I had an attitude the moment I pulled onto the church parking lot and saw her car. After months of sporadic church attendance, she was back for praise and worship practice, and I was indignant. How could she stand so easily before God, and lead the church in worship, covered in the sin of her everyday life? A life and a sin she wouldn’t readily admit to the church, but I knew because she was my friend.
I immediately began to pray. I knew my heart and my attitude were wrong, but I couldn’t shake the shame and distaste I felt toward her. The righteous indignation welling up in me would certainly hinder my pursuit of Christ if I was not delivered of it before the service began. So I brought all my feelings to the foot of the cross, repented of them and sought healing in it. And the Lord said something so profound to me.
“Would you rather she be living in condemnation?”
I looked up to see her smiling and laughing with the others on the platform, and my heart broke. Because I think Jesus just asked me a rhetorical question, and the answer shamed me; she was. Not His, but my own.
I marveled at her faith, which seemed so much more mature than my own. I had groveled before the Lord for years, sure that I was not good enough to be forgiven, and thus, forever bound to my past shame. Identified by it. Remembered for it. Every unanswered prayer a painful reminder, a sure statement of the Lord’s disapproval of me. A disapproval I felt through the eyes of people in the church for years. Through their words, through their actions. Through their inactions, or their complete disregard.
Yet here I sat, guilty before the Lord of hating my best friend in my heart. Hating her as I sat in a judgment seat of my own making. A pedestal I created for myself, which I know was my own making because Christ knocked me off if it with His gentle reproach. My judgment was nothing more than an indication of my own pride and religious snobbery. She was good enough for Jesus, yet not good enough for me?
Whoa! I had somehow seated myself above Christ. And realized the danger of my position.
I prayed for forgiveness. First for the way I had treated her, and then for the way I had treated my Lord. By despising her, I had despised His sacrifice. I had created a standard for her to live up to, and thus nullified His death on the cross as her means of salvation and forgiveness. I had created something unholy and unrealistic, and had she known my heart at that moment, she may have slipped irretrievably into a pit of self-loathing and hatred and bitterness. Instead, she knew Christ, and fell into His arms.
Thank you, Lord, for your endless compassion. For your love that fails not. For forgiveness. For your grace. For understanding us and dealing with us in redemptive ways.
I share this because it is not just my sin, but the sin of the church. The way we treat each other. Who of us knows the depths and heights God has brought people from, that we should judge their proximity to Christ, or their own spiritual attainment of righteousness? Who holds the measuring line, that we may measure the sincerity of one Christian over another? Who sits above Christ, who himself stooped down to lift us to our feet? Who among us has not sinned?