If having this blog has taught me anything, it is that no one is hanging on my every word. So, why am I so quick to speak? Recently, there was a situation in which my opinion was entirely irrelevant. I hesitated, and then I shared my thoughts, anyway. Later, I realized how obnoxious this was. No one called me on it, except the Holy Spirit. Intellectually, I am aware that I don’t know everything, but so often I talk like I do. And while I am anxious for others to think well of me, I am critical of them, quick to judge, and quick to share my opinion. So often, what I have to say is unimportant, unnecessary, and, worst of all, critical. Yet the words burn within me and work themselves toward the surface.
They say that recognizing you have a problem is the first step to recovery. I hope so because God has revealed to me the depth of my critical, judgmental nature, and I don’t like it. There are biases and prejudices in my brain that I never acknowledged. It seems impossible, to me, but it’s true. I have failed to accept people based on my own preferences. I am not only judging others, but refusing to love. Love is supposed to be the clearest sign of my faith! But of judging others, James wrote, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor” (James 4:12a) Earlier, in James 2:13, we were admonished: “For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” As I have been pondering all of this, it occurred to me that, though Jesus will one day judge all people, His first advent, which we celebrate in this season, was about love and mercy. Jesus said in John 3:17, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.Titus 3:1-2
For the sake of my own spiritual growth, I have evaluated whether being single for so long has made me selfish and hardened my heart with bitterness. Or, perhaps my personality has certain tendencies; surely, all of us have some spiritual fruits that grow more readily than others. I don’t have any answers, just clear and repeated messages that I need to change. God has used His Word as a constant reminder. Titus 3:1-2 came up in my morning reading, recently. All of the things we are admonished to be and do in these verses seem the opposite of how I am. One of the words that sticks out most to me is gentle. I have long felt lacking in gentleness. But as I thought on it more, it occurred to me that I am capable of being gentle with those I love. Doesn’t gentleness often flow from love and kindness? It all comes back to love.
If I want to be a woman after God’s heart, I need to start considering the feelings, needs, and perspectives of others. People don’t need to know what I think (What’s the point of this blog, again?), but they might need someone to listen and care. I can’t show love to others when I am busy judging and forming opinions. When I think of the relationships I have with my family, who are the people I love the most, I can see what enables me to put their needs ahead of my own. I am confident of their love, so I am not worried about what they think of me or what I think of them. I am neither trying to earn points nor keep score, and this frees up a lot of energy. But Jesus tells us, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (Matthew 5:46) I am to love everyone, not just my family. Add to that 1 John 4:8 which states, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.1 John 4:9-12
God has confronted me in real and specific ways. I am not living by the grace that has been shown to me. I need to learn to look at people through the lens of grace, mercy and love. I also need to find a new hobby because I can see that judging people and making snarky comments has become a pastime. God forgive me! I write about this because I am confident that I am not the only one engaged in this battle. It may seem that I am ‘down on myself,’ but I am actually hopeful. God is already changing how I see the people around me. More than anything, I want to be an encouragement to anyone who reads this. We are on this journey of life together, striving to be more Christlike because God has called us. We can be confident in the hope that we have, but we cannot allow sin to reign in our lives.