No Judgement

In his speech at the memorial service this week for the 5 Dallas police officers who were killed while protecting protesters, Pres. Bush said a memorable line that really got me thinking. He said, “Too often, we judge other groups by their worst examples, while judging ourselves by our best intentions.” How true an observation! This seems to be especially true in our national discourse in an election year. We seem to find it very easy to attribute hostile and even evil motives to those with whom we disagree. At best, we judge others as ill-informed, naïve or lazy in their thinking when they support a candidate, party or perspective other than our own.

How often do I judge others more harshly than I judge myself? Probably every day, especially when we are bombarded with news of the sharp political and social divisions in our country. If the polls are to be believed, most of us are making harsh judgments about the two major Presidential candidates, with 80% of us not trusting either one of them. In a democratic society, we have to make judgments about our elected leaders, but we don’t have to be harsh in our criticisms. We don’t have to question their intentions or integrity whenever they, or anyone else, makes a statement with which we disagree.

This also happens on a very personal level. If someone fails to follow through on a commitment they made to me, it is easy for me to jump quickly to saying “they always let me down”. But when it is me who comes up short, I am quick to claim that I didn’t mean to let another person down. Or if someone from a different ethnic or economic group doesn’t manage their unruly child or their home as I might, I am quick to fall back on whatever stereotypes I may hold about that group, and judge them harshly. I don’t know their story or their intentions. I know that I have been blessed with abundant opportunities which have brought me to the perspectives that I hold.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” As the temperature rises this summer and this political season, I pray that I will give those with whom I disagree the benefit of the doubt and listen to what they are trying to say with their views. This doesn’t mean that we will agree about the issue or the best course of action for any given situation, but it does mean that I continue to respect them as a loved child of God who deserves my love and respect as well.

Lord, help me to listen to others who are different from me this summer. Help me to respect the best intentions of others, whether they are police or Black Lives Matter protesters, Democrat or Republican candidates or supporters, and to actively seek to build bridges to those with whom I differ, and bring about reconciliation where I can in a divided world. Amen.

Dave Erickson-Pearson

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