I once had a job working as a security guard at a giant Christian convention. People had come from all around the world to attend this event held for five days once every five years. It was a big deal. And the experience working behind the scenes really inspired me by allowing me to see how everyone could come together to make something so enormous happen.
But working behind the scenes also allowed me to experience what it’s like when people, even, presumably, Christian people, don’t get their way. Security is a bad place to work if you don’t want to have any conflicts with anyone, because people can get nasty when they aren’t allowed what they want. After experiencing the ire of one of the saints, I thought to myself something akin to, “Man, can’t we treat each other better than this?”
In situations like that, it’s easy, and let me be clear, correct, to think that. To see something wrong and acknowledge that it needs to be fixed is right. But unfortunately, it’s easy for us to take it one step further, thinking that people who treat us badly don’t deserve our kindness or our grace. As if we are justified in treating them as they have treated us because what they have done is wrong. But that’s not right. And as we reflect on those events in which someone has treated us uncharitably, unfairly or disrespectfully, we should also consider another case.
Isn’t it true that sometimes we, too, aren’t exactly as good or kind as we should be? Yet it’s easy for us to jump on other people, or worse, begin hating them when we aren’t treated as we should be. As I think about it, I’m forced to consider the fact that from time to time I, too, behave like that saint at the Christian convention — badly. And so, in some ways, I’m in the same boat as they are. Neither one of us treats people as we should; neither one of us really has it all together.
Jesus offers us some wisdom on the subject in Matthew 7 (ESV): “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? ... You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Notice how Jesus doesn’t deny that there is something wrong with the brother. He affirms that he can be fixed, too. The Bible doesn’t make one free from responsibility or accountability. But here Jesus indicates that we have worse problems that need taking care of first. And that thought alone should be enough to allow us to extend a little grace, even to those who don’t deserve it.
Zach Babb is the pastor of the North Pole, Delta Junction and Utqiagvik Seventh-day Adventist Congregations. Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.