I can be so quick on the trigger when it comes to judgment of others. If I see an article detailing an instance of obviously awful behavior, or if someone behaves badly towards me, I have to be careful to check the urge to denounce the PERSON rather than the action, because if I condemn the person, I would be stepping on Jesus’ toes so to speak. He after all did tell us that judging others will get us judged ourselves in like manner. It is one thing to say that an action or attitude is wrong such as abuse, racism, misogyny or sexual violence. It is another thing entirely to condemn the person who has done those things to hell or to say that they are despicable, worthless people. There is no grace in such an action. Actually following Jesus’ words, teachings, and actions is profoundly difficult because of our human tendency to judge things, situations, people, etc and to sort them into “good” and “bad.” Yet, when we examine our own behaviors, how many logs will we find in our own eyes?
It is imperative, and I cannot state this emphatically enough, that we as people of faith stand up to systems of oppression, to the Domination System as theologian and Biblical scholar Walter Wink called it, with love, grace, compassion, and nonviolence. It is equally important to hear the stories, to comfort, to aid and help those who have been victims of systems of oppression, of domestic violence, sexual assault, warfare, economic oppression, and the myriad other horrors that we as a species so wantonly inflict upon one another. These things all have real human causes behind them that are reinforced by thousands of years of spiritually bankrupt satanic structures of the Domination System. At the same time, it is paramount that we do not forget to extend grace to those who have been sucked into satanic attitudes, ideologies, and ways of being. Jesus provided that lesson on the cross when he asked God to forgive those who had savagely beaten him, mocked and humiliated him, and then executed him as an enemy of the Roman Empire. We must find ways to extend grace to both victims of sinful actions as well as to those who have committed those sins. I believe that by extending grace towards people will help them to repent and truly change their behaviors. Even if they do not, we are still called to give them grace.
One truly humbling way to find the wherewithal to enact this grace is to seriously reflect and examine our own behaviors, and see where the logs in our own eyes are, to see where we have wronged others or been blind to our own acquiescence to the Domination System. Where are the actions I’ve engaged in, the choices that I have made that show me that I need to repent and say, “have mercy on me a sinner?” One of the definite truths of the Christian scriptures is that we all sin. We all have moments where we separate ourselves from the Creator, from Jesus- the Human One, and from our neighbors. We all throw a wrench into the works of our interpersonal relationships that breaks the harmony of community, or causes harm to our neighbors locally and globally. As Paul wrote, we all sin and fall short of God’s glory.
My own personal tendency to is to be overly harsh with myself and to think the worst of myself and my actions. This is a result of a less than ideal childhood that left me with Complex PTSD and part of my healing process is to learn to be as gracious with myself as I am with others. Despite this, I like everyone else, have the proverbial logs in my own eyes and have to mindfully, prayerfully consider my actions towards others, how I’ve treated people, the motivations behind interpersonal interactions, and so on. It is humbling to find myself blithely moving through life thinking that I’m above certain things because I’m highly educated, or because I tend to think that I am so “woke” that I never fall into the horrid behaviors that have become normalized in our culture. In my lifetime however, I have needed to repent for the times when I evinced overt racism or bigotry towards the LGBTQIA community, when I have objectified women and treated them as less important to or subservient to men. I’ve had to repent for supporting warfare, violence, and imperialism by joining the Marines, for times when I have reinforced terrible fundamentalist theology when I was as a youth leader, and the countless times when I have engaged in “Us versus Them” thinking and have “Othered” people who weren’t like me. In short, I have on multiple occasions in my life, behaved in ways that I now know to be wrong, ways which make me angry now when I witness or experience them, and I likely have done so at times even AFTER I realized that these types of things are wrong such is the depth of the perfidious influence of toxic behavior in our culture that is guided by domination. In other words, though I do my utmost to treat others with kindness, respect, dignity, and grace, I mess up and for that I humbly ask for grace from the Creator and from those who I have sinned against.
When I know better, I can do better and by examining my words and actions regularly, I hope that I am actually doing better in respect to living out the Golden Rule and the Love of Neighbor. One of the ways that I can do infinitely better is to remember my own personal evolution from embodying some of the worst aspects of fundamentalist, Empire Christianity, towards being a person who makes a sincere, though imperfect effort, to take Jesus seriously, because knowing of my own sins, who am I to judge others? Who am I to deny grace to anyone?
Peace be with you.
Dillon Naber Cruz
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Thank you and peace be with you.