I was riding through the country not too far from our church with a friend. As we rode through the beautiful countryside, this friend pointed to a vacant lot. All that was left of an old house was a fireplace and chimney. He pointed at the vacant lot and said that in the house that used to be there, they hosted a lot of parties. He said his granddad had gone to a party there where there had been some drinking and dancing. He had gotten kicked out of the church because of it.
“Really?” I said. “So, why exactly did your granddad get kicked out?”
“There were several reasons,” he said, “but the straw that broke the camel’s back was that he was playing the fiddle at a dance, so they kicked him out of the church.”
We got a good laugh over that.
Jesus had something funny to say about judging others. He said to get the log out of your own eye before getting the speck out of your neighbors. That’s cartoon like. That’s funny.
But before we cast stones at that church, we need to read the history of our own churches. About a hundred years ago or so, we at First Baptist kicked folks out of the church for dancing.
Times have changed.
The church does not have a good record when it comes to judging other people. One of the reasons that many young people today are turned off by the organized church is because we have a history of not loving others, but judging others. And it is not a laughing matter.
When I was growing up in church, if you wanted to be known as a “good boy,” then you said with pride, “I don’t smoke, drink, cuss, or chew, or go with girls who do.”
It was easy to think of sin as a list of do’s and don’ts, and the list was pretty small. It usually was composed of some things we were pretty sure we weren’t going to do, and it was easy to condemn those who did them. We failed to talk about sins that really matter, like our own brokenness, betrayal, injustice, or racism.
It was easier to point a finger at someone else rather than take an honest look at our own hearts.
Back in the 60s we had the Hell’s Angels. The truth is, as someone said, “There is a little hell in every angel and little angel in every hell.” Even in us preachers.
A preacher was making his rounds to his parishioners when he came upon a boy trying to sell a lawnmower. “How much do you want for the mower?” asked the preacher.
“I just want enough to go out and buy me a bicycle,” said the boy. The preacher took the mower and tried to crank it. He pulled on the string a few times with no response from the mower. The preacher said to the little boy, “I can’t get this mower started.”
The little boy said, “That’s because you have to cuss at it to get it started.”
The preacher responded arrogantly, “I am a minister, and I cannot cuss. It has been so long since I have been saved that I don’t even remember how to cuss.”
The little boy looked at him with a smile and said, ‘just keep pulling on the string, it’ll come back to you.”
Every sinner has a future; every saint has a past.
Because that is so, Jesus says “Knock off the judging.”
Our country is hurting because of recent shootings and the tragic loss of life. People on both sides of issues hurl insults and judgments at the other side. “Knock off the judging,” Jesus says.
This is no laughing matter.