This is the 3rd post in the Justified blog series. Check-out the others:
June 16 – Will I Ever Forgive Myself?
June 23 – When Christians Judge Christians
In light of last week’s SCOTUS decision, it’s quite a coincidence that I’m blogging about Christians judging non-Christians. I don’t keep up with politics, and even if I did, I’m not the type to publicly voice my conservative opinions. I’ve been planning this blog series for months, scheduled to coincide with the release of my novel, but after the hubbub surrounding the same-sex marriage decision, my original post sounded lame and irrelevant, prompting a re-write.
And a re-think.
I’ve shied away from all but a few online articles and social media comments because I tend to get overwhelmed when strong opinions are shared in a not-so-diplomatic way. In spite of that, I found myself wondering what I would say if I were the type to say something. Honestly, I’d rather shut-down the laptop and cancel the blog post, but that would be the coward’s way. Especially when it’s something I care so much about.
The depth of my concern is triggered by the fact that I have a homosexual family member. I haven’t seen him since I was eighteen-years-old, and other than a few letters, we haven’t had contact. Back then, I was an immature teenager, more concerned with mascara and lip gloss than the sexual orientation of my family members, but things were said, lines were crossed, feelings were hurt–on both sides of the wall.
Love is a funny bird. Especially when it’s family. Especially when fundamental beliefs are involved.
None of us planned for things to work out like they did. In the 80’s, there were no online discussions, no LGBT political groups, and as always, no instruction manual on how to resolve family issues. We were just a group of people who loved each other, caught up in our fears and emotions, trying to communicate our concerns.
I don’t think my family is unique.
In fact, I see our country playing-out the same scenario. Some people are yelling; others are crying. Some are praying; others are fighting. Most are desperately trying to defend their beliefs and struggling to find a way to do so with grace. It’s problematic because each of us has our own set of beliefs, and we BELIEVE them. Very strongly.
Christians and Non-Christians have different beliefs … but so do Christians and Christians. In different regions, or different denominations, or different congregations, or different ends of the pew. My beliefs won’t coincide with every other person’s, not even every other Christian’s, but still … I believe them. Very strongly.
- I believe in the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16)
- I believe God is everlasting and His truths are eternal. (Isaiah 40:28)
- I believe it is not my place to judge or condemn non-Christians. (1 Corinthians 5:12)
In my sheltered, narrow-minded brain, those first two beliefs often blur the third, and I have trouble relating to non-Christians, or even other Christians who live their lives differently than I do. Well, shame on me. It’s easy for me to write stories and create fictional scenarios where Christians do or say the right or wrong things. I toss around words like jaded and justified and judgment, but when it comes down to it, in the nitty-gritty of real life, I’d rather not blog. I’d rather not get involved. I’d rather not risk offending someone or tarnishing whatever image I think I possess. I’d rather not listen to the emotional comments and take the time to respond. I’d rather not get my hands dirty.
I don’t think I’m unique.
But I’m convicted. And convinced that I need to love more, care deeper, think broader, and go to the edges of my comfort zone. I need to accept the lost for what they are: lost. Christ didn’t yell or pout. He didn’t write rude comments. He certainly didn’t hide in His office and write stories. He went outside, found the hurting, built relationships, shared His love … and then He died for them.
If I’m truly a follower of Christ, worthy of calling myself a Christian, then I need to be less concerned with the acceptable rules of judgment and more concerned with being real to the lost. It’s not a matter of judging non-Christians, it’s a matter of loving them–of listening to them, sharing their lives, protecting them from harm. Until I do those things, I have no right to offer my advice, much less my rebuke.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV
Book Bundle Give-away
My publisher, David C Cook, is giving away five sets of the first two books in the Mended Hearts series, Jaded and Justified. Winners will be drawn on July 14th.
Are you a blogger who has something to say about judging others? Link your own blog post here.
ClickToTweet: Should Christians judge non-Christians?
It was three days before Vacation Bible School, and I was in my mid-twenties. Two friends and I scrambled frantically to ready our classroom for an onslaught of preschoolers while we discussed a fourth friends’ lack of participation. Didn’t she know we needed her? Two-year-olds require a low teacher-to-student ratio, and she had left us in a bind. (She hadn’t even offered to help decorate.)
As we stapled construction paper to the bulletin board, a sweet voice called from the doorway. “Now, Ladies, I bet you’d finish quicker without all that discussion.” It was Ms. Bonnie, an older woman who had been working in the hallway. She smiled, and in her eyes I saw compassion and understanding, even empathy. “Don’t you think?” she added softly.
All three of us froze in place, construction paper and staples in hand, as if God himself had shined a floodlight on us. We were speechless.
Bonnie smiled again, seeming to say she didn’t hold our actions against us, then she walked slowly away. My friends and I worked in silence for a while–chastened, humbled, and just a teensy bit more mature.
I still get emotional when I think about it because I greatly admired that woman, and knowing she caught me doing something so unChrist-like, embarrassed me. But I’m so glad she did. If not for her, I wouldn’t have grown that day, and I might still be talking about my friends behind their backs.
But Bonnie taught me more than just to avoid gossip. She also taught me that every now and then, even if it’s awkward, Christians need to shine a spotlight on each other. Not out of spite or with condescension, but gently and carefully like Bonnie did for me, so as not to damage my soul while she strengthened my conscience.
Did she judge me? Absolutely. Was she justified in doing so? Without a doubt. Bonnie didn’t want to reprimand me (I could tell by her expression), but she didn’t want me to displease the Lord either. She loved me enough to judge me.
I’ve sat through countless sermons about judging others and not judging others, and whom we should judge, and whom we shouldn’t. After a while the topic morphs into a complicated Calculus equation that takes two pages of notebook paper, front and back.
But it all comes down to love.
And loving each other isn’t easy. Apparently God knew we would have trouble judging-with-love, because for every verse that tells us we should hold each other accountable, there are three that tell us not to judge. Evidently, there’s a fine line between love and pride.
Matthew 7:5 tells me to get the plank out of my own eye before trying to remove the speck of sawdust from my brother’s. And honestly, it’s taking me a lifetime to get all the planks out of my own. Fortunately, my Christian brothers and sisters are helping me. They’re watching, noticing what’s going on in my life, maybe even judging. And I thank God that they are, because these planks are too cumbersome to deal with alone.
Have you ever had a fellow Christian call you out for something? Was it done with love and compassion? I’d love to hear your story, so please leave a comment by scrolling to the bottom of this post.
Related posts from other bloggers:Andi Newberry – Justified, by Varina Denman, Plus an Interview with Varina To link-up your own blog post, click HERE.
I’m giving away five sets of the first two books in the Mended Hearts series, Jaded and Justified. Winners will be drawn on July 14th.
ClickToTweet: What happens when Christians judge Christians?
Have you ever done something so bad, you just can’t let it go?
I’ve done plenty. Some HUGE, some inconsequential like this:
When I was in college, I offered a friend a ride to a football game. We were in the band and were required to arrive thirty minutes before the pre-game show, but as the time grew near, I got distracted.
When it finally occurred to me that I should leave for the game, I was already late. I threw on my uniform and called my friend at her dorm across campus. No answer.
I assumed she had found another ride (This was WAY before cell phones), and I sped to the field, making it just in time for the pre-game show. My friend, however, didn’t arrive until several minutes into the first quarter, and she was understandably livid.
I was mortified by my behavior.
Even though my actions weren’t intentional, they were thoughtless and selfish. But in spite of that, by halftime my friend had thawed enough to speak to me, and at the end of the game she had almost forgiven me.
But even now, twenty-five years later, I cringe just thinking about it. Even though I apologized, I just can’t let it go. It was homecoming. She missed the pre-game show. The band had a hole in the line-up. And it was all my fault.
Causing a friend to be late to a game isn’t one of the Big-Kahuna sins, but I react the same way to most of my shortcomings. Especially the icky ones like hurt, rejection, selfishness (not to mention the blatant sins). I hang on to the humiliation and condemnation long after the offended party has forgiven and forgotten, and long after God has wiped it all away.
Am I justified in being so hard on myself?
I wouldn’t treat others that harshly, yet I hold myself to a higher, often unattainable standard. While judging my own sins is a necessary yet sticky line to walk, when I take it a step further and attempt to declare a sentence for myself … then things get downright dangerous.
I will forgive myself if ____________________.
I will not forgive myself if _______________________.
But there’s a core problem with this entire discussion, and that is the assumption that I can forgive myself at all. It’s impossible for me to wipe away my sins. Even when I’ve sinned against my own body, I’m not able to truly cancel the debt. I’m not big enough, clever enough, powerful enough. That’s why Christ died on the cross. And boy, am I not Him.
So why do I try to “forgive” myself?
I think all this judging/condemning/forgiving is wrapped up in my self-esteem and self-worth. Baggage from my past keeps resurfacing, reminding me of my imperfections and causing me to doubt God’s love. But insecurity will always rise-up if I look for self-esteem from within.
Instead, I must allow Christ to cancel the debt for me whether it’s something as insignificant as a football game or as huge as one of the Big-Kahuna sins. If I can give it to Christ and let Him carry the burden, my load will be lighter.
Christ wants a relationship with me for just this purpose. He wants me to have an abundant life, and I can’t have it if I’m constantly berating myself. Not only does He want me to give Him my burdens, He wants me to give him my heart with all its imperfections, hidden sins, and dark secrets.
And He wants to forgive me.
Have you ever had a difficult time “forgiving yourself?” If so, please consider scrolling to the bottom of this post, leaving a comment, and sharing what helped you overcome the tendency to carry the load of forgiveness on your own shoulders. What helped you give it over to God?
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:11-12 NIV
Other bloggers are talking about being judged and justified:Andi Newberry – Justified, by Varina Denman, Plus an Interview with Varina
To link-up your own blog post, click HERE.
(To leave a comment, scroll a little farther down.)
I’m giving away five sets of the first two books in the Mended Hearts series, Jaded and Justified. Winners will be drawn on July 14th.
Justified Releases Today!
Thank you for subscribing to my newsletter and following my publishing journey. I never realized how fun it would be to interact with readers, but you guys are the bomb!
If you’ve read Jaded, you may have wondered what becomes of Dodd, Ruthie, and all the other townsfolk in Trapp, Texas. Well, the second book in the Mended Hearts series, Justified, continues the story through the eyes of Ruthie’s former-friend, Fawn Blaylock. And it releases today!
From the Back Cover:
In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for the grace she has never been willing to bestow on others. Hope begins to stir when the local football coach offers gentle strength to help Fawn reawaken her heart and redeem her past.
Justified perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small town, chronicling the life of a woman searching for renewal, a man looking beyond what others see, and a community torn between judgment and love. It is the unforgettable story of broken dreams, second chances, and relentless hope. Click here to order
Meet Fawn Blaylock, the heroine in Justified, the second book in the Mended Hearts Series. She’s the daughter of a wealthy rancher, but she recently got herself kicked-out of her parents’ home, so now she’s living on her own, expecting a baby, and extremely insecure. Her life has been turned topsy-turvy, and the things that once were important, suddenly don’t make much difference in her life.
Like beauty. And money. And power.
Without them, her confidence is a tangled mess of doubt and she feels unimportant and alone, not at all sure that God even notices her any more. Her old friends won’t give her the time of day, and her new friends … well, Fawn doesn’t really trust them yet.
I think she needs to read Carey Scott’s new book, Untangled, Let God Loosen the Knots of Insecurity in Your Life.
As Carey states, “Almost from birth, we are trained to find the approval and acceptance we crave in the eyes of family, friends, and even strangers. The result is that we cannot believe we are who God says we are—accepted, loved, beautiful, and treasured. We get tangled up in the world’s assessment and our own self-judgment.”
Fawn turns out all right in the end, even without Carey’s book, but it takes the help of a handsome coach named JohnScott Pickett to gradually convince her she’s beautiful from the inside out. It takes a while longer for her to believe she’s worthy of God’s love, but she finally realizes He was with her all along.
Six days from now, Justified, hits the shelves, and in celebration, I’m giving away a bundle of the two books. To enter for a chance to win, leave a comment. Good luck!
Update: Congratulations to Annette Escott, winner of the book bundle!
It’s been less than two months since my debut novel released, but it feels like ten years. I’m thrilled with the hubbub of activity that surrounded the launch (after all, I prayed for it a l-o-n-g time). But at this point I’m sort of … kinda but not really … I hate to say it but … Okay, I’m tired of doing the hard things.
To be more specific, interviews are not my BFFs. I’d much rather sit alone with my laptop, writing all day and never-ever speaking to anyone. I considered taking applications for a stunt double, but the job would require a talented impersonator since I have that weird, squeaky voice going on.
All joking aside, interviews are getting easier, as are all the other unexpected duties I never knew I’d be performing. (I thought writers … wrote. Silly me.) But evidently I’m getting used to it because, after this last interview, the fear-induced diarrhea only lasted a day.
Click over to Josh Old’s “Life is Story” blog to listen to our conversation on church hurt and Jaded. I can honestly say I enjoyed the interview and wouldn’t mind doing it again someday. (But if you think your voice could pass for mine, message me privately.)