I went to the grocery store with all three of my children. The youngest is buckled in, and the older two walk beside the cart, holding on. This is standard protocol for the Emery kids. We got some fresh fruit and then some milk. My youngest is learning he can’t just have whatever he wants, whenever he wants it — he’s not even two years old yet.
As we walked past the greeting card section of the store, he saw an inflated balloon and really wanted it. He got loud about his want. My face turned red as heads turned and stared at me like I was a three-headed monster. What was only like 15 seconds of instruction and redirection seemed like an eternity.
With things now calm, we grabbed a few other essentials and headed to the checkout stand. Hanging there at the top of the aisle was another balloon, and little man saw it and quickly asked for it. Now before he even got upset and loud, the person behind me sighed loudly and told me to get my child under control this time.
That loaded statement, small and maybe intended to be innocent, was hurtful.
We think things that are judgmental, and maybe we don’t even realize it. And we say things that are judgmental, too. No one, myself included, has not struggled with being judgmental. Rather than operating with an abundance of mercy and grace, we can be quick to judge others. And the scary part: we try to justify our judgmental tendencies. And yet mercy should triumph judgement. Being judgmental is hurtful. And our judgmental ways are hurting our impact on the Kingdom of God.
God’s perfect work of mercy can be displayed through imperfect people. James 2:12-13 says: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.” Whatever we say or do, we will be judged by it and often mercy will lack within us because we will have a poor understanding of God’s mercy for ourselves and for others. It’s easier to be judgmental than to be conduits of mercy.
As disciples of Christ, we must talk and act like one who’s centered in the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. We must still speak boldly to the issues of our culture that are contrary to the word of God, but we must act and speak from a place of mercy, not judgement. And if we cannot display mercy to the guy in the car next to us, or to that parent in the store, then how are we going to be able to operate from a state of mercy and grace with bigger issues — eternal issues — Biblical, Christ-centered issues — ones we must address and speak to as disciples of Christ?
We must never compromise the standards set before us in God’s holy word. Nor should we compromise God’s calling on our lives to not just experience his mercy, but to be conduits of his mercy and grace. We have never been commanded to be the judge of others. Yes, we can and should assess and judge other’s actions by the fruit their lives produce. And yes, we can see the consequences others face because of their decisions and make an assessment or judgment on that.
As followers of Christ, we must speak and act in such powerful ways of mercy and grace those we encounter are going to see God in us, because of the extravagance of mercy and grace we display in our lives. When you speak and act, do people see Christ in you? Regardless of the situation, big or small, do others see God at work in you and at work through you?
Nick Emery is the senior pastor at Good Shepherd Wesleyan Church. He can be reached at email@example.com.