“Wow! I can’t imagine being comfortable wearing something like that.” This was the thought that flashed through Ruby’s mind as observed a girl about her own age standing a little way down the shoe aisle. Oblivious to Ruby’s notice, the girl was handling a pair of tennis shoes.
Glancing occasionally at the girl, Ruby continued her own train of thought, comparing her modest outfit to the girl’s inadequate clothing. Then Amber finally picked out her new pair of sandals, and they headed for the checkout counter.
Just before they reached the checkout counter, a piercing scream filled the air. Ruby jumped in surprise and looked to see what had caused the disturbance. A little girl was clutching a box of candy that she had claimed, while her exasperated mother tried desperately to pry it from her hands.
Ruby turned from the scene in disgust. It always irritated her when children threw fits in public. “After all,” she reasoned, “if her mom would teach her in the privacy of their home, she wouldn’t cause public scenes like this.” Out of curiosity, Ruby turned back to see what had happened. The little girl was smiling triumphantly as the cashier scanned her coveted box of candy.
“She shouldn’t have given in,” Ruby told herself. “That just means there will be more scenes like that in the future. If I ever have children, I won’t let them get away with things like that.” The mother and daughter left the store, and Mrs. Randall paid for Amber’s sandals.
Sterling walked into the bedroom that he shared with his two younger brothers. “Great,” he grumbled under his breath. Jasper’s school books were stacked on the lower bunk – Sterling’s bed that is. “Jasper knows I don’t like him to put stuff on my bed.” He ignored the assortment of books, papers, and gadgets of his own that were also cluttering the bed, only glaring at Jasper’s offending books.
Just then Jasper hurried in. “There they are,” he said, sounding pleased. “I’ve been looking high and low for those books. I thought I carried them to the living room, but I must have set them there when I was helping Mica.” Jasper quickly scooped up the pile of books.
Sterling’s irritation began to ease and would have dissipated, but Jasper kept talking, trying to excuse himself. “Mica was building an airplane out of his tiny blocks, and he needed me to help him get one part right.”
Now Sterling looked down at the floor. He hadn’t even noticed that several tiny pieces of Mica’s blocks were scattered on the floor. “Ugh, Mica left his blocks on the floor again,” he moaned inwardly. “Doesn’t he know how much it hurts to step on one of those things?” Jasper had already left with his books, and Sterling continued frowning.
Mrs. Randall’s Thoughts
Beep. Mrs. Randall hung up the phone, a frown wrinkling her forehead. “That’s such a disappointment,” she thought in discouragement. “I can’t believe Laura said all that.” She shook her head as she reached for a bath towel from the giant pile of laundry on her bed and began folding it.
Her thoughts ran on. “Laura and her family have always seemed so Biblically grounded, but now they are listening to this preacher that says a lot of things that are not in the Bible. I can’t believe that she would buy into those teachings.”
Then she thought of something else. “I wonder where Amber is. She’s supposed to be in here helping me fold laundry. I told her to come in and help as soon as she finished her math lesson. She should have been done already.”
Already in a negative frame of mind, Mrs. Randall began to feel irritated. “Amber needs to learn to be more dependable. I’m constantly having to remind her about things. I’m going to have to talk with her about following through on what she’s told.”
Her thoughts were interrupted when Amber came in, math book in hand. “Mom, I can’t seem to figure out this one problem. Can you help me? I want to get finished so I can help you with the laundry.”
Mrs. Randall had a funny look on her face as she took the math book and helped Amber figure out how to complete the problem.
A Turning Point
“Time for devotions!” Mr. Randall called from the living room. It took a couple of minutes for everyone to finish up what they were in the middle of doing and gather in the room.
“I think we’ll watch a sermon tonight,” announced Mr. Randall. His laptop was sitting on a little table, ready for them to start. Once he hit play, some of them watched the preacher on the laptop screen, while others found something to work on. Amber and Ruby were both coloring. They had both discovered that they learned more from the sermons if they did something with their hands while they listened.
Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
This was the Scripture that the preacher read from. Sterling took notice as the man began to speak on that text. “As people, it is our natural response to look at others and judge what they are doing rather than to view them with love and compassion. While often it is true that they are doing wrong, it is equally true that we are doing wrong by having a judgmental spirit toward them. What do we accomplish when we condemn people in our minds?
“Instead of automatically criticizing people in our minds, what would happen if our automatic response was to pray for them? This is not human nature, and we can’t do it in our own strength, but God can work this change in our hearts. He wants us to have Christlike compassion for each other and seek to help each other become more like Him.”
The preacher continued sharing, giving examples from his own life of times that he had fallen short and had acted from a judgmental spirit rather than showing compassion. Three of the Randall family members were partially listening while processing their own thoughts at the same time.
Revisiting Ruby’s Thoughts
“Wow! That is just what I did today in the shoe store,” Ruby was thinking. “That girl was dressed immodestly, but I shouldn’t have condemned her for it. Instead, I should have prayed for God to help her come to know Him and the way He would have her to dress.”
From the girl in the shoe aisle, her thoughts continued on to the scene at the checkout. “My attitude was way off on that one too,” she decided. “For all I know, that mother has been working on training her daughter. Either way, I’ve never been in her position, and a quick prayer breathed for the Lord to help her would have gone a lot farther than my proud spirit.”
The message was still playing, but Ruby took a minute to confess her wrong attitude to the Lord.
Revisiting Sterling’s Thoughts
“You would think that preacher had been in my mind today,” Sterling grimaced to himself. “Actually not just today,” he confessed. “I’m afraid I have judgmental reactions like that more than I would like to admit, even to myself.” He thought about how he had judged Mica for leaving his blocks on the floor.
“And he had just picked them up and missed a few because he was hurrying to go do some of my chores as a surprise for me. Imagine if I quit always thinking the worst about people and started assuming that they had good motives until I knew otherwise. Both Jasper and Mica were trying to be helpful, but my response was to criticize both of them.”
Sterling spent some time confessing his wrong thoughts and asking for God’s help for the future. Then he thought, “I know that people often do wrong things, and there is a sense in which we are to judge righteous judgment and not approve of wrongdoing, but I think I’ve been out of balance. I’ve only focused on that and not on the aspect of having compassion.”
At this point, Sterling again gave his full attention to the message.
Revisiting Mrs. Randall’s Thoughts
“That sounds like my visit with Laura,” Mrs. Randall sighed. “I need to be praying faithfully that Laura and her family will come back to the truth of God’s Word. And I should also look for opportunities to ‘speak the truth in love’ to her.”
Her eyes wandered over to Amber who was curled up in a chair, eyes intent on her coloring sheet, hand steadily adding color between the black lines. “I was also too quick to judge Amber today. She has been struggling with remembering to do the things I tell her, but I shouldn’t have assumed that it was the case this time. I know she has been trying with the Lord’s help to overcome this bad habit.”
Mrs. Randall asked for the Lord’s forgiveness and then thought a quick prayer for Laura, Laura’s family, and Amber, that they would all do right. She ended by asking the Lord to help her view others with His love and compassion.
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What are some other areas where we as humans tend to be judgmental? Can you think of some ways to help us begin to react with compassion and prayer rather than condemnation and pride?
Until next time, let’s show Jesus’ compassion to our families and whoever else God brings into our lives!