through His Word
By Erin Elizabeth Austin
Judgmental. Harsh. Critical. As Christians, we are taught that we shouldn’t be negative in our outlook on life. We’re supposed to be happy, positive people who always see the glass as half-full, but that’s easier said than done. Personally, it’s something I only manage to accomplish when I regularly ask God for help.
Whether or not we like to admit it, I think most of us have the tendency to be a little cynical in the way we view what’s happening in the world around us. Because there is so much evil in the world, we’re taught that we shouldn’t trust others. As children, we learn not to talk to strangers. As adults, we’re reminded not to pick up hitchhikers on the street. We’re even taught as we grow up to stay away from people who dress a certain way because as a general rule that means they’re bad. And while it’s good to exercise caution in this day and age, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve become too critical and narrow-minded.
I’ll never forget the first time I learned this truth. When I was in the eighth grade my youth group went on a weeklong mission trip to Washington, D.C. We worked on the two roughest, most crime-ridden blocks in the whole city, and I left the city a changed person. All my life, I had been taught to be wary of homeless people. They were most likely drug addicts who were homeless because of their bad choices and they were reaping the consequences of their mistakes. Yet after a week of working in a homeless shelter, I was shocked and appalled by how wrong I had been. Yes, I did meet drug addicts and alcoholics, but I also met orphans, street children, and entire families who were homeless through no fault of their own.
I’ll never forget the man who lived and worked in the shelter for six months. He had been diagnosed with a chronic illness and became too sick to work. Because he had no family, he eventually lost his home and his car. He had nothing. Through rotten circumstances, he became homeless, and he wasn’t the only one I met with a sob story. I met children who were dressed like street urchins, but they were the sweetest kids I’ve ever met. The only thing they wanted was to be loved, and at one point, I had ten different children trying to sit on my lap at the same time. But I almost didn’t take the opportunity to talk to these amazing people because of my preconceived notions and critical spirit.
The American church can be mindful of outward appearance. We have cowboy churches, motorcycle churches, Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, and on and on it goes. There are churches for different races, and some based solely on the belief of how a Christian is supposed to dress. (And heaven forbid someone from a different walk of life attend one of these churches!) Now don’t get me wrong, all churches aren’t like this. I’ve been in a few churches filled with all races and styles of clothing, but these churches are few and far between. It's easy to slip into a critical mindset, but that’s not how God intended us to be.
Matthew 7:1-2 (NLT) says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Stop and think about that for a moment. God judges us according to the way to we treat others. That’s a scary thought! Yes, God is a loving God, but He’s also aware of how we treat others, and that includes what we think about others. It’s not our job to judge others; it’s God’s. He’s the only One who can see a person’s heart. None of us are infallible. We don’t know why a person acts the way they do. As believers our only job is to be the hands and feet of Christ – nothing more and nothing less. But we can’t do that if we’re being critical.
I can’t help but wonder what God could do through us individually and as a group of believers if we stop being so focused on making others fit into our criteria of “normal.” What would happen if we begin to daily ask God to help us not be judgmental or critical and see others the way He sees them? We might just change the world.
I’m willing. Are you?
© Copyright 2016 by Erin Elizabeth Austin
Erin Elizabeth Austin is the founder of Broken but Priceless Ministries, a non-profit organization which helps people suffering with a chronic illness, as well as their caregivers. Erin is also a writer and speaker, and she is close to completing her first book. In her spare time, she loves to spend time with family, friends, and build forts with her nephews. Her goal for each day is to have an adventure, laugh, love, and eat chocolate.
This post resumes our Breaking the Chains series. Follow this blog by email to receive future posts in the series and other devotions on Life with God.