Saturday, January 4, 2014

Judging Love

Have you heard this before "It's because I love them that I am telling them about their sin"?

Or something like it?

I have.

Look, there's not a Christian I know that would deny that God loves us, all of us. Christ came to teach us about Gods love. Indeed, according to Jesus, the greatest commandment is "Love thy neighbor as thyself". Paul writes that God IS love. Throughout the old and especially the new testament, we learn of Gods love, for he SO loved the world that He gave His only son. That's how we know what Love is.

This is not a new revelation, this is not hard to understand - but it's so hard to manifest. It's so hard to remove judgement. And Christ taught, definitely taught, against judgement (Matthew 7:1). God alone, is to be judge (Psalm 7:11).

However, I often hide behind what I like to call loving judgement, and I don't think I'm the only one.

You see, even though Christ said to love others like the Father loves them - without judgement; even though He tells me to pour my love on everyone, like God lets the rain fall (Matthew 5:45)- on the believers, the non-believers, the Christians, the non-Christians, homosexuals, heterosexuals, drug-free and addicted, the similar-to-me, the 'others', the 'terrorists', the 'anti-terrorists', the warriors, the peacemakers... I don't let it fall like rain.

Instead, I judge.

But look, judgement doesn't always look like a 'nasty thought'. It can look like a prayer.

Lots of times, the prayer looks like this "Lord, save those people, help them change", "Lord, fix them and teach them to turn from their sin".

Now, these prayers in themselves are not bad prayers. Indeed, if out of relationship a person has asked you to pray for them, and this is what the spirit leads you to say - it is a very very powerful prayer that SHOULD be prayed. Maybe it's for your children, or your good friend, or your co-worker, or even a stranger you just met, who has invited you into their life - or maybe its someone whose life you are a part of because God placed you in relationship with them. Yes, in these times, pray these prayers fervently - they are loving.

The judgement pours out of me when I don't know the person who I am praying for. When, without knowing them at all, I decide that I see something that I am assuming they need to fix, or repent from. I fail to see them as God sees them - as already perfect, as already clean, as already redeemed - and then I am falling into judgement. I tell myself that it is because I love them, that I want them to change and so out of love I am praying for them - but without relationship and without invitation - it's just judgement hiding behind love. This is not love falling like rain.

You see, I hide behind judgmental love, and love with judgement is first, judgement.

I don't think I am the only one.

Throughout history, I  believe, this is one way that we, the Church, have pushed people away from God. To put judgement before love is to put Gods commandment to love out of place. You see, when we put judgement before love, we tell people that their sin is bigger than their beauty.We communicate a message to them that because their robes are dirty, they cannot come before God. And so, many many people today are afraid to turn to God, or have denied him completely. But God says NO! I can change your robes, I can make you clean, come to me and I WILL WASH YOU, I WILL CHANGE YOU. I love you.

First, comes love. If we put love first, judgement disappears. If we were to let love fall like rain, we would enter into relationship with people before we prayed for their transformation. Then, after pointing out to them how infinitely valuable they are, how perfectly they were made, how much God has sought after them - even in their sin - if we're blessed enough, maybe the would invite us to pray for the deep, dark wounds that lead them into sin to be healed. Here, is where we can pray the powerful prayer of "Lord, save them from this sin, help them change". And then, the Spirit works.

 Imagine if, as the Church, we all made a daily effort to simply love others, to enter into relationship with them, to have them invite us into the deepest parts of themselves that they are fearing to share before we decide they need fixing. Imagine if we let the Spirit lead them into their own revelation of what need healing. Imagine if we were able to understand the depths of a persons hurt - and then enter into that hurt in solidarity and pray.  Instead of pushing people away by pointing out their flaws as strangers, we could help bring a hearts-yearning and desire to be changed directly to God as brothers and sisters- and there, the Lord will meet them. There, the Lord will transform them. There, we can love them.

Can we put away judging love, and simply love?


Lately I've been struggling with a little anxiety about the future and simultaneously been feeling overwhelmed in the present. Each of these worries has sent me in a vicious thought cycle. First, I feel overwhelmed with the present, so I look to the future. Looking to the future makes me wonder how we will ever 'make it' after I'm out of school, and we're paying back a ton of debt while simultaneously trying to start a practice (which is another huge risk) or find full-time work, while keeping a roof over our heads, food on the table, raising kids, having time for ourselves, showering. So of course, I get anxious, which brings me back to thinking about the present, and I wonder how we are ever going to expect to make it THEN when we're 'scraping by' now. How in the world are we ever going to get done all of the things we need to get done now, financially sustain ourselves, and still have time for ourselves at the end of the day? I have no idea, so back to dreaming about the future...which leads to worrying about the future...which leads to thinking about the past.... you get the picture.

You know, I don't think I'm the first to ride this roller coaster.

In today's first-world, modern-times, we're overwhelmed with messages that tell us what it should look like to be successful. It means having a certain kind of house, providing a certain kind of home for your family, having a certain level of income, a certain amount of free time, and a lot of things you should be able to buy on a whim whenever you need them. Not only that, but we're expected to update those things - wardrobes, phones, furniture, dishes, cars, computers, shoes, hairstyles, foods, TV-shows, movies, holiday decorations, you name it- and get it now, on a whim. And if you can't keep up, well, you know - it's actually going to be OK.

You see, after going on this roller coaster ride in my head I realized (finally!) that the root of my anxiety is that I'm choosing to see what I 'lack' or might one-day lack, rather than remembering and realizing the abundance that fills my life.

First of all, I need to remember that I've got it good, I mean real good. Re-focusing this has changed my perspective.

In this cycle of worry I met with a friend and neighbor, a woman who inspires me in every way, Sandra Ungor, and she helped me remember that everything is a phase, and re-focus to the abundance in my life. Then I read an article in Conspire Magazine called Wealth and Worry, and that too helped me shift more fully into a different way of looking at the water glass.

The article talked about Luke chapter 12:15-31 (see below for the full passage).
In short, this passage talks about a rich man who has an abundance, but is worried about what he might not have int he future. So he tears down his current store houses and builds new, BIGGER and BETTER store houses to store his grain and wealth.

This is me. You see, I have an abundance of gifts- from my family, to my health, to my wealth, not exactly my bank account though ;) (although just the fact that I have a bank account shows that I have a certain extent of wealth), my safety, my home, my name it! I have so much. Yet, somehow I want to store up more to ensure that I can be merry, relax and enjoy the future. When my brothers and sisters around the world don't have one-tenth of the luxuries I have I am still discontented and wanting more.

And I realize, that this discontentment is also a choice.
Really, where would it stop? at what point would I truly be content?
I have all my basic needs provided for and more, and yet I keep striving for bigger, more, better, 'guaranteed'.

Have I forgotten that God has always, always, always been there? Always provided? How many times did a check come in the mail (randomly and unexpectedly) just in the nick of time, when my account was almost to zero? Am I not on a 100% tuition paid scholarship to pursue my dream goal? Who got me that?! How many times did I 'wish' for something, only to find it free on the side of the road a few days or weeks later? How many times did I wish for an experience only to live it out shortly after? When did God not ever show up, and like he does with 'the birds of the air' care for me and my needs? Not only my needs but my selfish desires, and luxurious wishes? WHo am I to be discontent?

But I can't be mad at myself. That does no one any good. No, I just have to realize that I did the most human thing (since the fall) - I am forgetting WHO God is, that I am His child, and that although I don't deserve it He will provide.

But what does this mean for those who are living, for example, in disaster right now? In the Philippines? In the slums? In abuse? In hunger? In fear? In tragedy and sadness, brokenness and pain? Sickness? Why should I expect God to provide for me when there's nothing more special about me than those brothers and sisters, and well - look at their situation? Doesn't their suffering prove that God can't provide for all of us? That He can't protect us from pain, and suffering, disaster, terrible situations? SHouldn't we store up all we have to help make sure we don't become "like them"? OR at least do all we can to ensure as best as we can we don't get closer than we have to?

Luke 12:15-31 as recorded by (
15 Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
16 And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
18 “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
20 “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
21 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?
27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom,and these things will be given to you as well.

I've got a reliable, loving, dependable, God-seeking husband who helps me in every aspect of my life and is committed to me and our children. That right there - is more than 24,718,000 other children in the US who are raised in single-parent households have, not to mention the millions of single-parents who are raising them.  Beyond that, there are billions more single-parents, orphans, widows, and widowers in the world. I am among the minority, in that I'm not alone, I have a dependable loving caring gentile God-loving husband who is alive and present. Yes. I've got it good.

Now lets talk about my financial situation.
Ok, no we don't make a lot of money but wealth is more than just the income or your money in the bank. I come from middle and upper class families that are never going to let me fall down, and support us now so we can "have it easy" while we pursue our own privilege to "improve ourselves".  Again, I am in the minority. Not only do I have family to support me if anything 'goes wrong', but I have the privilege and the option to pursue an education. Or not. It's my choice, which is the most profound part of it all.

You know, I could keep going on about my wealth: my health, my opportunity, the safety of my home, and place I live, the support system I have, the ability to pursue opportunities that arise.

When I concentrate on the abundance, everything else melts.

What is the cost?


You know, I'm not exactly good with it.
As I write this, things are tight, and by tight I mean...ttiiight.

It's funny, as the bank account fades and dwindles down, a part of me is just, not worried.

I look at my children and I realize that maybe the number in the bank account is low, but that doesn't define the worth and beauty of my children. And it doesn't define the worth of me or my life either.

I realize, we might be 'broke', but we're not poor. We're richer than rich.

And this is the difference between me and billions of other people in our world.

You see, wealth is not just a number in a bank account.

It's your family, your support, your sense of security and worth.

It's not just stocks, and IRA-s and 401Ks

It has to do with what privilege you have, and a lot to do with simple dumb chance.

You see, it's like this:
Because of my family, I'll never be hungry.
Because of my community of loved ones, I'll never go without shelter unless I so choose to.
Because of my education, I'll always be able to submit a competitive application
So material things can
 and could
and do
come easily to me.
These are solid things,
              that can easily build and bring success
                        and fill my bank account
                                                                    if need be.

But wealth is beyond the number in my bank account.
And so here's where I stand, 25 and trying to figure life out:

If money comes and goes so easily, and is in some ways a measure of wealth, but not definitive of it, how can I live in a way that takes opportunity and privilege that I inherently have, and turn it around to not only serve be but be of benefit to others as well?

How can I honor those who weren't born with as good of chance to climb the ladder as me, geographically, economically or culturally? How can I live in the state that I am, and to the best of my ability simultaneously minimize and maximize my impact? Manifest dignity?

I'm working now, through a mess of finance, hoping to better understand one day how I can:

Use the power of my economic class and opportunity, to mindfully care for people - not only me.

As of now, I believe it means
Limiting my consumption in ways that helps alleviate the suffering of the world at large: both ecologically and humanely. This means striving to choose economic and consumptive boundaries that limit waste, and work done by slaves.

Desire is a strange thing, if it weren't for it we wouldn't "need" or "want" many things. Life would be simple, it would be about food, shelter, clothing, community. These are all things that come relatively easily, if you can pass down wisdom generationally. But we've grown to fill our houses with things, like computers and TV's, entertainment and delicacies. These things are all nice and not inherently bad, but so much of it comes at such a great cost.

So what is the cost of really being rich? Of having a lot of money, and having privilege?