Yesterday I had coffee with someone I have not seen for over 13 years.  In fact, he was ten-years-old when I last saw him.  His parents were dear friends.  We ministered in church together, we ate many meals together, and we often swapped babysitting.  This now 23-year-old reminded me that I used to give him poptarts for breakfast!  Our families drifted apart due to many reasons —  a lot of them having to do with the different judgments we made about ourselves, about each other, and about God.  At this point, I can only speak for myself.  I’ve made a lot of ridiculous judgments in my life.

I have judged myself to be the one who really needed to save myself — from my emptiness, my loneliness, and my sinfulness.  I have ended up more empty, more lonely, and more mired in a willful attempt to control my life only to discover it is impossible to save myself with the self that gets me into trouble in the first place.

I have judged others unable to handle the truth, unable to extend grace, unable to understand me, and I have ended up trapped in lies, law, and more loneliness.

And I have judged God to be disappointed in me, distant from me, or unjust in his dealings with me only to be overwhelmed by His Love-without-reason again and again.

I have judged legalists and addicts, fundamentalists and universalists, democrats and republicans, and faithful church attenders as well as those who worship in the mountains every weekend.  I have made judgments about music, movies, sermons, alcohol, ice cream, football teams, parenting principles, churches, books, and restuarants.  Obviously, to be human is to make judgments, but ever since the Garden of Eden what has gotten us into trouble is being certain that our judgments are the right ones — the ones that clearly sort out what is good and what is evil.  I know that’s what caused the distance in my relationship with my friends all those years ago.  I thought I was right, that I had been wronged, and that I certainly knew a lot more about grace than they did.  Maybe they believed the same about themselves.  All I know for sure is that there wasn’t enough room for all our judgments to be together in our friendship, and so we parted company and lost contact with each other until recently.

My friends’ son told me about his decision to go on staff with a ministry that would give him opportunities to talk about Jesus on the college campus and around the world.  He talked about a revitalized faith that compelled him to forego medical school for a while, because “life is short and I want it to mean something eternal,” he explained.  He asked if I would consider supporting him.  He asked if he could pray for me.  And all those judgments no longer seemed important.  I sensed God’s redeeming path connecting us in and around and through the judgments we’d made along the way.  I smiled at a God who could turn broken relationships into the Gospel!

I was reminded of another time when my judgments were transformed.  Two years ago I spent ten days in a solitary retreat in the southwestern part of Colorado.  The retreat leader spoke to me one morning about the importance of confession to make room in our souls for the unconditional love of Christ.  I knew there were some things that I needed to confess and I strongly felt that I needed to confess them to a person.  After knocking on a few church doors in town, I discovered that only one was open — a small Catholic church.  Now I’m not Catholic and I’ve probably made a few ridiculous judgments about Catholics in my life, but I was growing desperate to speak to someone.  There was a priest at the front of this church.  I explained to him that I wasn’t Catholic, but that I wanted to make a confession.  He guided me to the front pew and we sat down side by side.  Finally, I looked at him and began my litany of failures, mistakes, and sins.  He listened patiently and then was quiet for quite a while after I had finished.  I was sure that I had overwhelmed him and he was wondering where he might send me for further help, but just as I was getting ready to excuse myself, he placed his hand on my forehead and closed his eyes.  When he opened his eyes he peered into mine with an intensity that startled me, and then he said, “You have been judged, and you are forgiven.”

Redeeming judgment — in Starbucks with an old, young friend or in a strange church with an un-named priest — only God can turn judgment into good news.  My pastor says it this way, “There is only one judgment that can cut out the sin and save the sinner.  The judgment is Love, come to us as Truth.  God, come to us as Jesus.  He is truth hanging on a cross . . . truth bleeding for us . . . truth broken for us.  So we begin to believe truth because it’s love, and we begin to believe love because it’s true.  It’s Jesus, and we are to speak Jesus.  He’s the judgment we are to give.”

“There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 8:1

You can listen to a great sermon entitled Judgment by my pastor, Peter Hiett, at: