A morning encounter with a song by Chris Rice reminded me of an area of my life that I need to surrender daily. I can be so judgmental of others. I don't think it is just me that has a problem with this one. I especially struggle with summary and swift judgment of my fellow Christians. The lyrics from "Face of Christ" reminded me again that everyone is created in the image of Christ and that I should be grateful for my blessings.
He shares a room outside with a dozen other guys
And the only roof he knows is that sometimes starry sky
A tattered sleeping bag on a concrete slab is his bed
And it's too cold to talk tonight
So I just sit with him instead and think…
I wonder how many times I have judged others who needed grace and forgiveness. I know there have been many times when my actions have been inappropriate. Difficult seasons where my heart has been cold and my spirit dry. Situations where my words were selfish and critical. A snapshot of my walk with Christ at that point in time would have been ugly. I might argue that the whole album would not be so ugly. Some snapshots would be attractive. Some pictures might even be enticing to those observing my faith. But my album contains both ugly and attractive. That is why I need grace. And that is why I need to always be prepared to give grace to others. I don't know what those sometimes inappropriate, often annoying and even hurtful folks are going through that causes them to react the way they do. The chorus reminds me to be grateful for my blessings.
How did I find myself in a better place
I can't look down on the frown on the other guy's face
‘Cause when I stoop down low, look him square in the eye
I get a funny feeling, I just might be dealing
With the face of Christ
From the struggling couple in the congregation to the selfish committee member to the lonely outcast I get a funny feeling that I just might be dealing with the face of Christ. Jesus made it clear that it is really easy to love the (seemingly) together, attractive, funny and not so needy folks. Anyone can do that. I am going to give some folks a chance to judge me right now by quoting from The Message.
"You're familiar with the old written law, 'Love your friend,' and its unwritten companion, 'Hate your enemy.' I'm challenging that. I'm telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I'm saying is, Grow up. You're kingdom subjects. Now live like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you." (Matthew 5)
When I look down on struggling people I give myself permission to distance myself, judge them and maybe even feel a little better than them. What I am learning is to depend on God for a heart attitude to see those sometimes flawed folks as saints loved by the incomparable love of Christ. Imperfect. Stumbling. Weak. Yep, they are just like me. How quickly I forget that truth. Paul's exhortation to the Colossian Church seems appropriate.
Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other's faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. (Colossians 3, NLT)
So if you find yourself in a better place
You can't look down on the frown on the other guy's face
You gotta stoop down low, look him square in the eye
Paul's words in Galatians echo that desire.
Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the days out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived. (Galatians 6, The Message)
And never forget this thought.
You might be dealing ...
With the face of Christ.