I am realizing that so many years in religion led me to believe that people are “good” if they have the so-called right answers. Or they are “good” based on their position. Or other religious performance statistics. Many times this made for those in the religious group to be acting just like the uber religious people who shunned the hurting man in the story of the good Samaritan.
I have experienced both sides of that situation. To my great regret, I am realizing I thought I was better than other people. I thought of other people in a class beneath me. Usually because I thought I knew or did better than them. In religious terms. Now I am grieved to realize my errors. I am seeking to not be like that anymore.
It’s frustrating to realize how much of an unconscious knee-jerk reaction I have towards others. Even with the best intentions, I fail every day at this. I realize, just like our Bibles say, that nothing matters without love. But it’s one thing to know that intellectually. It’s a whole different level to have it come out of you organically, from a heart that is in greater and greater stages of healing. I’m glad that I am more aware of my wrong views of people. But this is no overnight transformation. Decades of religious junk has to be cleaned out of me.
And so I have to also give grace to others. It’s almost easier to give grace to those who are not religious. We expect them to be a little more rough around the edges. And yet it is often those religion judges most harshly that have surprised me over the years with their generosity and love. Humbled me. I felt ashamed. All my learning is for what?!?! If those outside of religion are more loving than us?
I remember one time I posted on Facebook that I was sleeping on my floor in my new apartment after I was moved quickly due to a major water leak in my old apartment. My furniture hadn’t been moved yet. Out of all the most religious people in my list of friends on Facebook, it was two people who never go to religious services and who the religious leaders would judge as “sinners”, it was only those two that reached out to me and asked me to stay with them so I wouldn’t be in pain sleeping on the floor. There were so many in “ministry” in my friend group that never offered or even checked on me. That day was a wakeup call for me. I want to give them grace, because I know I have done the same to others. But it just really had an effect on my priorities.
Realizing that we label people as good and bad even though the Bible says all have sinned, there is not one righteous, and yet all are loved. What would it look like to chop down my tree of the knowledge of good and evil? What would it look like to stop categorizing people as being “in” or “out”? “Good” or “bad”. “Saved” or “sinner”? Yes, even saved or sinner.
What if we are all eternally secure in Christ? How would that change our lives, our world? What if we considered everyone a brother or sister in Christ? That is religious talk, but I am speaking mostly to religious people, so I’ll keep the language. What if we couldn’t justify our mistreatment and maltreatment of others based on their behavior? Then we would have to take responsibility for our choices and actions. A novel idea to those that like to blame everything on “destiny”, aka often I believe incorrectly referred to as “God’s will”.
What if everyone you met was in Christ and had something to tell you about God? I don’t know it all. What if the person you are judging understands something about God that you don’t know yet?
Not only is it a novel idea for many religious people to take responsibility for their choices, but it is also painful. Waking up to realizing it is you who hurt people, you who mismanaged resources and time, you who could have done more to get what your heart desires and longs for. Painful. Eating a lot of humble pie. If you’ll take the medicine that is good for you, that is for your healing.
Even this is not condemnation. All for edification. All for growth and healing. If you hear this speaking to you, that means you are ready for another level of internal cleaning. Not to obtain some standard of performance. But for your ultimate highest good. For your benefit.
And mine. I’m living what I’m preaching. Believe me.
You can’t muscle this one through on your own. This isn’t about effort. It is about real healing. Ask God for help. Be ready for the ride that ensues. Always an adventure. 🙂 Always grace.