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Ladies, Let's not Judge!

by Sandy Willoughby

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee, and the other a tax-gatherer. The Pharisee stood and was praying thus to himself, ‘God, I thank Thee that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax-gatherer. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all I get.’ But the tax-gatherer, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’

I tell you this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted." Luke 18:10-14 (NAS)

 I have something on my heart and I want to share it with you. Do I want to share it because I've seen something in YOU? NO! NO! NO! There have been some observations on my part in my life, with online emails, other lists and so on that brought a continual theme on what I am writing today.

I read something quite some time back that said to WRITE about things that hit a nerve with you... well, I don't just write them. I am learning to take those things to the Lord and really pour them out in my prayer journal to Him. I read over it and ask Him what He is teaching me... I ask questions like: "Why is this bothering me", or "why has this struck a chord in my heart?". I know that God will let me know in His own beautiful and special way.

There is an area that strikes a chord with me... bothers me very much. That area is judgmental attitudes... critical spirits... self righteous words and so on down the line.

I know that I am about as far from perfect as any human has ever been. I have learned to boast about just how far from perfect I am because it shows just how mighty GOD is!

There have been countless times just on this list alone (and this isn't the only time or place by a long shot) where other women have been very upset with me and called me on something I wrote or shared. There have been times when these women were right and I learned from what they shared... and there are times when I still do not agree with them for the most part.

What is the number one thing I do that causes these reactions?

My attitude is too lenient and not conservative enough. I use translations other than the King James (even though I use it, too). I add too much "happiness" and not enough "righteous living".

I'm not "hard" enough on my presentations of God's truth. This list of ways I "fail" in God's service could easily fill a book, I'm sure, so I'll go on to the rest of my "points to ponder" here...

I grew up with a mother who could have easily been a Puritan or Quaker even in more modern times. She fought to live out every single WORD in that Bible to the highest degree in spite of going through a divorce she didn't want and having four daughters to raise after 18 years of being a homemaker with them. I remember her Bible being the most important thing in our home and Bibles were the FIRST thing to take when we moved and the FIRST thing brought in when we arrived. Most of this was good and between her example and that of my older sister who was growing up just like my mother... I received much good for my own life.

I feel blessed beyond measure for the life my mother so valiantly led and I have also learned a great deal since those years with her.

It wasn't until I got older... married... had children and began my "mature" Christian life that I found how hard it was to live as "pure" as my mother. I felt like a failure from the time I got up to the time I went to bed. I talked to her and she shared with me that she had spent all of those years terrified (since childhood even) of going to hell. She did every thing she could humanly manage to please God so she could go to heaven and be with Jesus one day. It wasn't until my little sister was a teenager and got saved that she walked up the aisle herself and got saved from works and into grace. She said that the pastor mentioned real salvation as being cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ and that salvation meant repenting those sins and being washed clean. Salvation meant asking Jesus Christ to come into your heart... giving him your life as He gave His... and being sealed forever --- going to heaven because of these things and believing that Jesus walked on this earth and died on a cross for our sins.

She had spent all those years ---even though she had asked Jesus into her heart as a child --- trying to do everything perfect to get to heaven. Well... after this she really DID get saved in that church with my teenage sister and she cried and cried for the many years she had tried to "make it happen" with works.

I was living a very similar way and I became very judgmental without meaning to. I held the same expectations for everyone else that I held for myself... and these expectations were based on works as much as Word.

When I sinned in ANY way... I would feel devastated. I thought harsh thoughts for myself and for others who weren't perfect in the Lord.

I didn't know then that I was farther away from the Lord and His Will than ever but I was. I was in this state on my own effort --- even though it was opposite of what I was fighting to do!

I did not have a LOVING relationship with the Lord. I was too lost in a sea of emotions... "I have failed so much in my past... I simply MUST do 'right' now"... "He doesn't really love ME... and I don't really blame Him"... "why, why, WHY couldn't I have been one of those precious women born 'precious'... who lived a pure and perfect life?". I always wondered WHY God allowed my life to be anything less than an ultimate CHRISTIAN daughter of His... I mean... it would have been for His good?!

Then I felt like I had lived "both sides" of so many situations... I was in a family with my mom, dad, and sisters and we had a very traditional family. Dad worked and mom stayed home. We were very, very, very active in and with our church. And THEN my mother's mom was dying at the age of 55 and in the process of being with her (after traveling from north to south to reach her) and losing her my parents divorced.

Suddenly... we had a single mom. We lived that life for years.

My mother was 100% city and my dad 100% country so living with her and visiting with him provided me with a love for BOTH worlds!

Everything in my life has seemed to be "both sides" instead of one way or the other. As a teenager I wasn't with the preppy crowd and wasn't with the "bad" crowd... I was somewhere between them both. I wasn't one of those teens who thought jail was fun but I wasn't "good" either.

I finally realized that God knew He could reach more of His children this way. Even though I thought I would always learn and never teach... He had different plans.

I love those women who have it all together. Their examples have given me not only heights to reach for but guidance to get there as well. The remarkable women who grew up "good" and lived "good" lives in Christ were like sunshine and water to a needy little plant! It is because of them and the things God chose to pour through them that I now pour that out onto others. I admire them... respect and love them. I can relate with them now because in SOME ways I have grown into one of them!

My heart also goes to the woman who struggles... the woman unsure and unsteady in her ways. The woman who beats herself up and "never does anything right" but longs to be even 1/4 as grand as those "other" kind of women!

This woman fills my heart with a deep love and I want to reach out to grab her hand! I want to run with her to the Lord... "Here, God! Here, she is! You know this daughter You so desperately love?! Well, she's here!". I love to know He's enfolding her in His arms and washing her clean of defeating and negative thoughts. He knows there is a long road ahead but He is happy she came. I love this woman because she is there amongst my friends and she was me… I was her. I remember praying and praying for God to change me… guide me… make me one of those lovely Proverbs 31 women; I prayed that He would do SOMETHING to help me NOT be such a failure.

When I write... minister... counsel... advise... share... whatever ~ I do not have one "audience" in mind! It doesn't work that way with me! I know that all writers are instructed to write with a certain "audience" in mind but I write with ALL women in mind. I can honestly connect with the shared feelings... I have felt so many similar or exact feelings myself!

I know why God allowed such a diversity of "life" for me... He had plans I didn't even know about and NEVER would have guessed!

Because of this… I have seen something very common happening --- as women, we tend to "stay with our own kind" perhaps without realizing it. Our views are coming from too narrow an angle sometimes… our own.

Christian women needn’t be this way. We can learn from each other regardless of how "wise" we’ve become or how far we still have to go.

I write to those women wise in the Word who have memorized almost every verse in the Book, can flip to a Bible book in seconds, and who have studied almost every person in the Bible. I also write to the women who are just learning… women who feel "lacking" because they are still so unfamiliar with the Word.

This is one reason for using the different translations. I have NOT just gathered translations for fun or diversity! I read from very reliable sources on what versions mean what… how the particular translation came to be and so on. My understanding of Scripture has increased a thousand times a thousand since having more than the King James Version (which I dearly love).

I must be honest with you and tell you that sometimes I have noticed more negative thinking by Christians than non-Christians… more so with women than men or children combined! There comes this self righteous tone which seems innocent enough to the beholder and some well meaning friends but has a foundation of self exaltation. This feeling of being better than another because "they didn’t breast feed!"… "she reads secular books!"… and the comments on a million different "issues" are "issued". "We rarely see people as they really are; our perceptions are distorted by past relationships and our own preconceptions of who we think they are, even the people we know best. We do not see clearly because of the ‘logs’ in our eyes (Matt. 7:3-5). [Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend]

This is always obvious in advice given out to other women on eating meat or not eating meat, reading one translation or another, working outside the home or staying home, attachment parenting or not, and the "teachings" of each are sometimes considered the only "holy" way.

I don’t recall one place in the Bible admonishing us as women to judge how another woman lives. I read this: "And now I ask you, lady, not as writing to you a new commandment, but the one which we have had from the beginning, that we love one another." II John 5 (NAS)

Ladies, we are instructed to love each other. We aren’t called to demand that our way of following the Word of God is the only right way! We are all in Christ Who confess that Christ is from God! "By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world." I John 4:2-3 (NAS)

Let me ask you this… are we able to love and judge someone at the same time? I know that God is our righteous judge and He is the Author of love but we aren’t God! HE is capable of loving and judging in righteous… we are not. If we see a problem in or with someone and after prayer and reading in Scripture feel truly led to address it… something is wrong unless we are filled with love and compassion for them as we do it.

"If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." I John 4:21 (NAS)

We need to examine our thoughts on or against another Christian when we feel they aren’t following God’s Word as we feel they should.

"Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;" Hebrews 12:14-15. (NAS)

When we are tempted to think negative thoughts in our heads while someone is talking to us maybe we should consider some advice from the "Boundaries" book by two Christian Psychologists. They point out that being honest in love verses not saying a word and then going behind someone’s back to say… "THIS person said so and so and it just made me so mad… I just totally disagreed!". No, you didn’t. Disagreeing would be the case had you kindly stated your feelings/beliefs on the matter.

When we don’t tell the person talking to us --- hurting our feelings or offending us --- we have no right or reason to go spill it all out to someone else. The only ONE we should share negative opinions of others on is God because He is quite capable of leading us in the way we should go and He knows what we feel anyway. I will point out first off that there is a difference between "reacting" and "responding". Boundaries authors state that, "When you are reacting, they are in control. When you respond you are."

This isn’t to say that you should be honest with someone if you don’t have love in your heart or if you know you won’t be doing so in kindness. What it does mean is that it is not right to take that to anyone else and complain about either!

There is a very fine line between care and criticism and if we are to live as true Christian ladies we would be wise to examine it.

God gives us enough intuition to know (if we make ourselves aware and search our hearts) if sharing something, telling something, whatever – is coming from a spring of beauty and love or judgment and a critical view.

If we are telling someone something that bothers us about someone else and we haven’t been honest with that person or "those people"… are we seeking Godly guidance or agreement in how wrong the other person or people are/were?

Dear Sisters, I write to you from a heart full of feeling… full of this unbelievable desire to stand with you on the side of truth.

Other Christian sisters might not do their daily quiet time the same way you do (or perhaps they don’t yet have a quiet time)… they might not perform in their marriage the same way you know to be right in your marriage… they may parent their children in ways you wouldn’t parent them… they might keep their home with standards totally different from those in your home… they might have a ministry from God opposite of what you would have… regardless of HOW they live their lives… it is between God and them only to work through.

"And John answered and said, ‘Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name; and we tried to hinder him because he does not follow with us.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Do not hinder him: for he who is not against you is for you.’"

Let us not try to hinder other women just because they don’t follow the same path we do. Let us remember that if they are for Christ… they are for us. All of us who believe in Christ are seeking to serve Him and HE will be our guide. HE will reveal what needs changing, what needs improving, what to cut out and what to add in!

"It is not failure of others to appreciate your abilities that should trouble you, but rather your failure to appreciate theirs." Confucius

Remember this: "The first to plead his case seems just, until another comes and examines him." Proverbs 18:17

I know I wrote of many things in this "letter" but the main point was on judging other women. Please read the following quotes and consider examining your lives this day as I will be doing with mine. Is there judgment, criticism, looking down on, or anything related to these on another woman in your life?

"I would rather bite my tongue till it bleed,  than pass judgment upon any man. Judgment we should leave to God, for out Of the habit of sitting in judgment upon One’s neighbor grow self-satisfaction and  Arrogance, which are of the devil."  -Tauler

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."    -Mother Teresa

"Do not be angry that you cannot make’ others as you would wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be."  Thomas a’ Kempis

Last note from me ~

If you ever again read my writing and truly feel I am being "too easy" in my writing, teaching, speaking, or counsel… if it seems that I am not being stern enough in my sharing or "strong" enough in my standing… please understand… understand that I know what God has had to deal with in ME all of my life. I know my many failures and I know that I am always, always, always just one hair’s width line away from making the same mistakes anyone else makes. I am that close at all times to falling myself… to sinning… to wrong instead of right.

If I ever (and sometimes I do) even start to feel the least bit of judgment towards/against someone else… I try to RUN to the mirror. I will RUN to my past and RUN to the record of "forgiveness" God has shown mercy on me with. Each time… I am quickly humbled and all pride in how "great" or "much better" I’m living disappears.

Love in Christ Jesus… in humanity and humility… in His strength alone…

Sandy


Sandy Willoughby 2001

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