I just came off a business trip in Manhattan with my wife and my two precious little girls, Emma Grace and Ella. New York is quite the city. Each time we travel there I learn something new about myself. I get the “I Love New York” slogan more now then ever. It is truly a city that never sleeps. On any given day or night, you’ll find there are wall to wall people walking around. Before I knew it, we became those people.
It was a Sunday morning and I had intended for our family to walk down to Broadway and 79th Street to attend the eleven o’clock morning services at The First Baptist Church. But we were all exhausted from the packing and unpacking involved in several weeks of traveling on the road. We are truly blessed to be able to travel together on business as a family. But this was our final trip of the summer and it was taking its toll. As a result we over slept and missed the eleven o’clock service. So when we were all up and dressed I said, “Why don’t we go out for a family breakfast?” The girls were excited because in our travels I bought them each a Razor Scooter to ride. They had gotten quite good at navigating the sidewalks of New York City and they blended right in with the dozens of other children riding on their scooters.
Down on Broadway
We were walking along Broadway and I was chatting with Amy when we happened upon a man rather shabbily dressed. His shoes were all scuffed up and his pants were dirty. He wore a hospital gown as a shirt. You know the kind that hospital attendants give you when you’ve been admitted as a patient … the ones that tie in the back and leave you exposed. He held a paper cup in his right hand and motioned his cup in the direction of people as they passed by. He spoke in a normal tone, but his voice carried loud enough for those within earshot to hear him say, “Spare change … any help at all?” I found myself quickly scurrying passed this homeless man with all the other passerby’s. I had this weird feeling come over me. You know the kind that exposes your guts and causes you to question your actions. Like, what are you doing? Didn’t you just see that person? But just as soon as the thought crossed my mind I dismissed it thinking … Why doesn’t he get a job? There is all types of public assistance out there. Why doesn’t he just …
That’s when the Holy Spirit stepped in to counter those thoughts with a simple question: Why do we pass judgement before we pass charity? This question stopped me dead in my tracks. I turned back around and made a b-line towards that homeless man and place some money in his cup. All too often, if we’re not careful, each of us will find ourselves sitting in the seat of judgement. Jesus warns us, “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. Matthew 7:2. Wow! That makes me think twice about judging. It takes me back to a time the Lord showed me how when I’ve been wronged I want justice – for that person to be judged. But when I’m in the wrong and facing judgement, I want mercy. We need to extend the same amount of grace to others that we want given to ourselves. Matthew 5:7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Really, God is the only one who has the right to judge. Jesus said, “You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.”John 8:15-16 Jesus, in His humanity, chose not to judge even though He had the power and authority to judge and because of His holiness His judgement would be perfect.
Called to a higher standard
Christians are called to a higher standard. We are to sift our actions though the word of God. We have to pick up our cross daily and follow Jesus. Matthew 16:24-26 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul.” Here lies the dilemma; we have to fight against our humanity. It’s in our sinful nature to be judgmental. We can’t fight against this in our own strength. It has to be done by the power of God. The reality is that each of us, on any given day, is just one decision away from finding ourselves in dire straights … but for the grace of God go I.
Solomon, in his great wisdom put it this way … I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not given to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all. Ecclesiastes 9:11 What Solomon is saying is we are not in control of everything in our lives. There is and will always be unforeseen circumstances; things that befall us … again for the grace of God go I.
This experience I had in New York City – this dear man’s presence in the world – spoke to me and taught me one of life’s most valuable lessons… not to pass judgement. Next week we’ll see how Jesus taught his disciples this same thing.