I have a close friend in church who lives day-to-day just like the rest of us. His past is full of hurt, shame and disappointments; no different than us all. Some days are easier than others, when it comes to following the Lord. I think we can all relate to that struggle.
I have another close friend in church, who grew up the product of a church-going family. This brother never struggled with addictions. He never endured the pain of watching his parents dissolve their marriage. He gave his heart to the Lord at a young age, and has diligently followed ever since. His is the story of many God fearing Christians in the world today.
Both of these brothers share my love and respect, for different reasons but also for the main reason that links us: their love for Jesus Christ. Both men are fathers, doing their best to raise their young sons to be godly young men. Both men are faithful husbands, awesome dads and active members of the church family; just as I am.
And there is where my disobedience surfaces. I, the Pharisee, have the audacity (from time to time) to consider myself better than them. Luke 18:11-12 reads, “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess’”. In my own translation, that could read something like this:
“God, I thank you that I am not like other men–foolish spenders of money, unable to reflect on drunken days as a youth because you know I’ve had many to reflect on, fearful of my roll as head of household, without recollection of days as a thief because there were many examples, constantly double-minded, yet rigidly narrow minded in my vision. I read at least a chapter of the bible, almost everyday; I sometimes begrudgingly tithe 10% of my wages. But don’t hold those traits against me Lord, because I know I’m doing better than a lot of folks.”
That sounds totally ridiculous, doesn’t it? And yet…that’s what’s within my heart. As wretched and self centered as those sentiments sound, they are lurking within me. Just as the Pharisees judged others who were not like themselves, so I do the exact same thing against my brothers, without compassion for their struggles or lack there of.
I once asked another good friend of mine, “Brother, how are you able to look past the blatant wrongs of some folks?”
He told me, “I have to constantly remind myself ‘you don’t know the whole story’. I have to remember that I don’t know the circumstances that they may be facing. Besides that, Jesus warns us not to judge, because judgment is the Lord’s.”
When I began to take a good hard look at the way I see others in relation to my own life, I found that judgment is more prevalent within me than I would like to admit. Everywhere I looked, I found evidence of me measuring folks against my lifestyle. The harder I looked, the more I hated what I was doing. The reality is that I’m not leading a Christ-honoring life at all, as long as I look at the faults of others without considering my own faults.
I can recall one such instance where I simultaneously condemned one brother for his lazy lifestyle, and then judged another brother for teaching on the dangers of teen sex, knowing he’d never experienced it himself. The killer in all this hypocrisy was that I felt totally justified in my behavior! I face lazy moments in my life today. And I remember being a teen involved in sex, long before I was ever married. So, what gives me the right to have any sort of feeling–one way or the other–on someone else, in relation to circumstances they may be facing, that I myself can totally relate to? That’s not love. That’s hate.
This is hard for me. It’s transparent. There will be those within my circle who may read this and gasp, never knowing that one of my biggest struggles in life is the battle against judgment. But, it’s also refreshing for me to air it, because there is power in admitting your faults and giving them over to the Lord to cover. That’s what I need. I need his mercy and grace. I need him to soften my hardened heart and grant compassion where judgment sits.
I don’t want to be a Pharisee any longer. I want to give all my faults and weakness to the Lord, and have him walk me through the process of laying them down once and forever. I guess if there is any lesson to be learned from this–for you, dear reader–it would be to take a serious hard look in your own mirror and find out what you may need to give to the Lord. For years, I thought my silent judgment of others was a harmless trait reserved for only me. But as it turns out, it’s the one thing I never really wanted anyone to see.
I am flawed. I am judgmental. I am a Pharisee.
But today, I’m trying not to be anymore. Lord help me…