Earlier this week during a staff meeting, my pastor and friend, David encouraged us to resist the urge to judge our colleagues and congregation members. He was referencing the standard practice of viewing our own perspective as more holy or Christlike than another’s and he was asking us to acknowledge that we have people on our staff and in our congregation on both ends of the spectrum. He emphasized our need to respond to one another in a loving and grace-filled way. No one perspective is holier or more Christian than another.
I read an article by Carey Nieuwhof today on the prospect (and process) of churches beginning to reopen. Toward the middle, he writes, “It’s not that hard to imagine that both church leaders and church members would start to divide themselves into two categories: The truly faithful, risk-taking, trusting, in-person attenders who are loyal and deeply Christian and Everybody else. That’s not just sinful, it’s stupid.”
I’m tired of the finger-pointing. Truly, I need a rest from it, but admittedly, I’ve done my fair share in this bizarre season. In fact, as I enjoyed a socially distant coffee visit with a friend at a local coffee shop yesterday (go ahead—judge me LOL), I noticed my own internal mental judgment of a group of people nearby. They were standing close—too close— to each other with no masks and they were *gasp* hugging and exchanging high-fives. I pointed my finger so hard it might as well have fallen off my hand. I also noticed that I felt superior as I sat *about* 6’ away from my friend without my mask on (because duh—I was drinking coffee). I really need a rest from pointing my finger at others.
It’s my desire to retrain my brain to let go of those sorts of judgments. It’s not that I won’t decide whether or not I would consider something a safe practice for myself, but that’s just the point. I wouldn’t do it myself. That doesn’t mean someone else isn’t within their right (or comfort) to do something different and it certainly doesn’t earn me the “better badge”. The “better badge” is a pretend badge that says I’m a better Christian, a better citizen, or a better human. Because I’m not.
Circling back to my friend’s encouragement at our staff meeting: certainly, there are considerations that need to be taken into account as we move toward reopening down the road. In fact, I applaud the level of care, concern, and compassion with which our leaders are making decisions (or planning to make decisions) on behalf of a very diverse group of individuals. David’s caution not to judge one another is not only wise, it’s essential if we are to move forward in faith together.
But we can’t rest from judging others on our own—we need a helper. If we could do it ourselves, I’d like to think we would have perfected the practice already. If we consider Psalm 23 and the reality that God is our shepherd (v. 1) who leads us in paths of righteousness (v. 3), promises that goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our life (v. 6), and gives us a place in his house forever (v. 6), then I think we can count on him to help us. Each time we feel compelled to point our finger at someone in this season (or any season for that matter), let’s instead lean into the very real presence of the good shepherd, who’s rod and staff bring us comfort (v. 4) and who leads us beside still waters (v. 2) where we can rest our pointer fingers.