Who am I to judge?

June 2, 2021

In the post to he blog, Jack’s Winning Words, to day Pastor Freed used this quote sent to him by a reader –“You’ll never look into the eyes of a person who God doesn’t love.”  (Sent by Pr Jennie) 

Freed went on to comment about God’s grace – forgiveness without recompense – and the fact that there is no sliding scale for sins or forgiveness. So, we don’t have big sins and little indiscretions, just sins. And God does not use a scale from 1 to 10 to measure out his grace.

As he usually does in his blog, Freed challenged the reader with a question – Paul, the one we call a saint, referred to himself as the “chief of sinners.”  Would you ever say such a thing about yourself?

I seldom stand in front of the mirror admonishing myself as a sinner; however, I realize the sins that I have committed in the eye of God and stop occasionally to ask for God’s forgiveness and His help in not committing them again. Sometimes it is hard to look that guy in the mirror in the eyes and forgive him his sins.

I used the line from Pope Francis as the headline today because I think it is important within the context of all of us being sinners that we stop and ask that question of ourselves when our tendency to judge the sins of others takes over. The phrase “rush to judgement” comes to mind. We rush to overlook our own sins and focus on the sins of others. And, our focus is not to forgive them, but to shame or condemn them for those sins. We place ourselves in the roles of judge and jury and sometimes of executioner.

I have posted here before about the most striking examples of people following the example of God’s grace and forgiveness. One of those examples was reported on the news shows when parishioners from Emanuel African Methodist Church were interviewed after the shooter was arrested and convicted. The Charleston church shooting (also known as the Charleston church massacre) was a mass shooting on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine African Americans were killed during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. The surviving members of the Bible study group when interviewed all said that they had forgiven the shooter and were praying for him. That’s just hard to wrap one’s head around. Yet, that is the level of forgiveness that God shows all.

So, while we may have a sliding scale of sins from 1 to 10 in our minds, they are all sins in the mind of God and he loves us so much that he forgives them all. God’s love and forgiveness is always a 10. So, who am I to judge the sins of others? My role should be to find a way to forgive and love them, too; even that guy that I see in the mirror.

Let us all take this piece of advice from Luke – “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)

Have a great and forgiving day!

Gaining an appreciation of propitiation…

February 14, 2018

In today’s post to his Jack’s Winning Words blog, jack introduced a word that was new to me – propitiation. In a somewhat teasing move, Jack did not define it in his post; but, rather, he just opined that the modern church needs to do a better job of defining and using the concept behind the word.

Naturally, I rushed immediately look the word up.




the action of propitiating or appeasing a god, spirit, or person.

“he lifted his hands in propitiation”

atonement, especially that of Jesus Christ.

Jack’s post used this quote as its main theme – “Don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you.”  (Unknown)

So, Jack’s point was that Jesus died for all of us and to forgive all of our sins. His death on the cross was the act of propitiation to save us all. Unfortunately, too many so-called Christians have forgotten that or just don’t understand it. They persist in differentiating their sins from those of others who might be different from themselves and who have arrogantwhat they perceive as different, un-Godly sins. Apparently, they have decided that some sins are so egregious to their way of thinking that even Jesus’ death on the cross can’t atone for them. Can you imagine these so-called Christians being judges at the winter Olympics. If a gay ice skater performed a flawless program they would be holding up scores of 2 or 3 because they can’t get past their homophobia. Somehow, the concept of propitiation is eluding them.

In order to be true Christians we must accept that Christ died for the forgiveness all jesus-as-lightsinners and all sins, no matter how egregious they may seem to us. Are the sins of bigotry, racism, hate and prejudice any less than the sin that is perceived by some “Christians” in people who embrace a different sexual orientation? Remembering that Jesus reached out beyond the boundaries of the Jewish faith and lifestyle and welcomed all of the people, who are we to draw new boundaries that exclude some of those whom Jesus would have welcomed?

It saddens me when I encounter religious bigots, especially those who are thumping deviltheir Bibles as they proclaim the sins of others to be outside the power of Jesus to forgive. They have wandered away from the truth and the light and now dwell in the darkness with a new master. They spew forth hate and contempt for those that they see as different and preach the false message of an unforgiving God; a God who somehow has forgotten the act of propitiation that His Son Jesus performed as atonement for all of our sins.

Perhaps the real message that Jack’s post is trying to get across is that we should focus on asking forgiveness for our own sins and not spend time worrying about the sins of others. Who are we to judge anyone else or to judge their sins? We all sin and we are ALL forgiven by Jesus act of propitiation on the cross. Appreciate that.

Have a wonderful and forgiving rest of your week, now that you have an appreciation for Jesus’ propitiation.

Trying to understand others without a frame of reference…

November 23, 2016

There are lots of things that I wish I understood better or maybe understood at all. Recently I visited the blog of a new follower for this blog and ran smack into one of those things. That new follower turned out to be the site anonymouslyautistic.net, which is a site where people living on the autism spectrum can share stories and posts anonymously. One post title in particular caught my attention and it was actually a referral to another site – The Mighty – which has a wider focus on mental health issues. It was not anonymous, since it was from that different site.

The post is –

Lori Sealy of The Mighty shares – My Answer to the Question ‘What Does Autism Feel Like?’ talking about her sensory processing differences and how they contribute to her experiences as a member of the autism spectrum. This is a must read article that can help you establish how far from your own frame a reference for life someone else’s frame of reference can be. Once you understand that, you are ready to start trying to accept others.

As I read through Lori’s article the thing that really struck me was that trying to understand autism and how it affects the people who live with it is really trying to boredunderstand something for which I have absolutely no frame of reference. It is a common mistake when we try to understand things like this from our own frame of reference, our own life experiences and knowledge base. Lori’s descriptions of her sensory perceptions of the world are so far removed from my own that I had trouble even imagining what that must be like, yet it was trying to imagine it that helped me understand how little that I really understand. It also helped expand my thinking about how I react, or might react to others; especially those who might be far removed from my own frame of reference. I intend to follow up by reading more of the posts at the anonomouslyautictic.net site and probably at The Mighty site, too.

There are many ethnic and  lifestyle groups that I’m trying to better understand, such as people who identify as members of the GLBTQ community. I felt like I was somewhat comfortable with my understanding of the GLB part of that; but the T and Q parts left me searching for a frame of reference to use, in order to better understand the experiences visualizingand point of view of people self-identifying in those categories. I read a rather scholarly article on the T part of that, which I found on the site ReconcilingWorks.org (a site for Lutheran churches that wish to become safe haven places of worship for GLBTQ people who are seeking a church home). That article left me even more confused, so I ordered a more complete book on the topic from the site. In reality my understanding of the entire community is on shaky grounds, so perhaps that book will help some, or at least point out how little I really already know.

My point is that I have this trouble understanding most of these things, and I suspect many people have the same problem. Perhaps this is because we’ve all been trying to different-points-of-viewunderstand things from our own frame of reference, rather than opening our minds to an entirely different frame of reference and an entirely different way of looking at things. Maybe others, like Lori, have an entirely different way of processing sensory inputs and experiences or a different way of making choices – a different frame of reference.

The more that I’ve thought about that the more convinced that I am that I have not been trying to understand at all; I was just judging the people that I encountered by a set of standards that I call my frame of reference. My frame of reference is the result of my judge thingsupbringing and experiences, my education and knowledge base, my beliefs and my fears and misconceptions.  That judgement of others starts with the presumption that whatever I feel or think must be “right” and anyone else that I encounter who deviates from that definition of “right”, must somehow be “wrong”. Different must be wrong. Not acting, and reacting, as I do must be wrong. Not being like me must be wrong. Apparently, not being me is wrong. How wrong is that?

Then I recalled the response that Pope Francis had to a question about gay priests. The Pope said, “Who am I to judge?” I think that is a healthy attitude that can be applied across the board when dealing with others, no matter how different they may be from me or you. Who are we to judge? So, my new mantra will be, “Who am I to judge?”

I have concluded that I will never really understand another person’s frame of reference and I have decided that I should not judge others by my own frame of reference; so, what’s left? If I don’t judge others and I don’t understand others; how do I act and react with girls huggingothers? Well, there’re still a lot of options left. One could start with acceptance. Accepting the person as you find them and not immediately judging them or rushing in to try to change them is a good first step.  You could continue by striving for some level of empathy with that other person’s perspective on life. That requires other things, such as patience, sympathy, sharing, openness, kindness, perseverance and a willingness to learn, among others. One may end up quite often saying, “Wow, I never looked at things that way”’; and that’s a good thing. That’s a step towards understanding and so much better than just deciding that the other person’s point of view is wrong, just because it is not the same as yours.

It’s not easy taking that first step towards “acceptance”; rather than rushing into the more usual first step of judgement. In fact, I find that I must often step back from having made a preemptive judgement and recall the Pope’s words – “Who am I to judge?” If I can men huggingstop myself early enough, before I have caused the damage to the relationship that a judgement can cause; then I still have the option to accept that other person. Perhaps I will never get all the way to understanding that other person’s frame of reference for life, but maybe I can get to the point of accepting and appreciating them for who they are and trying to learn something from their different perspective on life. Who knows; maybe I can make a friend of someone, if I take the time not to make an enemy. Who am I to judge?

Have a great, judgement-free Thanksgiving!

Judge not…

October 2, 2015

“Instead of putting others in their place, try putting yourself in their place.”  (Amish Proverb) – a recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

This little saying may sound like good advice, but it is only good advice for a reason that makes sense when you really think about it. There is an old saying that may make more sense – “Never criticize a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.”  The Walk a Mile in His Moccasins quote is often contributed to various Indian tribes, but it actually comes from a poem written by Mary T. Lathrap in 1895.

So, why does the advice in that poem ring truer that the Amish Proverb? The main reason is actually very logical. We cannot put ourselves in anyone else’s place. We cannot know how they got to where they are, what they have opinionatedexperienced in their lives or even what just proceeded the current moment.  If we try to put ourselves in their place the first thing that happens is that one is overwhelmed by a bunch of questions for which we have no answers. What happened to make them angry or fearful or remorseful or sad? What was it that we might have done or said that they reacted to and why? What were they on their way to do when this incident happened? What happened before this to put them in the frame of mind to react as they did? You just can’t answer those questions; and, because you can’t, you can’t put yourself in their place.

The other little piece of advice actually invites one to spend some time experiencing the things that this person has experienced, gaining the knowledge and insights that this person has and trying to come closer to the frame of mind that they might have been in before passing any judgement. Those are all good things and overall that is good advice; albeit also hard, if not impossible to implement inour daily lives.

Perhaps the best thig that can come out of the Amish Proverb is the realization and admission that you cannot put yourself in the other person’s place.  If you cannot understand why he/she may have reacted the way they did to something that you said or did, then why would you feel justified to render some judgement or to take some action. The act of “putting someone in their place” is really an attempt to put them into a place that you define, based upon your values and your reaction to the events leading up to your decision to act; to criticize or to correct. Perhaps
no judgementinstead of rushing to put someone else in their place you need to examine the place that you are currently occupying. You may not like what you see there.

My favorite Pope Francis quote is the one that he made in response to a question about his view of gay clergy – “Who am I to judge.” Indeed the same can be said about most of life’s situations in which we rush to judge others, their behavior, their looks or their lifestyle. Most of us are not willing to take the time to walk a mile in their moccasins just to try to gain insight into their lives; so, we should also reserve judgement and criticism. After all, who are we to judge?  Remember Mathew 7:1  – “Judge not, lest you be judged.”

At the end of the day, we may make better use of our energy making sure that we are in control of our own behavior, rather than worrying about trying to control the behavior of others. Have a great weekend.