How do we respond when we mess up? My Monday had a rough start. The weekend and previous week were non-stop with activity. This coincided with a head-cold reducing my energy and enthusiasm. I was grateful to see the new week arrive, and to experience a peaceful morning. I was starting several projects, including this article, when I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling I better look at my calendar. My heart dropped when I realized I was scheduled for meetings at 10:00 and 10:30 AM. A quick calculation told me I had a problem. It was already 9:30 AM, and the meetings were 40 minutes away. On top of this, I wasn’t ready to leave.
It has taken me years of practice to stay calm in the midst of a self-created crisis. It is easy in this kind of situation to beat ourselves up. I try to be mindful that I need to be as kind to myself as I would be to someone else. I quickly sent an e-mail saying that I would miss the first meeting, and hopefully would arrive in time for the second meeting. Then I set a record getting ready to leave the house!
I’m grateful for how grace-filled are the people I get to work with within the South District and throughout our Conference. As I arrived at the end of the first meeting, they forgave me without any hesitation. To tell the truth, I knew they would. What kind of grace do we hope for from other people? What kind of grace do we give to other people? How quick are we to offer grace to ourselves? All of these are important questions.
One of the scriptures that has kept me uncomfortable for decades is Matthew 7:1-2. Reading from the NRSV, it says: “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged.” I have wondered for a long time if it is possible that neither God nor Jesus plan on judging us when it comes time for us to meet them face to face? What would happen if instead they show us the judgements that we used with other people, and then apply those judgments to us? How much grace are we hoping to receive from God? How much grace are we willing to give to others?
How often do we judge other people? Are our judgements ever unfair or harsh? How often do we make judgments when we don’t possess all of the details? Who made us the judge? These are the kind of questions that I wrestle with. We can’t control the answers that other people come up with, but we can control our own answers. These answers then need to inform our actions.
My perception of the struggle that we are currently having in the United Methodist Church is that it is one of how we read, interpret, and apply, the Bible. It is tempting to buy into the position that the Bible arms us to judge who is sinning, and who is not sinning. It appears to me that this is the position that the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Scribes, took with their scriptures. What was Jesus’ response to each of these groups? I think the Bible helps to teach us to know when we are sinning, and that we need to allow other people to have the same freedom.
Wouldn’t it be stunning if Jesus’ teachings boiled down to how we judge, and how we love, other people and ourselves? Do we think that Jesus was serious when he responded to the Pharisee lawyer who asked: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36)? I love Jesus’ response in Matthew 22:37-40! He said: “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Maybe if we love like Jesus teaches, this even takes care of the issue of judging. Let’s be church together like this!
Your brother on the journey, Mark