“You Can’t Judge Someone and Love Someone At the Same Time” July 14, 2019
“You Can’t Judge Someone and Love Someone At the Same Time”
Amos 7:7-17/ Psalm 82
Many years ago, I found myself and a few friends at the county fair in Missoula, MT. Like most
young folks in their 20’s, we were looking stir things up a bit; we were looking for something new, something exciting. And so it was that when we came across a stand that read “The Great Madame So & So, fortune teller” there was a mad scramble to see who would go forward and part with the $5.00 that it cost to catch a glimpse of what the future had in store. Now, I can’t recall how it happened but it ended up being me who sat before this lady who was looking very intently at the lines in the palm of my hand. As she was doing this, she was asking me questions: “Where are you from? What are your hobbies? What is your line of work?” I answered truthfully, I guess, but the truth is that all I could think was that this is nothing but a waste of time and money. When she asked what I did, I told her that I was a musician, which was true enough. What I didn’t tell her was that I was doing all kinds of things to make a living besides playing and singing. Anyhow, she pointed out all the different lines on my hand explaining what they meant and then she dropped the bomb: she looked right at me and said just as plain as day that I would never be truly happy until I found another line of work besides being a musician. Well, I was flabbergasted. I stood up and stormed out telling her something to the effect that she has a lot of nerve and didn’t know what she was talking about. I was angry and I was upset. The truth is, there was a lot of wisdom in what she was saying. The bigger truth is that I didn’t want to hear it.
I had to wonder why in the world the incident at the county fair just happened to pop into my head until I realized that the prophet Amos had been on my mind most all week. Now here is a man who understood the dangers of telling folks what they don’t want to hear. Amos, like I said, was from the south country. There was nothing special about him- he was a shepherd and worked with wood- but the Lord had sent him north to prophesy to the people of Israel. The words that God instructed him to say were harsh words. They were words that the chief priest and the King of Israel did not want to hear. (Amos 7:7) 7 This is what the Lord showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall, with a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?” “A plumb line,” I said.
Then the Lord said, “See, I am setting a plumb line in the middle of my people Israel. I will never again forgive them. Harsh words, and of course their reaction was to ask poor Amos to just leave – go take your gloom and doom somewhere else. It’s a typical reaction; one you might expect. But there is something about this text that has always intrigued me. See, I am setting a plumb line in the middle of my people Israel. I’ve spared them for the last time. This is it! God is passing judgement on the nation of Israel. Is that all there is to it? Just another prophet story? Another lesson in disobedience? Another example of tough love?
We might be tempted to leave it at that. But the image of the plumb line wouldn’t leave me alone. It got me to thinking, “What is the plumb line that God holds in front of us?” How are we measured; how are we judged in the eyes of God? By our works, by our missions, by our gifts to church? Well, yes, yes, and yes; and a 1000 other things as well. But if you want to boil it all down, if you wish to get to the core of it all, God judges us by our love. That’s it. It’s that simple. How many times and how many ways did Jesus teach us this wonderful truth?
(Luke 10:25) 25 A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” 26 Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?”
27 He responded, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
28 Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” Do this and you will live…How remarkable that the answer to gaining eternal life as well as a fulfilled life on this earth is the same – love it with all you got.
So what holds us back? What gets in the way? An evangelist named Carey Nieuwhof wrote an article on the reasons that people are turning to the church less and less nowadays. He writes, “Christians should be known for how deeply we love. Yet studies show that in the eyes of many non- Christians, we’re known for how deeply we judge, not by how deeply we love.” He later went on to say, “God never asked you to judge the world. He did ask you to love it.” The comments that followed the article went from outright rage to outpours of thanks. But it got me to thinking: maybe this could be our plumb line. Maybe this could be the one thing we can look to when everything seems all out of whack – the one true, solid, straight thing in this world that we can always trust to get on the right track. Because this judging thing just doesn’t seem to work. Mr. Nieuwhof went on to say, “I try remember this rule: if I’m judging someone, I’m not loving them. You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time.”
It’s interesting that the theme for our ID-OR annual conference has been “Do this and you will live” from Luke 10 for the last 2 years in a row. How are we judged in the eyes of God? By how we love, and that’s living, that’s truly living!
Amen & Shalom