At New Vision Fellowship we are exploring what it means to be Good Neighbors. The core of this exploration is to become more and more like Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our lives, so that we reflect Jesus in our everyday lives through our actions, through our choices, through the way we use our resources and time, and through the way we treat others. In order to reflect Jesus fairly to the world, we must practice the same kind of humility as Christ; a self-sacrificial humility. We often consider the opposite of humility as pride, but Jesus didn’t come to earth and live among us in humility to save us from pride. Jesus came in humility to save us from judgment. In this case, it is not pride that is the opposite of humility; rather it is judgment that is the opposite of humility.
It is when we are sitting on the seat of judgment that we are the least like Christ. It is when we give up the idea that we somehow sit above others or through our actions and words consider ourselves better than, that we are becoming closer to the person Jesus was and is. Sometimes our knee-jerk reaction to the suggestion that we think of ourselves as better than others, or simply put that we are judgmental, is defensiveness and a lot of examples of ways we are not judging. However, a part of the way we process and make decisions about things every day is through judgment. Within the first 5-10 seconds of meeting someone we have already made a judgment about that person. How far this judgment is carried and how much impact it has on our choices and actions is where we need to focus.
Here’s what I have in mind:
Between now and Easter, during the season on Lent, let’s give up our judgmental attitudes! You might be thinking “I’d rather give up coffee, chocolate, ice cream, even electronics – because the idea of having to alter my character, the way I interact with the world and my right to judge sounds like an uncomfortable stretch!” That is exactly what I am proposing. And, if you are willing to take up the challenge, here are some exercises to practice, in particular over the next 40 days, as we lead up to Easter:
1. Be aware of other individuals you encounter and find ways to engage with them.
a. Challenge #1: When you find yourself having a moment of judgment based on your initial opinion of someone, engage the person in some form of conversation or interaction.
b. Challenge #2: When you see someone holding a cardboard sign asking for money and your initial thoughts go to the nefarious items you think they’ll spend the money on, give them some money anyway.
2. Remember that God accepts you as you are.
a. Challenge #1: Don’t judge yourself. God allowed his own son to be sacrificed for you, covering your shortcomings with Christ’s blood.
b. Challenge #2: Allow God to reveal areas in your life where he desires to bring transformation and growth. Respond with obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit in your life.
3. Be an active listener.
a. Challenge #1: In conversation with others stay present! Put down your electronic devices when someone is talking to you. Do not try to fix anyone else’s problem. Do not interrupt. Do not preoccupy yourself with what you are going to say next when engaged in conversation.
b. Challenge #2: Repeat back to the person with whom you are having a conversation, in your own words, what they have told you. This is an effective way to demonstrate understanding of what the other person has communicated with you and enables both of you to clarify any potential misunderstanding.
4. Take yourself out of your comfort zone.
a. Challenge #1: One time a day for the next 40 days find a way to help someone else.
b. Challenge #2: Stretch out of your comfort zone at least one time in the next 40 days. Here are some ideas of ways to do this:
Volunteer at Medical Teams International or Saint Child (our church volunteers as a group at both of these places each month), visit an ethnic restaurant, invite someone you don’t know well out for a meal or coffee, invite someone over to your home, attend a function where you are the “visitor.” When you go places you would not normally go and do things that you would not normally do, remember that Jesus is there with you. Allow your view of God to be stretched.
In the Old Testament, God gave Moses instructions to build his tabernacle. A tabernacle is a tent, a dwelling place or a sanctuary. In the book Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber, she mentions that we often think of God’s tent as being fixed and that only so many will fit under the tent (and, in particular, we imagine that everyone under the tent with us should/would look just like we look). I am not quoting Nadia here word-for-word, but, in essence, what she communicates is that God’s tent stretches and encompasses everyone – absolutely everyone. Even the likes of you and me.