I know better but sometimes I can’t help myself: I stare. Recently I went with my husband to a completion program for seven incredible people who were graduating from a new substance abuse program. One of the seven looked like a walking, breathing doodle pad. To be bitingly honest, I don’t encounter people like this in my upper middle-class church. Ever. Clueless, sheltered, prejudiced? Yes to all of the above but the third one steps on my toes a bit. Actually, it mashes my toes.
Jesus nailed me in Matthew 7:1-5: “Don’t judge.” When I see a person with so many tattoos, the mom in me wants to scrub the inked skin squeaky clean so that it looks just like mine. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be distracted by the icons that reflect some of my own battle. Some challanges are easier to see than others. My husband visibly grapples with the effects of a birth injury every day. Each of his labored steps is supported a walker. His support comes from something usually reserved for people old enough to be his parents. My amazing husband is a man who could stay in bed and give up on being active, but God has given him an incredible ministry helping those with substance abuse issues. Strangers often stare with silent questions, in much the same way I am tried not to stare at that tattooed man.
The log in my eye nearly kept me an arm’s length away. Jesus said, “treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12). At first, I continued glancing sideways, staying at a comfortable distance. What about the brave people who could have said that they were turned off by my problems? Christians who easily might have judged me, but chose instead to love me and my husband, and because of it, our lives was transformed.
Only in God’s strength can we treat others the way we want to be treated. My feet carried me across the room to smile and I heard these words tumble out of my mouth, “You have worked hard and overcome so many obstacles. I’m proud of you.” I looked into seven sets of eyes that feared rejection, eyes that had seen the bottom side of life and had dulled with each judgment of themselves as a failure. Suddenly lifeless windows to the soul lit up. The smiles returned to me were the Lord saying, “You took out the log: I’m proud of you.”
You and I have received tender, loving mercy—too much to hold close and more than enough to share. Next time you’re tempted to judge, lay down the plank. Pick up love and treat folks the way you want them to treat you.