feeling puffed up enough to say something negative about the way another person is living, is in direct contradiction to the very foundation of belief which causes some to unjustly feel they have a right to judge.  In short,  it’s the complete opposite of everything Jesus taught and stood for, while he was alive and with us (Ref: Matt7:1-3 , John 8:7, Luke 6:37, and on and on it goes. Basically, just open The Book and you’ll find this truth, there).

As Christians, if we are faithful to our belief, we’re called to do something different. We’re supposed to be the people in the world who accept anyone and everyone, regardless of the countless ways they’re shunned by the rest. And, in fact, if we’re doing our jobs, if we’re living into our belief, the more someone is condemned and pushed away by larger society, the more deeply we should be led to embrace them, and help them find sanctuary inside our doors. When someone faces a sneer, we’re called to smile. When someone is pushed away, we’re called to take them in our arms and show them the real meaning of unconditional love.  That is the heart of the gospels, and the true passion of the life of Christ.

To use Christianity as a justification for judgment is to destroy whatever Christianity dwells inside of us.

But alright—let’s be honest. It’s unfortunately a natural thing to judge. It’s a human thing to judge. This is one of the reasons the teachings of Jesus were so startling to begin with. To hold back from judging someone is entirely awkward to our experience as people. It’s a pushing away of a very natural  urge (as dark as it may be) inside of us.

So it takes a lot of practice. If we’re being honest with ourselves, and hope to truly face that dark stuff inside of us, we have to first acknowledge that it’s there. We have to admit the fact that holding back from judgement against others—whether we’re Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, etc— unfortunately takes a lot of work and attention,  if we hope to one day get it right. Judgement sneaks up on us, in some of the quietest places in our minds and souls.

As a pastor, I’ve been a part  of a lot of conversations with fellow Christians about some horrible thing that had happened to someone else at the hands of another who’d committed a brutal crime against them. Often, the response goes something like this:

“Well, it’s not my place to judge. God will do the judging, and I just hope God will give them the  punishment they deserve.”

Seems simple enough, right? But—youch. Even beneath that very simple statement, the darkness of judgment still bites at each word.

It sneaks up on you.

Mentioning the harsh punishment someone “deserves,” is basically just a deferred judgment, rather than the absence of judgment, itself.  And if we’re trying to reflect from inside of us what we hope to see shine down on our own experience of this life (Ref: Matt 7:12)—our own experience of  God —we can’t hope that God will “punish” those who’ve done wrong, unless we’re hoping God will “punish” us for each of the wrongs we’ve committed in our own lives, right?

And it becomes even sneakier, here.  In mentioning all of this, am I right now being judgmental toward judgmental people? Ugh! Really sends the mind for a loop, doesn’t it?

When we try to stand high enough to look out at the world and see what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” we’re standing atop a very slippery slope. One which usually sends us tumbling down to fall flat on our asses.

So maybe we can find balance here: Maybe what we’re called to do, is not to try and climb up to a higher place than we belong, but to let ourselves settle into that down-to-earth place that is our home, with everybody else. Knowing that we’re all in this together. Knowing that we all do things which are sometimes okay, and sometimes not. Knowing that we’re all screwed up, just in different ways. Knowing that not one of us lives a perfect life, free from flaw (and what is a “perfect life,” anyway, aside from the Holy Living God?). Knowing that what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” is always, always, always, in the eye of the beholder, changing from mind to mind, experience to experience. Knowing that when we look into the eyes of another, we’re only looking into a different part of ourselves, all being one in God; and that when we condemn others, we’re only condemning ourselves. … And in knowing all of this, letting ourselves love each other—love ourselves—no matter which different imperfect part of us we look into as we walk around.

Living into the heart of Christianity is to live with a heart of acceptance, love, compassion, and care for all parts of the one Life of God, which lives and breathes and moves through each one of us as tiny fragments of the Holy Whole.

So to make a long blog longer with a short, simple thought:  Unconditional love is the way of Christ. Hate over particulars is something else.  If we are Christians, we will love all people, at all times, in all circumstances, and in all places, just as we know we are loved by God.

And as complicated as some of the questions in our minds might sometimes seem, if love is our response, I think we’ve found the answer.






Did You See the Sunrise Tuesday Morning?

Tuesday morning I woke up to darkness without the aid of my alarm.  I don’t know why. Guess I just felt refreshed enough from the sleep I already had, and was ready to pick up where I left off with yesterday’s work.  As I moved through my morning routine, I noticed a slight pink slowly overtaking the rocks behind the house. I paid little attention, and continued rinsing and stacking dishes.

The dishwasher loaded, I moved to the family room to fold the blankets on the couch, and saw this pink had lightly soaked the creases of my sheers. Still, I continued folding.

It wasn’t until I moved around the corner to open the door and let the sun in for the day, that I saw it.   Beyond the glass separating me from the outside, wide expanses of smooth cloud billowed up from over the tops of the mountains like cotton sheets from a clothes line, while the slight touch of the early sun set fire to their breadth, brightly spreading the light of yellow flame from end to end. The pink I’d seen from the sink and over my couch, soaked through each curve and dip of the clean-sheet clouds, just as it did my sheers, until all waved gently into a brilliant blue, waiting in the west.

It was nice.

In fact, the sight was so gorgeous, I had to share it immediately with the first set of sensing eyes I could find outside my own; so I grabbed my cat, and lifted him to the window to see.  I wasn’t sure if he could appreciate life from an aesthetic perspective, or if that was more of just a human thing; but I at least wanted to give him the chance.  As I suspected, he didn’t look once at the sky, but instead batted downward at the screen, in search of tiny bugs.

It got me thinking about what we let ourselves see in life. About what distracts us. About what opportunities we give ourselves to more fully experience the world.  I didn’t notice the sunrise either,  in those early minutes of waking; and I would have missed it entirely had it not been a typical part of my morning routine to open the front door for extra light during the day.   My opening the door had nothing to do with expectation toward anything beyond, at that moment. I opened it merely for the sake of the light coming later.

During this season of Epiphany, let’s remember the breathtaking light of  God which enters our minds and our souls, and gives us direction through each day we wake up in this crazy life; and lets think of the ways we open ourselves to receiving it, all the while thanking God for this beautiful gift of being alive, and having eyes to see what God has done.







A Conversation Over Coffee

We all get tired.

You’d think exhaustion should only be a physically-based problem, and that our thoughts, being made of who-knows-what invisible substance of existence, should be exempt from running out of energy. … But it certainly happens.  And it usually happens when we need them most, doesn’t it?  This loss of thought-strength comes just as our loss of physical strength occurs– at the point of being taxed by situations outside of ourselves which demand repeated, and consistent use.

Yesterday morning I woke up to my alarm at five o’clock (I know this sounds ridiculously early for someone who works from home, but strangely, when the only face you have to answer to in the morning is your own reflection, you for some reason no longer mind waking up in the dark). After situating my feet in my slippers, I performed my same routine of folding the blankets on my couch, feeding my fish, putting wet food in the bowl for my cat, Beans, and unloading the dishwasher from the night before.

Everything was mechanically following the usual process, until I sat down to prepare for my day’s work.

As a pastor, my “day’s work,” blessedly is doing work for God, and working to help people feel closer to God in their own hours; but when I flipped open my bible (and accompanying “scholarly” resources handed down from my over-priced seminary tuition), I found myself hesitant to look at the print. I found my eyes skimming the words of scripture like a text book of boring material I resented being forced to stare into.  At first, I didn’t even realize this was happening; but the moment the reality struck me, I burst up from my chair in the kitchen as if I’d just found a black widow spider by my foot.

At that moment, I wasn’t looking into The Book, but into the very heart of spiritual exhaustion. And I didn’t want to see it.  I couldn’t see it. I had too much work to do.

Feeling like a complete schmuck, I paced over to the kitchen sink, and stared into nothing for a moment; when all of the sudden, my mouth moved and words pushed persistently out from my mind like typed paper from a printer.  I was talking with God, with no barriers, and certainly no specific intention. I wasn’t trying to pray. This was not a moment of set-aside meditation. It was a moment of needful interaction—like one of those moments, when you’ve been holding something in for too long that you’ve needed to say to your spouse, and it suddenly just bursts out while you’re grabbing a box of cereal from the shelf at the grocery store.

As absurd as it might sound, I found myself talking to God for so long in fact, that I eventually wound up pouring myself a cup of coffee as I spoke, staring up and out the window.  This conversation over coffee lasted a while, and I call it a “conversation,” because the expression, and understanding, and communication, was not a one-way rant, but a two-way time of connection between myself and the Life around me. In this conversation I told God I couldn’t lose It (God/You/”Him”)—-that I couldn’t let the fact that I had responded to God’s call, cause me to fall away from God, or become detached from God. I told God that I understood “Him” (“Him” being used here and after only for the sake of structural ease) to be the very Life inside of me, and that I could not live without that Life for the sake of trying to help others find that Life for themselves. It simply wouldn’t and couldn’t work that way.

In saying these things, my words then fell to fear and skepticism. I asked God what the point of being in ministry was, anyway–and why He’d called me to such a strange and seemingly futile task. I asked God, how many people really felt Him in the world; and how many people even could feel Him in the world; and if most ever did at all, no matter how often you spoke about “Him” with each other in a sanctuary or on couches at each other’s homes.

Between all of these comments and questions, I sat still, and let myself connect with the loud silence of the presence of God.

As I stood there, staring out while absurdly sipping from my coffee mug like God was sitting across a table, God shared God’s Peace with me, and responded to the words which pushed out from my mind.

It was a long conversation, but there was one bold and blunt truth God’s Silence told me so loudly, that  the words were strangely and clearly defined in my mind, as if my ears had actually heard them through sound.

When I asked if people experienced God,  God told me this:

‘Some never do. Sometimes it’s only our own experience of God which allows them to even come close to feeling the presence of God while they’re alive.’ God said, ‘And that’s why you are a minister.

…So get back to work.’














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