Sometimes we just can’t tell by looking at people what they are going through. They might look perfectly normal to us, but they can have deeper issues. This last month I had no problem healing up from my first laser surgery (to start breaking up my 1.18 inch (3 cm) staghorn kidney stone). My issue has been dealing with the kidney stent that the doctor left in me.
What I knew about the kidney stent was that it would keep the pieces from my blasted kidney stone from clogging up my system. I easily agreed that this was a good idea! What I didn’t know was what possible side-effects go along with the stent. In my case, I have had a constant, urgent, sensation that I need to go to the bathroom. This has been going on for an entire month! Last week when I met with my doctor he wanted to know how things were going with the stent. When I told him, he said “Yeah, that’s about right”. Part of the problem is that when I really need to go to the bathroom there is no different warning. How could this possibly be a problem?
My issue is a small one that is temporary. This makes me very sympathetic towards people that I know who are dealing with major issues with no end in sight. This can be a lot of different types of physical issues. Things like auto-immune diseases, cancer, loss of sight or hearing, migraines, arthritis, and a myriad of other diseases. It might not, however, be a physical issue at all. Instead it might be something like depression, grief, or other issues that are just as debilitating as physical issues. People can be fighting their own issues without their struggles being obvious to us.
A gift that we can give to others is to not judge them. This is not just for those that we know have challenges, but for everyone. The truth is that everyone has their own set of issues. It is easy for us to be critical of other people based on very little information. Let’s not fall into this temptation. Let’s be people of a generous spirit who receive—and love–people as they are.
Is it easy to not judge other people? In my opinion, it is really hard! We seem to be conditioned to quickly see the negatives in other people. Turning this around requires intentionality. One approach could be to re-condition ourselves to quickly see the positives in other people. This isn’t just for the people that we are newly meeting, but includes friends and family that we have known for a long time. How can this approach change our relationships? How can this change our communities of faith?
It is really difficult to have a church where our DNA includes not judging other people. Why is it so difficult? Every member and regular attender reflect the values of our church. Not just our leaders, or a few members, but all of them. To be a part of our DNA, an attitude has to be widely accepted and practiced. This doesn’t accidently happen. It has to be taught, accepted, and practiced.
How can we know how our church is doing in being non-judgmental? A starting point is to look at how our current members and regular attenders treat each other. Are they quick to see the good and encourage each other, or are they fast to criticize other members of their church family? How they treat each other is a good indicator of how they will treat someone new to our church.
I’m going to step out on thin ice, but how a church treats their pastor says a lot about the DNA of the church. I have seen many pastors struggle with their own life issues. Some churches embrace their pastors with love, grace, and support, while other churches are pretty rough on their pastors. I have been surprised as a Superintendent by how many times I have had to tell church members that we are Christians, and that we need to extend our Christian love to our pastors. If a church is judgmental and un-loving towards their pastor(s), I have to wonder what kind of reception are they going to give to a diverse group of new people to their church? Maybe there is no correlation, but I’m suspicious that there is.
Most of the churches that I know pride themselves on being friendly. Being non-judgmental goes deeper than being friendly. It places us in a better position to start, or deepen, relationships with other people. It doesn’t assume that we know who they are, but leaves us open to receive them for who they are. I believe that this is part of how Jesus has taught us to relate to other people.
Your brother on the journey, Mark
Medical update: On Wednesday at 4:30 PM I have will be having my next surgery. Although the doctor has a few different choices on procedures, we are going to do the exact same surgery that we did the first time. There is a chance that this will be the last surgery, or I might require another one. If the stone is completely removed, the kidney stent can come out a week later. I will be out of circulation for a few days after the surgery. Prayers are appreciated!