Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Reacting without Judging

This column was written by a Methodist pastor from Mobile, Alabama, the Rev. Brad Goode. I've edited his post somewhat from the original.

It’s easy to act like a Christian; it’s hard to react like a Christian. These thoughts were running through my head last week. Someone asking for money interrupted my very important meeting at church.

An unknown man barged, uninvited, through the door into a room of about ten of us. He told us that he needed some school clothing for his children. The man explained that he had mailed the uniforms he purchased to his children, but discovered later that they ended up being the wrong shade of blue. Because of that, the uniforms did not meet the school's dress code. He was frustrated and wanted to solve this problem with our help.

My first thought was, “Seriously, can’t you see we are in a meeting!” Then I wanted to explain to him that we have a process for things like this and that he needs to come back in the morning and fill out the proper forms. But then all the people in the room began offering to help him out, ignoring the way we do things. They asked what his kids’ names were and where they went to school. Then they pulled out their wallets, ready to give freely to the need presented before them.

I was a bit embarrassed by feeling jaded in situations like this one. On a daily basis, I encounter someone in need and have honestly gotten a bit desensitized to the whole thing. I have slipped to a place where I see things as I think they should be and not as they are. This is a dangerous place to tarry. It makes me think the only right way to live is the way I would.

It makes me reflect on my response-ability. As a Christian, I do have a responsibility in these situations to show the love of Christ, but do I actually do this? Do I react like a Christian? Do I have, if you will, a good response-ability?

As a parent, do I snap back at every little thing one of my two girls does wrong? Do I read every news story with heavy-handed judgment, forming an instant conclusion? Do I assume that anyone who does not do what I would have done in a situation is evil? There is a real danger when our view of God is a perfected version of ourselves. His love is beyond anything we could ever fathom.

Some people will argue that there is no room for civil discourse in our country anymore on important issues. Maybe the root of this problem is found in our responsibility. What if, as Christians, we took a different posture in an effort to change this? What if we could grow in our responsibility to a place where we could seek the whole picture, rather than bits and pieces of it? What if we did not assume that we knew the perfect answer to everything? What if we really sought to understand others’ opinions as much as our own before we commented or cast judgment?

One way to test your responsibility is to really reflect on the last time you changed your stance on a position. Some of us suffer from a condition called confirmation bias. It’s where we interpret every piece of information we receive to confirm our suspicions. Seeking to prove ourselves right 100 percent of the time is an exhausting way to live. We all need loftier goals in life than to simply be right all the time.

I could make a pretty good case that I was right about that man elbowing his way in to my meeting uninvited. That being said, I can’t make a very good case against the people in that room who reacted like Christians and sought to understand his story. They embraced who he was and how they could love in that moment. I hope I can grow in my response-ability, and next time I am interrupted, I hope and pray that I can respond with questions and love without judgment.

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