The Measure You Use
Shirley and I were shopping for nail polish yesterday. Well, she was shopping for nail polish, and I was along for the errand following breakfast together. A very nice young lady checked us out. She had some beautiful artwork tattooed on each arm, and had on an interesting wig. After we left the store, we agreed the wig looked a bit like a Halloween costume wig, and wasn't very flattering. She also had on a LOT of makeup.
I felt the inner battle between compassion and judging. The fact that Shirley and I commented to each other about her wig and makeup in terms of "what was she thinking?" reveals that my inner, fallen nature still tends to judge others by my own standard of what looks good and what looks tacky. Offsetting this was the thought that came to mind (I believe from God's Spirit) that said, "This is a daughter of God. Outward appearance is not as important as that smile and kind spirit you see."
We live in an increasingly polarized and blaming culture. Think politics. Think social media. Think Mom shaming (If that were my child making that fuss in public I'd march her right out of this restaurant and...)
But Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Matthew 7:1-2 NIV)
I'll be the first to admit I would like to be treated with mercy and compassion. I would like for people to give me a break and understand my life before they criticize or second guess the way I live. I sometimes find myself thinking, "If you only knew what I'm going through you wouldn't be so critical of me." And yet I sometimes have difficulty extending to others the mercy and compassion I hope others will extend to me.
How inconvenient it is for Jesus to say, "...with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." Go figure. We reap what we sow. Kindness begets kindness. Compassion is returned where compassion is given. Criticism is best met with the love of Jesus, not with defensiveness or fighting.
I am a realist. I know some will judge even the most compassionate and loving person they meet. Being kind is not always met with kindness.
I also understand that there is a place for making judgments without a judgmental heart. I can think to myself, "That's way too much makeup," without the corresponding, "She must be a tramp." There is also a place for resisting evil. Jesus called the Pharisees a brood of vipers and whitewashed tombs. In the spirit of Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr. opposed racism and stood up for civil rights for all who are created in God's image.
One thing I believe we must avoid is thinking anything I disagree with is evil and therefore I have a right to be critical and permission to vilify people. It is not the Spirit of Christ to go through life pointing a judging finger at everyone we disagree with. And the simple step of reminding ourselves over and over that this other person is loved by God and created in His image can help us become less judgmental and more compassionate toward others.
One thing I believe we can do is to ask God to show us opportunities to show kindness and compassion to others, and then live with our eyes open, expecting Him to do so. Then we can practice the love of Jesus in a way that makes friends instead of enemies.
"Lord, fill my heart with the love of Jesus so the compassion of Jesus overrules the criticism and judgment that my fallen sin nature too often brings to the surface. In Jesus' strong name. Amen."