One of my favorite quotes of all time is “be kinder than necessary for everyone is fighting some kind of battle.” Perhaps it is because I have fought a few silent battles, dealt with things no one could see and I know that I needed extra grace during those times. I was reminded of this recently. It just so happens that during VBS this year our water pump died…on a day when a) I was planning to get caught up on laundry and b) I had to be outside most of the day. The result? I was a stinky, sweaty mess with no way to take a shower and my kiddos looked like ragamuffins because *all* their clothes were dirty! As we went to church I prayed that everyone would be so busy with their own stuff that they wouldn’t notice…and if they did notice, that they would extend grace instead of judgement.
Even as I prayed that God would give everyone at VBS a stuffy nose, I felt a wave of condemnation. How many times have I noticed someone’s body odor and made assumptions and judgements? Yet here I am hoping for grace. What makes me so much better that they deserve judgment for their stinkiness and I deserve grace? Ouch. Talk about a punch to the gut.
Now please understand, I generally make a purposeful habit of trying to look beyond the outward appearance and actions. From first hand experience, I know that the way someone looks or acts may not show what is in their heart but, rather, is designed to mask their heart. I try to be sensitive to that. Lately, though, I’ve come to realize that there are areas that, in my mind, don’t fall under that heading. Like being stinky, or speeding and passing cars when it isn’t necessary…no grace for those offenses, only judgement.
We are all familier with “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt 7:1) but do you know what the next verses say?
“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:2-5)
It is so easy to see shortcomings in others, to notice mistakes and charcter flaws. Yet we like to gloss over our own, either ignoring them completely or at least downplaying them. We hand out judgement and ask for grace. It reminds me of the parable of the unforgiving servant. He owed more than he could pay back in a lifetime and begged for mercy. The king was compassionate and forgave the debt entirely. The servant, however, went out and found a man who owed him a small amount and demanded immediate payment. When the man could not pay he was thown in jail.
We are stinky sinners. That is truth. It is written right there in John 3:16 “for all have sinned.” We have received grace & mercy from God, He has forgiven our sin-debt and washed us clean. Not because we earned it or deserved it but because He loves us. Yet, here we stand, washed clean, turning up our noses at the stinky people around us. Judging and condemning. Shouldn’t we be willing to extend grace too?
This musing is meant to be practical…as in actually giving the benefit of the doubt to the people around you who could use a shower…but also spiritual…looking past someone’s outward issues to point them to the One who can wash their soul and make them new.
Either way, would you have a little grace for the stinky people today?