Sometimes I categorize people. Do you do this? I assign labels to certain groups, populations, religions, cultures, sexes, political parties; the list is really endless. Maybe pointing out the “otherness” of others is really a deflection of dealing with the “us-ness” of us. What I mean is we can rally around the unpardonable, mob identified, sin and go after “them” while sweeping the agreed upon offenses of “us” under the rug. But, like Lucilla astutely utters in Gladiator, “The mob is fickle, brother.”
We can tend to make a mountain out of a mole hill in others’ lives while overlooking the Kilimanjaro in our own life. This sounds strangely familiar…ah yes! Jesus talks about it in Matthew 7 when he says, “Why do you stare from without at the very small particle that is in your brother’s eye but do not become aware of and consider the beam of timber that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, Let me get the tiny particle out of your eye, when there is the beam of timber in your own eye? You hypocrite, first get the beam of timber out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the tiny particle out of your brother’s eye.”
I can’t speak to anyone else, only myself. But I’ll admit it; I mess this up. More than i should. Too often, we categorize the sins of others as unacceptable while conveniently justifying our own, by dividing the world into good and bad. The “us” versus “them” mentality is not only counter productive to telling the story of the fullness of grace and acceptance of Jesus, but also hurts the heart of God. We should strive to notice the best in others while realizing the worst in ourselves.
Being selfish and speaking in the “I” is generally unbecoming unless referring to your own struggles, hurts, habits, and hang ups. Then, I believe, we have the green light to use the personal pronoun liberally. Paul sets the standard when he proclaims, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all.” This isn’t Paul being arrogant and self centered, rather a humbleness to the fact that he’s acknowledging the log in his own eye well before he even thinks to point out the speck in anyone else’s.
I need to be more forgiving. I need to be less judgmental. I need to stop trying to label, divide and categorize people into nice neat, tidy groups. The fact is, the community of Jesus doesn’t look like well put together, clean, sensical groups. It looks like a whole bunch of people with all of our struggles, failures, shortcomings and pain doing our best to repent (which is to turn away from our mess) and follow the Jesus way. It’s messy. It’s chaotic. It’s disorganized. It’s an evolving, living, breathing community. But, when you have the elements of grace and love through Jesus, it’s a beautiful thing.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn