There are depths untold in us where the image of God dwells, but we have to be willing to let God’s Spirit speak to us; we have to be willing to then do what He is suggesting. If we don’t have faith in God and knowledge about these depths, we’ll just go about our own business with our mind and emotions serving our own ego, rather than the Lord. I notice my ego so much these days in the self-serving judgments I make about other people and about what is happening to me and the almost running commentary in my mind about what is to my advantage and what leaves me wanting. Whether it is a game I am playing in which it has to be all about my advantage or a very small inconvenience like yesterday when I had to go off the sidewalk to walk around a wheelbarrow that was blocking my way. My mind is judging every circumstance that comes my way.
My responses come from the beliefs that I hold about what is dangerous and/or good for me. And many of those beliefs are formed first by our fight or flight response, but also by our culture. I’ve been thinking about all this as demonstrators responded across the country to the deliberate killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis last week. I am knee-deep in researching a book on slavery in the world and in the Bible. As I think about the horror of George Floyd’s totally unnecessary death, I am reminded that Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount says that we are not to judge, lest we be judged by the same criterion. And yet we do judge; our minds seemed to be especially designed to make judgments about who people are and what we expect them to do.
Can we lay all our judgments on the altar, all our ego-boosting responses, giving them up to God, so that we can conform ourselves to Jesus’s teaching? Can we ask God to change how we think about the people we judge unfairly, to take away this basic instinct so that we can live in this basic truth about every human being: that we are all made in God’s image? That in all human beings there is only one-hundredth of a percent of difference in our genetic make-up, in our DNA, no matter our skin color or the circumstances in which we live? That we are all beloved by God, His sons and daughters? If we really believed that, our attitudes towards others who seem to be unlike us and our reactions towards the stranger and the enemy would have to change. We would have to treat each human being well, no matter our very human reaction to him or her.
We human beings are imperfect creatures—all of us, and yet God is willing to forgive us if we will only turn back to Him and to His ways. The question for us is this: are we willing to forgive ourselves and others for our questionable behavior and thinking? Are we really willing to love another person no matter how different he or she seems to be? We can see how these judgments that we hold lead us to some unwise decisions. Since the “law & order” days of the 1980’s and the “three-strikes-and-you’re-out” thinking from then, our prison population has grown exponentially from 200,000 in 1970 to 1,439,808 in 2017. Our prison population constitutes 25% of prisoners world-wide while our population is 4% of the world population.
The inequities of our criminal justice system fall largely on the non-white population. “If African-Americans and Hispanics were incarcerated at the same rates as whites, prison and jail populations would decline by almost 40%.” We tend to be more forgiving of whites who commit the same crimes as blacks or Hispanics. Now aren’t we judging them unfairly? And didn’t Jesus tell us to not to judge anyone?
The coronavirus is pointing up all kinds of inequities in our justice and social service systems and those injustices and inequities are to a large extent based on race. But we also ignore the needs of poor white people, too. We think that they “should pull themselves up by the bootstraps” like they’re supposed to do as American citizens. But, really, it is not so easy as it sounds if you are working two jobs or you’re out of work and trying to raise children, too. Again, our thinking about these groups comes into play. We denigrate “welfare mothers;” we think they are just working the system. We expect them to get themselves educated when they can’t even afford the technology that would prepare them for this world economy.
Again, our judgment of people poorer than us or darker than us determines how we treat them. And what we will willing do for them. In the Bible there are over 2,000 verses that tell us to take care of the poor and needy, the stranger or foreigner in our midst. If we Christians can’t sway our government to help our neighbors, who will?
We must look to our own attitudes, our own prejudices and do the right thing by other people. Wasn’t that what Jesus was all about? The lame, the outcast, the poor, even the hated ones, like the tax collectors and the Pharisees who put themselves above the law. He helped Romans and Samaritans and everyone He met. He healed, He fed, He walked with, He taught, He demonstrated how we might be in the world, if we are truly His followers.
Let us listen to the depths of our being where the Holy Spirit dwells. Let us pay attention to the Spirit and to do what God is suggesting to us. Then our world might begin to reflect the Scriptures we profess belief in.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I listen to God’s Indwelling Spirit and do I follow His suggestions? If I compare my words and actions to Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, where do I find the discrepancies? Where am I “off the mark?” What would I need to give up to correct any differences?
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who carry the Spirit of the Law out into the world, to everyone we meet. May we be loving and interested in the people we meet, regardless of who they are. May we exemplify God’s Spirit in the world with love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.[The fruit of the Spirit Gal. 5:22-23]
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Check out my other website, deepeningyourfaith.com, for information about spiritual practices and more writings about the spiritual life. New posts 2x a month. 5.11.20s is entitled, “God in my mind.”
I do want to apologize to those who are seeking to befriend me, I just don’t have time to answer your comments. I am so sorry.
 Genesis 1:27
 Matthew 7:1-6
 Genesis 1:27
 Luke 15:11-32 The Parable of the Prodigal Son
And Sen. Rand Paul in the Washington Post 7.7.15