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Posts Tagged ‘judging’

Art by David Lawson.

Art by David Lawson.

Are you the observer or the participant? We don’t see much ecstasy in worship these days. Oh, there’s a lot of loud music and wild lights like a rock concert and occasionally some roaring and clapping and shouting, but the spectacle of David and the transporting of the ark is beyond words and unlikely to be repeated in our age.

When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might,  while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets. As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart. [2 Samuel 6:13-16, NIV]

The journey, about 12.5 miles, was interrupted every six steps for a sacrificial offering. If this is true, they stopped about 4,000 times, and it would have taken almost a month to make the journey, assuming they stopped for 10 minutes for each sacrifice and went day and night. Not likely.

But, is the point of this story in the details or the implication?There are two distinct responses to the return of the ark: the participant and the observer.

King David led the procession as a worshiper dressed in an ephod (similar to a front & back apron), like a prophet, for Samuel also wore such a garment. He modeled, with apparent abandon, the joy of having the ark, a representative resting place for God on earth, returned to its origins, to the center of Jewish life and government. This day was his greatest accomplishment and gift to his people up to that point. He exhibited the fullness of his joy and pleasure and it burst out of him in dancing with disregard for how he might look or sound. He was that happy.

But from another vantage point was Michal, Saul’s daughter and David’s wife for whom he paid the bride price of 100 Philistine foreskins, which suggests he killed many men to win her. And back in those days, she loved David as well. He was her hero, her “knight in shining armor.” But when his attention turned away from her and wholly unto his God, displaying himself transparently to everyone, she lost respect for him. She was embarrassed by his display of emotion (and evidently, he may have also displayed his private parts in his frenzy – see vs. 20-21). She watched and she judged.

It’s a dangerous thing to cast judgment on the behaviors of others, whether it is in joy or grief. We cannot know the depth of their feelings or what is needed to express them in that moment. Perhaps I don’t believe the machinations of others are authentic. So what? What does it matter? Who is harmed by displays of raw emotion or spiritual manifestations (from speaking in tongues or a whirling dervish)?

But even in less significant ways, I’m afraid we have become a culture of passive observers. I think we might be missing out on a entire array of experiences because we pre-judge even ourselves. We imagine observing ourselves and do not act.

When was the last time you experienced emotional abandon? Or unrestrained spiritual expression?

 

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smhNot as popular as the ubiquitous LOL, but SMH is appearing more and more in text messages and Facebook comments. And here, in one of the oldest books of the Bible, Job says it too:

I also could speak like you,
    if you were in my place;
I could make fine speeches against you
    and shake my head at you. [Job 16:4, NIV]

The Voice translation gives the verse a little more clarity:

If we were to trade places,
        I could rattle on as you do.
    I could compose eloquent speeches as you do
        and shake my head smugly at you and your problems. [Job 16:4, The Voice]

And there it is: shake my head smugly at you. Job is calling out his friends for what they are really doing, which is judging him. And quite honestly, so is every SMH. It’s a subtle put-down but a put-down all the same.

I have never liked the book of Job much with its speech after speech after speech, pretty much saying the same thing over and over again. It reminds me of a one of my colleagues long ago with whom I completely disagreed, and yet despite my authority to say “no” and my opinion (shared by others), she would continue to state her case, first in one way and then in another, as though, the wording alone would finally break through my dense skull. I kept saying, “I understand what you are saying but I disagree with you all the same.” She could not fathom how I could possibly disagree, surely I wasn’t understanding the “truth” she was imparting. And she would begin again.

But perhaps this story sticks in my mind because I am guilty of it myself. Perhaps I am SMH, if not physically, then emotionally or privately. Whether overt or secret, I am still holding court in my mind.

I am not Job in this story, I am one of the friends. And I’m not liking it much, this realization.

Solution? None. At least, not at this point, except for awareness and I suppose that’s worth something. And certainly, the next time I am tempted to SMH, I will think twice and look back into the root of it.

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Favoritism with ice cream is a lot different than favoritism with people. Oh I might try not to judge people on first impressions but I find it inescapable. Can I overcome these moments with intentional action?

James 2:1, 4
My brothers [and sisters], as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. . . . have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Some years ago when we still lived in Atlanta, we attended a small church composed mostly of fellow believers who had been asked to split away from a larger denominational church because of our bent toward the charismatic. One of our leaders, Jim, was a wonderful man, kind and dignified, smart and loving. I will never forget the day he taught about enthusiasm: “If you want to be enthusiastic, sometimes you just have to act enthusiastic to feel it.” And then he proceeded to stomp and cheer and pump his arms around like a lunatic. It was hysterical but his message stayed with me.

Personally, enthusiasm comes easily to me. In fact, when I’m excited about a project, I’m quite the cheerleader, almost nauseatingly so, I’m sure. But how can I take that passionate commitment to action and use it to break down my internal tendencies toward judging others through intentional choices to change?

Some people call it a “besetting sin.” When I looked that up, it can also mean a type of harassment, or being surrounded, or an obsession. I can certainly relate to my judging of others in that way. My time in confessional prayers is dominated by asking forgiveness for my judgments. And in my way of thinking, judgment and favoritism go hand in hand. I cannot “favor” one person above the other without having made a negative of judgment of the other.

What to do? I know I can’t just tell myself to stop. If that worked, I’d be golden by now. Should I treat it as a bad habit and follow these 29 Tips for Changing a behavior?

Here are some suggestions from Oprah.com (go figure) written by Tim Jarvis. At first I was going to make a joke about it, but perhaps I need to take a few of these ideas to heart:

  • Like the Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, it may take a number of efforts to get to the “boiling point” or threshold when things happen. So, in my case, the more I tackle this issue, the more aware I am and the more opportunities to get over the hump.
  • I need to think more about the other side, what it would look like and feel like to “not” be a judge so much. Instead of looking back at my failures, look ahead.
  • One of the approaches for change is to engage in community. This is why groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous are so important: support and encouragement. Hmmm. Not sure how to translate my habit of the heart into a club of regenerated judges.

A friend of mine who struggles with food addiction says that this is one of the most difficult addictions to tackle. After all, unlike alcohol and drugs which can, to some degree be avoided, food is always with us. I think judging and dis-favoring others is similar. People are everywhere. I say that I love to “people watch,” but I wonder if that’s not just a buzz word for judging, mocking, and categorizing. Not a good thing.

What do you do? Honestly. Am I really alone out here?

Lord, forgive me again. Today. And right now, I’d appreciate it.

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Can I be honest about what I see when I meet someone? I’d love to say my eyes go inside and seek out the “sacred other” but no, not usually. I’m still assessing the outer shell. It happens in a flash, whether it’s chewed down fingernails or Jimmy Choo shoes, my first impression rules the day.

Philemon 16
. . . no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.

Haven’t we all played that first impression game with people who have developed into friends?

“Oh, when I first met you, I thought you were a snob . . . or a slob . . . or whatever.” And then we laugh and say how wrong we were, how we had misjudged, how we had missed the clues of the truth inside. It’s all so funny, but is it?

Or what about those times I’ve yelled at a driver or gestured inappropriately or intentionally cut one off as a payback. Yeah, and then we both drive into the same church parking lot. That’s humbling. What did we see? What will we see next?

I work in a community library and we deal with the public all day long and sometimes, it’s not always pleasant. Patrons “swear” they returned a book only to find it later under their son’s bed; or they adamantly deny the water-damage happened during the three weeks they borrowed it. Bottom line? They lie and lie and lie. And often, they don’t just lie, they yell and threaten too. Just such an incident happened last Friday to my colleague and sure enough, they met up again in the same pew on Easter morning. Nice first impression on both sides. Not.

In this letter to Philemon, Paul is asking him to “see” Onesimus, not as a slave, but a “brother” and even moreso, as a man.

When Jesus came to the Jews, he turned their belief system upside down, announcing himself as the Messiah, breaking the dietary laws and traditions, and advocating for grace over legalism. Then, Paul comes along and moves into the Greek and other Asian cities nearby. If we think following Christ in those places was any less disruptive, that’s just wrong. Hierarchy and class ruled those cultures and now, they were being asked to set those traditions aside as well. A slave is a person, a human being, and if that man has entered the life of Christ, then how is he different from you or me?

Some weeks ago, a friend shared this video with me about Narayanan Krishnan, a successful restaurateur who decided to return to his native city in India to feed and care for the poor, some of them untouchables. Who did he see?

CNN Video Story about Narayanan Krishnan [2.5 minutes]
Is it not the Christ?

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Photo by Mark Dodge Medlin

Paul refers to the “old self” as those behaviors, those superficial external actions that cloud and deceive the person within. I think of this old self as wavy glass, that glass we can sometimes see in the windows of historic houses. It’s beautiful in some ways, but truthfully it distorts, both looking as well as looking out.


Ephesians 4:22-24a
You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, . . .

Wavy glass is transparent enough to be able to see what is on the other side, it’s just not clear. There are people all around me who are presenting this distorted self, yet unaware that they are doing it. With just a little extra effort, I could see the truth of what is there, just no detail.

It is not for me to break the glass, as though I know best because I am in relationship with the Christ. I think it better to say, “I see you” through acceptance and understanding and patience. Too often, I look at behaviors and appearance and language and thereby “write off” the other. Jesus was our model here: eating and drinking with “sinners.”

Jesus was/is clear glass. Everyone could see inside. That was the draw, the attraction.

I wish I could say that I was clear glass. But I’m getting better. Slowly. It’s a process.

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Perfectionism, in and of itself, is a bane. So, why in the world would Paul lay this mandate on the Corinthian churches? Of course, Jesus did the same thing in Matthew 5:48, “be perfect.” It must be internal excellence then and not external behaviors.

II Corinthians 13:11b
. . . Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

In other words, aiming for perfection within is a good thing. And how do I do that? It’s what we’re all supposed to be about.

Christ within, the ultimate perfection, illuminating the path. Isn’t that the point? Becoming like Jesus is first and foremost about the interior life which then transforms the exterior–our behaviors respond to our thoughts and spirit. Where we make mistakes: sin, judge, and break basic commandments, we are given insight (hints) into the kind of work that must be done inside.

Until the “why” of my choices is understood and healed, my conduct will fall back to habits.

My college age daughter does not drive a car. She is afraid and anxious and these feelings override any desire she might have to learn. Something has to change within before she will make this leap. I have been saying to her to keep practicing; her fears will dissipate the more she drives. But then, she had an accident in a parking lot and before that, a tire blew out when she jumped a curb. Her practice alone is not working.

This is really no different from any of the behaviors I want to see reconstructed. I tend to judge others. Oh, I can say that I will not judge today. I will practice not judging. But what is making me judge? My own insecurities? My pride? My fear?

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear . . . [I John 4:18a]

I love the Christ whose Spirit is within me. That same Spirit of Christ is within others as well. How can I love my personal version and not the one outside myself?

Perfect: conforming to an ideal.

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The Hogwarts Sorting Hat was used to determine which “house” a new student would have allegiance to during his/her years in school. I have seen Christians do much the same thing by taking tests and classes and workshops to “determine” their “gifts.” Not Hogwarts but hogwash!

I Corinthians 12:29-31a
Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But eagerly desire the greater gifts.

I can call this search process hogwash because I’ve done it. I’ve done it more times than I’d like to confess. And like the MBTI, the results come out pretty much the same every time. Why do I keep putting on this sorting hat? Obviously, I’m hoping there is a paper test that will anoint me as an apostle or faith healer (those have drama) instead of an administrator! For heaven’s sake, all that energy on the giftings and I’ve been missing the whole point: “. . . earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces . . .” [vs 31a, Amplified].

Roles in a church or in any organization appear as the need arises. The question is not how each person is anointed for all time, but are we willing to step up when we are needed? Are some people better at some things than others? Of course. But, I don’t believe we are limited to that one role, ever! The problem I’ve seen is that we limit ourselves to what we “think” that role will look like. God is creative.

Right now, too many in the church are operating purely out of tradition and habit. Church is a building. Church has a “pastor” who speaks from 15-40 minutes from the front of the church. There are songs that are sung – the number or time is set. It goes on and on.

What is the best gift and what are the greater graces that we are called to cultivate? Is the church of today partnering with us in this journey. Or, are we all sitting under the sorting hat first? Are we sorted into roles and denominations? Are we sorted into leaders and followers? Are we sorted into pre-millennial and post-millennial? Are we sorted by country and color? Are we sorted by political party? And worse still. . . are we acting like the sorting hat itself? Are we sorting others?

I’m taking off my sorting hat today. I will not sort people around me. Nor will I be sorted.

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