Sermon for June 24, 2018
One of the easiest ways for me to tell how much pain a person is in, how disconnected they might be from their spiritual identity, is how quickly, and easily, they judge and condemn others. This stands true whether I’m assessing myself, counseling someone, or just watching from afar.
This sickness of judgement, of condemnation, is magnified with the proliferation of all kinds of news via social media, and the easy access of the information on the internet in general. Where we were once challenged to make sense of our family, neighborhood, town, state etc, we are now faced with news from the entire world. Instead of taking time to identify with a situation, a person, or whatever the topic may be, we objectify these things, make a quick assessment, and move along. You begin to become a totally disconnected consumer of concepts that have a reality only in your own perception.
This is why we are seeing deeper divisions between people with different ideas. It is why we see people viciously writing others off for mistakes, truth be told, they themselves have made. One wrong word, one action perceived as ‘wrong’, and a person risks being condemned by the fervor of a crowd that can only stand in judgement, looking outward, rather than within.
When Christ tells the angry crowd that he who has not sinned is free to cast the first stone, he is telling them something very important about themselves, and the nature of their existence. The first is to look at your own supposed perfection first. If you do, you will see that it does not hold up to examination. It’s very easy to focus outward, to call attention to the other, but what happens when you look within with the same intensity? What would happen if the crowd turned on you? None of us, as mere individuals, can stand up to that scrutiny.
This, however, is not meant to make you feel guilty. Guilt hardens the heart against truth. Christ is trying to soften your heart. When you can identify with another, you can feel compassion and empathy. Judgement and condemnation are transformed into an opportunity to realize that we are deeply connected through the very nature of our existence. What begins to emerge when this connection becomes more and more clear, is that the Christ within all of us, our essential nature, is who we really are. Saying no to objectification and judgement and yes to identification and compassion is a doorway to realizing your own identity in Christ, in truth.
Can you see how ‘surfing the internet’, or scrolling through your social media feed, can turn you into the angry crowd, just waiting to stone the next person you deem unfit, imperfect, in error? When you lose the ability to identify with others, feel compassion, forgive, you have lost yourself.
This does not mean you cannot have a discriminating mind when it comes to navigating the world. Christ himself identified the actions of the angry crowd as not being ‘right’, however, he did not condemn them in judgement. He showed them who they were. He held up a mirror to their behavior, and who they really are and did so with love, with the intention of drawing them closer to God.
When you judge and condemn another, you also do the same to yourself. In fact, you CANNOT do that to someone else unless you have already done it to yourself. People who understand the nature of their own behavior, their relationship to and with God, are are compassionate and forgiving to the extent those things are alive within them. When you see a person who strikes out against others in judgement, in anger, with no forgiveness in their hearts, it’s because those thing have also been turned against themselves.
When I see someone acting out against another, I know they are reflecting what is inside. If people were more aware of how obvious this really is, I think they would be less likely to give in to it so easily. Many believe they can simply act out in judgement as if it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with who they are judging- nothing could be further from the truth.
There is a quote that represents these ideas very well. Its origins are not know to me, some say it is Buddhist, other claim other sources, but it goes something like this, “Hate is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die”. This is the mirror Christ held up to the crowd. What you believe you can do to someone else, is only what you are doing to yourself. There is no way around this, no reason that can justify ignoring this truth.
Failing to realize this truth is also how people begin to become the evil they fight against. For example, Hitler had to be opposed, on every level. But what is the temptation when fighting evil? The temptation is to let your opposition to that evil, turn you into evil. Your passion to fight against this evil force can begin to turn you into the very thing you’re fighting against. Hate, even for something that seems so worthy of it, can only damage you. In the end, even if Hitler is defeated, yet has managed to turn those who fought him into hate filled people, he has won. Apply that to your everyday life and you will see some startling patterns that should change your behavior.
The next time you, or I, are tempted to judge or condemn someone, imagine someone is watching who knows that is just a reflection of who you are. Imagine you are showing your deepest secrets when you treat someone else without compassion, because you are.