Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Opposite of Mercy: Judgement

"Blessed are the merciful," Jesus said. To get my mind around his words, I have reflected about the opposite of merciful. From my perspective, it's being judgmental, by which i mean putting myself in the seat where I'm the judge of others, the one who determines the rightness and the wrongness of others' actions and motives. When I put myself in this seat, I become the evaluator of everyone and everything.

To boil it down, I become the critic of others actions and motives. I criticize their looks, their choices and their way of life. Of course a critic assumes that his or her perspective is correct. In more ways that one, this has become a way of life of many in our world. Just listen to ESPN right now and listen to the critics of various athletes. The airways are full of opinions about Dwight Howard right now. And even more have opinions about Jason Collins. We have made criticizing others a common language. We have put ourselves in the seat of evaluation and when we do this we remove our ability to have mercy.

This seat of evaluation can impact how I see the world, even the simple and everyday stuff. When I was attending seminary in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, I would often drive the busy freeways to get to school. I was very conscientious about watching my speed and people would pass me with stressful looks on their faces. I remember judging how hurried and stressed they were. I'd think, "Why can't they be more patient."

This seat of evaluation can impact how I see the  complex and substantial. There have been times when I would pass judgement on people who were living in ways that did not glorify God. I remember how as a teenager I was helping my uncle clean out his truck and I found a cooler of beer. Having grown up in the conservative South, my immediate thought was "How could you? You used to be a pastor." I judged him for being divorced, for leaving his five kids, and for lots of other stuff."

And this seat of evaluation can extend to global stuff. While I was in seminary, I met another student who was voting Democratic. I thought, "You must not really love Jesus if you can vote for that man."

I've used examples from my distant past because the time has given me the perspective to see the results of my judgements. I realize now how it had no positive impact on others. But it did on me. It eroded my love for others, ate away at my ability to serve those who were hurting and it caused me to pull away from those in need of God's love. Judgement took up all the room and left no room for mercy. Instead of being blessed, when I put myself in that seat and become the critic of others, I put myself in an "unblessed" (unfulfilled, unhappy, stressed, etc) state.

God did not make me to be a critic of others. God is the only one who can see others clearly enough to be the judge. However, even God, who has a perfect view of all demonstrated the greatest mercy when coming and dwelling in our midst and taking on the consequences of our sin. So why would I ever assume that I'd have the right to judge others. I've  come to the conclusion that I'm not wired to be judgmental. It sucks too much energy from my life that could be devoted to positive contributions. There is no blessing in it. The energy expended on being the evaluator of others is just too much. It's not worth it. I'd much rather save that energy for constructive efforts, the kinds of efforts that are blessed.

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