Sunday, February 2, 2014

** Judging Others

“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.^ ^ I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"- Galatians 2:19-21

Recently, I watched the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena which is based on the true story of a woman who goes searching for the child that was taken from her fifty years earlier when she became a pregnant teenager.  I won't spoil the film for you, but throughout the film, Philomena wrestles with a deep feeling of condemnation for the sex she had that led to this child.  She faces persecution from a number of individuals who have made her believe the pain of not seeing her child grow up is penance for this act "of the flesh".

This is a warped misrepresentation of what the gospel tells us.  Paul points out here that if we believe we can gain our own righteousness by keeping the law, then Christ would have died for nothing.  We have made the blood of Christ cheap.  We are essentially saying that we do not need a savior if we believe we are capable of keeping the law (or a certain set of standards) as a way of achieving righteousness.

But the story behind Philomena illustrates an even deeper truth about condemning others for their behavior.  The individuals that berate Philomena (some of whom are nuns) do so because she has not kept God's law.  But that kind of condemnation shows that they believe they have kept "laws" that she has not and therefore, they believe they can judge her for her sins.  When we watch it play out so blatantly in a film like this, it is disgusting before our eyes.  But we all do this in other ways in our own lives.  We are constantly looking at the sins of those around us and making decisions about how we should interact with them, how much grace we should show them, or if we want to have a relationship with them at all based on their behavior.  By doing this, we are essentially saying that we believe we have the key to righteousness.... and others do not.

When we do this, it is as if Christ died for nothing.  We believe we are justified by our behavior but we are justified because of the blood of Christ.  Because he spilled his blood so that we could be made whole.  He died so that we would be made righteous.  That kind of love should motivate us to know that we are not justified by our behaviors and we should not treat others in our lives as though they can be justified in that way either.

Father God, we judge others around us as falling short of what they should be.  And yet we are only justified by the sacrifice of Christ.  We could never obtain righteousness outside of you and for this reason we ask that you soften our judgmental and anxious hearts to those around us.  Humble us to love others in the ways you have loved us and when we are tempted to think less of others pull us back from the brink of our own self-righteousness.


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