Saturday, April 27, 2013

Judging Others

I was recently vacationing in Hawaii riding a bus on my way to a scenic tourist site. The bus was crowded and standing room only for most of the way. People on the bus were from all different walks of life. Some were obviously  professionals—smartly dressed people who had an air of purpose about them.
Others were ordinary blue-collar working class folks either going to or coming from their job. Some were teenagers going wherever teenagers  go with their friends after school. Some were tourists like me who had a camera wrapped around the neck and a bit of a lost look in the eyes.

Then there was the street guy. He was filthy dirty. He stunk of urine and sweat. His clothes hadn’t seen the inside of a washing machine for some time and he  traveled with all his belongings in his backpack.
 And he sat right next to me and my wife.

 All I hoped for was that he would get off at the next stop… and then the next.... and the next.  He rode next to us for 20 minutes.  We didn’t talk to him. He didn't talk to us or anyone else.  Most folks on the bus were absorbed in something that was affecting their own personal world. We basically ignored him except for the silent prayers for his particular unspoken needs.
Basically, he made us uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.  He wasn’t like people with whom we normally associated. Yet there he was, a member of society and a person whom God loved and cared for. A person whom I believed Jesus died for just as He had for me. Somebody I basically ignored.

I felt crappy and tried to put the encounter out of my mind. The Holy Spirit  later began convicting me of my attitude and the  process continued slowly over the next several days. He began teaching me a couple of lessons.
While vacationing on the cruise ship we met with about 14 other Christians each morning for an informal Bible study and sharing. There were two pastors in their mid-70s in the study. Both could quote scripture chapter and verse upside down and sideways. We got to talking about our churches. The Texas pastor said his church had no young people in it. Then he talked about his attitudes on how people needed to be dressed properly to be in church. I knew my church leadership didn’t think like that Texas pastor thought. I was feeling  superior to that pastor because I knew his attitude wasn’t right.
And then the Holy Spirit brought me back to the man on the bus.
 He showed me how my attitude really wasn’t any different than that Texas pastor’s attitude. In Genesis 2,  God teaches us we are dust. We are made basically from nothing. We are all equal. Dust is something we tolerate and ignore until we can ignore it no longer.  Dust is unlovely and only when it builds up do we decide to remove it when we can’t stand it anymore.
God brought to the forefront an attitude I had towards people I didn't realize I had. The Holy Spirit said it was time to recognize that attitude and to start the clean-up process in that area of my life.
I started the process the morning after the bus encounter with a prayer of repentance for having a judgmental attitude. One of the scripture readings for the day was from Matthew's seventh chapter. I was about attitudes and judging people. Isn't that just like God?
This is what Jesus said in the early parts of that chapter:
"Judge not, that you be not judged.  2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.  3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  4 Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. (Matthew 7:1-5 NKJV)
I was a hypocrite and needed to take a hard look at what I say I believe vs. what my actions and attitudes tell me I really believe in all areas of my life.
 It is a dangerous prayer to ask God to reveal what He wants from you and how He wants to clean up your life.  It is a process that requires change in attitude and action.  And it doesn't seem to get any easier as we get older. I know it doesn't for me. But change I must and Holy Spirit will continue to reveal to me what needs to be changed in my life. I'm glad the God I serve cares so much about me not to let me stay the way I am.
I am thankful God is merciful and gives me mercy and grace instead of what I really deserve.
I'll be sharing other lessons from the cruise ship Bible study in later blogs. 
God bless.