Until I spotted it – an empty Dunkin Donuts cup on the side of the trail.
“Can you believe it,” I thought, with the appropriately condemning shake of my head, “some people are just so stup----”
“They didn’t know they dropped it.” Abruptly, the Lord interrupted me. And as only He can do, He graciously revealed to my heart that I was judging again.“Ouch – seriously Lord? I judged them?”
Silence.OK, so someone was careless and not paying attention, and lost their cup...which, yes, they littered. Intentional or not, did I have a valid point about litter not being right? Yes. But did I have the right to label them as Head of the Greenway Trail Littering Brigade?
The same is true for many things people do that hurt us: they didn’t know. In fact, often times they have no idea that we are hurt, and their action wasn’t about us at all! Instead of trying to see from their viewpoint, we often jump to self-centered, quick and condemning conclusions. All of a sudden, they are Card Carrying Members of the “Against Us” club, guilty until proven innocent. AND proven to our satisfaction.“OK, so I understand I need to forgive this person who unintentionally littered. No problem, they’ll probably be upset when they realize it. But wait, I also need to forgive them if they intentionally marred the pristine landscape with their trashy and dirty used cup?”
“And what about people who hurt us, Lord, what about them? I understand forgiving someone who makes a mistake, but what if their primary intent was to hurt us? What if they even meant to destroy us? I need to forgive them too?”By this time, I realized my “conversation” was one way. Then I remembered something Jesus said on the cross (paraphrased): “Father, forgive them. They didn’t know what they were doing”.
Wait, how could they not know they were killing Him? I mean, after all, isn’t death the main intent of a crucifixion? So how could Jesus say, “They didn’t know what they were doing?”Maybe it’s because He perfectly knew and understood everything about them. He knew how their motives were influenced by their weaknesses, their fears, and their failures. So He knew that in all of their human-ness, there was no way for them to fully “know” what they were doing.
Likewise, He knows each and every one of us, completely and fully, in a way we can’t even begin to comprehend. And knowing us, He forgives us too – even when we “know better” than to throw out that litter.“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17, NIV)
So whether another’s sin (or littering) is intentional or not, we are called to forgive…not to judge.Next time I am tempted to judge to conclusions, I hope I remember the Litter Incident!
Today's Challenge: When is the last time you judged someone without having all the facts? What corrective action do you need to take?