During my time there, I met a kid named Jason who would crap in his tube socks and then go all Bruce Lee on me swinging them at me like nunchucks! And one time he managed to connect one right in my mouth. Suffice to say, I didn’t really like Jason and after I heard about the brutal crimes he had committed, all before the age of 16, I actually thought he deserved to face grave judgment. I even thought the world would be better without him in it.
But then, one day I pulled his file and began to read… “Jason was sodomized at the age of 3 to the age of 11 by a male family member. He was locked in a closet for months at a time and left in the dark”…and on and on and on. As I read his file, I began to weep because I now had the context for the crimes and sins he committed. It didn’t mean they were any less grave, but I at least didn’t judge him anymore.
What’s amazing to me is that when I think about the life of Christ, people like Jason were the ones he desperately loved and hung around with. Jesus was consistently known as a friend of “sinners“, and some of these people he was known to associate with were world class sinners. They were local pole dancers and Bernie Madoff goons that stripped people off what little cash they already had; some were religious leaders that exploited people for their own ends; some murderers, others lazy gluttons. Jesus’ claim to fame because of the amount of time he spent with people like this was that he himself “was a drunkard and a glutton“.
When I try to encourage Christians to live more like Christ, it just seems that his ability to overlook sin is a point of struggle for them. In fact, it seems that many Christians think God put them on the earth to point out people’s sin. I guess for all of us, regardless of our faith or lack of faith, its always hard to love the unloveable, and even harder to love ourselves since we know in our core we’re not that different from the scoundrels we condemn.
So the question is how do we overlook a person’s struggles and sin? How did Christ do it?
Here’s a few thoughts to consider:
First, Jesus could share a meal with a sinner because he knew they had no ability to fix themselves (even this is taught in every 12-Step class you will encounter). Even as he hung on a cross, he forgave those that were mocking him and had driven nails into his hands, and recognized the fact they did not know what they are doing. He never nitpicked behavioral defects because he knew that bad behavior is only an outward symptom of an inward issue that can only be changed when the heart is transformed.
Second, think of Jason’s story. Once we have the full context of a person’s life we truly begin to see them for who they are and feel compassion. Jesus overlooked their blunders because the bigger story was more important than the momentary sinful acts.
Lastly, Jesus wasn’t self-righteous. Being self-righteous means that you think your white collar sins aren’t as bad as someone else’s. Self-righteous people often single out ‘homosexual sins’ but never deal with or admit to their heterosexual sins of pornography or treating their spouses poorly. Self-righteous gluttons and gossips often call out their neighbor who smokes pot or doesn’t go to church, or who swears too much but they never deal with their own issues, not matter how minor they think they are. This is why Christ told us not to judge the splinter in another person’s eye until we get the the fat log out of our own.
A week ago, I wrote a book called FLESH for this very reason; to help Christians understand the beautiful way Jesus interacted with those around him and learn to quit trying to be so godly and instead learn to be more human and compassionate like Jesus was.
If you are a recovering Christian ‘Pharisee’ or you are one of those people that got judged and ran as far and as fast from religion as you could, consider looking at the life of Jesus again. I’m not asking you to go back to church. I’m just asking if you’d consider following Jesus just a little. And in that you might fond your life will be beautiful and maybe the world will get a little more beautiful as well.