Henri Nouwen writes:
“To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence. We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division. Jesus says it clearly: “Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).”
The old year has come to a close and the New Year has begun. I think there is a load of judgement in our lives both in how we feel others looks at us and in how we see others. It is a time of resolutions. What would happen if each of us decided that we would choose to work on being less judgemental? That is to say, what would it be like if we resolved not have to label people or classify people? How would our lives change if we had the courage to judge less and love more?
Do we have relationships that need mending? Reconciliation is often hard work. The very place to begin is the act of compassion. It is too easy to condemn and too easy to judge. It seems to be the first place that we want to go. The way of Jesus is a different way. Jesus of Nazareth invites us to compassion and forgiveness. Jesse Jackson once advised that we should “never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up.” This is good advice. Too often we are looking down our noses at others. The ensuing judgement that goes along with that downward glance is a toxin to our spiritual journey. As a people of faith we look to exorcise judgement and exercise compassion. This means that we will respond to those who are hurting, angry, disenfranchised, or disengaged in a caring and kind manner. These acts of kindness are a direct way of helping a friend or stranger up from whence he/she has found his/herself. Even more than that, our loving response is also food for our own spiritual hunger.
For the Christian, kindness and compassion are necessary responses while judgement and resentment are a detriment to our relationship with God. It seems too easy to resort to judgement, so let us resolve to remind ourselves that our lifeblood is love, kindness, and compassion and seek to live in such a way that encourages those virtues. To best illustrate the fact that we must act in love, I share this story from Hinduism that I read inline a few weeks ago:
A Hindu disciple saw a scorpion floundering around in the water. He decided to save it by stretching out his finger, but the scorpion stung him. The man still tried to get the scorpion out of the water, but the scorpion stung him again.
A man nearby saw what was happening and advised him to stop saving the scorpion that kept stinging him.
But the Hindu disciple said: “It is the nature of the scorpion to sting. It is my nature to love. Why should I give up my nature to love just because it is the nature of the scorpion to sting?”
We are called to love and compassion. Let us not forget that when we look in the face of negativity. Let us not give up loving, even if get stung in the process.
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