The town that’s called a city that I work in has many coffee shops, restaurants and boutique breweries—it’s a tourist Mecca. As I strode past one recently the mural cast over tin cladding of the Little Creatures brewery caught my eye. It said, ‘Open up a little,’ and it was super-imposed over its Little Creature logo (a sort of Anne Geddes-like cute baby angel).
I’d already been thinking about applications to the concept of condemnation in the world and what (or perhaps more aptly, who) addresses it—how one person can transgress so much and yet they find a way back through the forgiveness of all their wrongs and the mercy needed to go on in life. Condemnation seems to cut that process devastatingly short, and I see too much of it.
In Romans, the apostle Paul says:
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
—Romans 8:1 (NIV).
I watched the presentation of a guy by the name of Tony Anthony recently. Having had an unbearably hostile childhood, he recovered magnificently to become a martial arts world champion and elite-bodyguard, but then he fell foul to the world’s system. One thing led to another and he found himself in one of the toughest prisons known to humankind.
He tells of how warped his mind became and how depraved he was in some of the horrendous acts he committed; but for Christ he’d have ended his life long ago—that’s the sentiment in his story.
He was then visited by a genuinely loving Christian missionary... the long and the short of it was he became a saved person because he learned that Jesus came to save him; he learned that nothing he could ever do would prevent him from claiming salvation if he accepted God’s offer though Jesus—that God had created a God-sized hole in his heart and only God could fill it. He discovered that no one should be condemned, that no one is beyond the love of God through Jesus.
But the very thing that attracted Tony to Jesus in the first place was the fact he never felt judged by this missionary, not once! There were not many Christians—it seemed in his experience—who obeyed the Spirit of Christ like that. It’s a consistency of authentically loving testimony and pure grace, even under attack, which Tony would often resort to. This missionary never buckled in his loving approach with Tony.
There was something genuinely special about this missionary. He shone Christ.
But this is our innate call too—it’s for every one of us; when we meet and relate with people in the name of God we must always have at the forefront of our own minds our personal sin as if we ourselves stood before Jesus. Would we judge or condemn then? I don’t think so.
Those who would easily judge see themselves as sinless, and what did the apostle John say about those who say they don’t sin? Let’s revise:
“If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.”
—1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).
Why are we so quick to sneer, judge and condemn? We think we are better, that’s why. The truth is we’re no better than the next person when we’re contrasted against the perfectly holy standard of God.
And this is the main point; those who judge, judge to a human standard; they threw out the holy standard long ago because they don’t live it.
We need to open up a little. We probably need to open up a lot. We certainly need to see each person for who they are in Christ, actively jettisoning our prejudices.
We must learn to fill our minds with the genteel ordinances of life.
© 2009 S. J. Wickham.