Sunday, January 29, 2012

Casting the stones

Let us stop passing judgment on one another. - Romans 14:3 (NIV)
My Uncle Nick on my mother’s side was an alcoholic that hit bottom—and found God. Not that he didn’t know about God. He was raised in a religious home, but that faith didn’t move from his head to his heart until he woke up in a jail cell, ashamed and vowing his life would be different.
It was. He became an ordained Baptist minister and eventually shared his transformation story with relatives. As a result, family members changed their “head faith” to a “heart faith.” Since I, too, had taken this step, I was thrilled to hear the news.
When his brother Ed died, Uncle Nick came home for the funeral. I hadn’t seen him in decades, since he lived in North Carolina and my folks weren’t the traveling kind. So I was looking forward to talking with him and getting his story firsthand. At the funeral dinner my husband and I sat across from him. The conversation was flowing nicely when Uncle Nick—the Reverend Nick—reached into his pocket, pulled out a pack of cigarettes, and lit up. I was aghast! Christians didn’t smoke—did they?
I could have called him a hypocrite and let it go at that. But his transformation was real. His faith was real. And I didn’t want to judge him. After all, he was responsible for my precious Aunt Betty and her family becoming believers. Thanks to him, I knew I’d see them in heaven.
Whether he knew it or not, he’d challenged my faith that day. Was faith real when a professed believer smoked? Or consumed alcohol? Or played cards?
It all comes down to judging others, and God’s Word has plenty to say about that: “Do not judge others,” Jesus said. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1, 2). “Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone,” he told a crowd ready to stone an adulteress (John 8:7).
The first century church faced a dilemma when believers ate meat offered to idols. Wasn’t it wrong? The apostle Paul addressed both sides of the question. To those who ate meat offered to idols, Paul cautioned them not to cause another believer—one who felt it was wrong to eat meat that had been a part of an animal sacrifice to an idol—to stumble in his faith walk (1 Corinthians 8). To the ones who judged the idol-meat eaters, he posed the question, “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (Romans 14:4)
My Uncle Nick was God’s servant. Who was I to judge him?
It’s easy to cast stones when someone is doing something I don’t approve of. Instead of nurturing a prideful smugness, I need to remind myself, “Let he who is without sin cast the first one.”
Forgive me, Lord, for my critical spirit. Remind me only You have the right to judge. Give me the wisdom to do what pleases You so that I do not cause someone else to stumble. Amen.
Special-Tea: read John 8:1-11, Romans 14, and 1 Corinthians 8

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