Monday, June 10, 2013

We belong just as much as they do

2 Corinthians 10:7 (NIV)

You are judging by appearances. If anyone is confident that they belong to Christ, they should consider again that we belong to Christ just as much as they do.
Is it possible to harp too much on the idea of not being judgmental? I recognize this is a common theme for me, and I’m pretty clear on why that’s the case. For one thing, Christianity over time has had a bit of an issue with making a habit of condemning those who don’t conform to the rules of a given doctrine. Rules are important, but Jesus taught us to love our neighbors — and that means remembering, as Paul writes, they belong to God just as much as anyone else.

I personally struggle with being judgmental on a daily basis. I can’t go to a grocery store without taking in the world around me and making far too many assumptions about the people I encounter, good, bad and otherwise. And for what purpose? If we actually interact, I think I treat people well. I actually intend to be more polite and cordial than the average stranger. But I am completely willing to stand up and say when I look at another person, my first thought is not, “There goes another one of God’s children.”

All of it happens in my head, yes, but that it happens at all consistently upsets me. When my kids do it, it happens out loud because they have few filters between brain and mouth. I don’t have any, “Hey dad, why is that guy so fat?” horror stories, but there have been plenty of times when I’ve had to quietly respond to a comment with something along the lines of, “You know buddy, they might think you’re weird, too. It’s not polite to talk about other people like that.” Do I play the, “God made them just like God made you” card? I wish I could say yes, but I’m not so sure. Now might be a good time to start.

In thinking about ways I can help my kids grow and mature, I’m trying to focus more on shaping the way they see the world, and especially other people, as opposed to just instilling a strict moral code of rules to follow. I don’t want the kids to be liars, but I want them to arrive there by understanding how hurtful it can be to live dishonestly. I don’t want them to be rude or aggressive, but not because they feel God (or their parents) will punish them, but because they have realized how important it is to promote a culture of peace.

Likewise, I do not want to raise my kids to be judgmental. I hope they are confident that all people are created equally. Even if they can’t accept God or embrace faith, they still can appreciate the value of other people and realize nothing in the way we come into life makes any of us superior to anyone else. For any person to be going about deciding who is worthy and who isn’t — no matter what we might be trying to be worthy of — is so wrongheaded it just makes my skin crawl to think I might be influencing my children to one day look at life through those eyes.

The good news, so far, is it seems by the friends my kids choose they are not influenced by skin color or gender or age or size or really anything aside from if the other kid is nice to them. I hope it always stays that way, and I’m trying to be aware of my role in encouraging them to grow in that direction. And I hope they’re always nice enough to their peers to be able to be accepted for their personalities alone.

It’s a rough world out there, full of people who are able to see and quickly disregard other humans without a second thought about mutual respect. I don’t want my kids to live like that, nor do I want them affected by those who do. But we can only account for ourselves, and only God can truly keep us honest. It might not be easy, but it will be worth the struggle.

A prayer for June 10:

Lord, please help me see the world with your eyes. Help me look at everyone else as fearfully and wonderfully made. Show me ways to teach my children to continue to respect everyone as much as they value themselves. Do not late hate or prejudice well up in our hearts; rather help us be advocates for peace, for community, for forgiveness and understanding. We all were once clay in your hands, please keep molding me until you are satisfied. Amen.

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