This week’s message about judgement brought up some bad memories, and it also got me thinking. If you missed it, you can listen to it on Crosswalk’s Website. One of the things that hit me was the video of people telling their stories of how they were hurt by the church – which you can watch on YouTube. I think like many of you, I could relate to a lot of what they shared and had my own experience. I loved it, but there is something I wish the video did share: what is going on with those people now? How has God healed them? And how did that come about? There are many things about the Church in general which needs to change, and it is good to be aware of it. But we can’t simply focus on the negative. Pastor John spoke about how we can move forward in healing. That is what I want to focus on today, how we can build upon our strengths.
Here is where I am going to be very vulnerable to you today. Some of you may know this but I went through a divorce about ten years ago. I’m not proud of it and I was ashamed of it for a long time. But more than that, being in a failed marriage hurt me badly. I felt like I had failed God, failed in my commitment, and failed my community. The details were irrelevant. I fell into a depression for a while, but I also felt convicted to not give up on my relationship with God even though I felt like I had let Him down. I was attending Crosswalk the entire time; my Life Group knew I was going through struggles in my marriage and they were the first ones I contacted when it ended. Instead of condemning me, they embraced me. They were there for me. One couple just got engaged and yet they were more concerned with making sure I felt ok then of celebrating their engagement with the group. The staff felt horrible for me, counseled me, tried to help me reconcile, and never once did I feel like they were rejecting me. Church friends took me out to lunch to talk about it. Some of you might remember Bill Ray who was a longtime member. Well he was my next door neighbor and had been married for over 70 years. Of everyone, I was the most afraid of telling him about it. And I’ll never forget as I sat down and told him, he just put his arm around my shoulder and prayed with me. He knew that going to God could do more than any condemning words could. He knew that my relationship with God was more important.
The problem with judgment is that we look at people’s sins and, in our eyes, that is what defines them. So often in this Christian walk we hear about how we are all sinners. And how can we judge others to condemnation and really believe that? I wouldn’t want to be defined by one particular part of my life. Not many do. We can’t let one aspect of a person’s life define who they are. This is a big part of why God healed me at Crosswalk ten years ago: people knew me deeper than a few hours on Sunday. They didn’t let “divorced” become a big label on me, or let that become who they saw when they spoke with me. We now live in a postmodern world which values individuals. Getting to know people, building connections and trust with them is what we should be seeking. I wrote about some of my experiences with this on a previous e-mail.
When you build a relationship with someone, the results are twofold: First, you have genuine compassion and caring for them and any conversations about sin come from that place instead of a place of judgement. And second, they know that what you are saying is not in judgement but rather out of genuine love. Kinda like that Jesus guy. He recognized that all of us in general were sinful, and he ate dinner with the worst of the bunch. He got to know them better and didn’t let their sins define who they were as individuals. Let’s be known as the people who are like that. People who are more concerned with healing and compassion. People who spend the time to get to know others instead of making snap judgments about them.