My dad’s best advice growing up often came to me through his living more than his words. He is an intelligent, caring man who does not over-complicate conversations with superfluous dialogue, self-inflated pride or gossip. He puts things clearly and does not divert from his truths - God and family. Living into these truths, Dad taught me the value of a life born of honest faith and open ears.
I recall a specific time in high school when I made a snide comment about a girl in my grade. Dad listened to me talk about how this girl was popular but hateful – one of those who had the best parties because of her family’s money, but who acted like an entitled brat. I finished my rant over a bowl of cereal. As I put my bowl in the sink and grabbed my keys to head to school, Dad asked me one question.
"How has she treated you?"
I grabbed my backpack and scoffed. "Fine."
"Fine?" he inquired with a raised eyebrow, pouring himself a cup of coffee.
"Yeah, good. She has been cool to me."
"Then why would you judge someone who has been good to you? Don’t you think giving voice to negativity might influence others? After all, you’re reiterating what someone else has told you. From what I’m hearing, you have no issue with her."
I do not recall much else from that conversation other than after Dad spoke, my backpack felt like it weighed twice as much as it did moments earlier. Years later, I would hear a quote that reminded me of that morning in the kitchen: "Never judge someone based on someone else’s opinion."
People have an instinctive nature – we wish to protect ourselves from pain. When we hear a cynical view about another, it is almost reflexive to tweak our opinion, regardless of personal involvement. We often judge another by the company they keep. Oddly enough, we forget that Jesus sought out sinners, not saints.
"When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: ‘Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners’" (Mark 2:16-17).
There is a tipping point between caution and condemnation. We must be wise lest we stagger onto the very sword by which we are warned. Likewise, we must not stumble into judgment and blindly react to another’s cynicism only to perpetuate the very ugliness we claim to stand against. An enemy of one may be the friend of another – and both might have valid reasons, but to judge is to live beyond the grace of God. I have only known of one perfect man qualified to award the verdict of guilt (by another’s actions or by association); yet, Jesus chose to offer love, grace, and mercy instead.
If we dine only with Christians, the table of God will remain small. If we choose only to recognize the opinions of those who share a like mind, our minds will never grow. And if we never risk the strike of criticism for the sake of being faithful to God’s truths, we will never move beyond the stereotype that Christians are hypocritical, self-righteous bigots. Christians are no different in that we are struggling sinners in need of grace. The difference is we are saved, not be self, but by the blood of Jesus. Yet, it is often the Christian who is stingy with grace and generous in judgment. Ironic, because the blood of Jesus was a sacrifice of love as a response to the condemnation of man.
What is your response?
I would rather be criticized for who I do or do not hang out with than to have Jesus ask me one day why I never reached out to my neighbor. Or to have Him ask me why I ignored the pain underneath the mean façade of another, or why I did not use the gifts He gave me to reach into the realm of those who have yet to accept Him.
From one sinner to another, I can tell you my list of faults is long. You would not have to look long to find them. But the love of Jesus heals my shame. The saying is right – we are no better than the company we keep. Thankfully, in all my years, I have found no perfect person. I am not better than anyone.
May we love the person in front of us as if Jesus just introduced us - as if Jesus died for that person – because He died for them just as much as He died for us.
"He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them" (2 Corinthians 5:15).
May we be more concerned with the love we give than the scrutiny we receive, for to love well we must serve well. And to serve well, we must serve both the healthy and the sick – for we are indeed both.
SGLY, dear reader.
(Smile, God Love You.)
Tiffany Kaye Chartier is a Christian author and opinion columnist. Submit feedback and connect for more soul lifts on Facebook: Tiffany Kaye Chartier; Instagram:@tiffanysgly; and Twitter: @tiffanychartier. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group.