I have a drawer full of letters, some are 'thank you notes', others are birthday cards, but the majority are 'jail letters'. This recent letter was 7 pages long! 'Bob' and I have been writing back and forth for around a year now, over that time I have read such a change of his heart through his letters. This long letter showed even more questioning of himself, his faith and his life and challenged me and my thinking, as well.
"...jail is not the right place for me to say I'm ready to follow (God) 100% and promise to him that I won't sin tomorrow. Of course I believe Jesus is my saviour and I ask for forgiveness almost every night. But check this- where does that leave me when I know in my heart that I won't be able to practice forgiveness myself tomorrow if I get a roommate that's from another gang? or if I get a roommate that's in for sexual assault or is a child molester? I know that I'm gonna judge them and I'm gonna have to punch them out and stomp on their head. Seriously, I think about this 24/7.
"Aside from those people I mentioned, I do show love to EVERYBODY I meet. The ONLY reason I snap on some people every now and then is because of the 'undesirables' I mentioned. Every week the guards put a couple on the unit. Some leave quietly and some are tough, so they gotta leave the hard way. I volunteer most of the time just for the sport of it, cause I like to put on a show for the unit. I like watching the video later in "warden's court". I always plead 'not guilty' so they show the video to try to convict me. I wouldn't beat up any innocent people. I got a dangerous flying kick that just keeps getting better.
It forces me to look into my own life and ask: Who are the people who I think deserve to be beat up? Do I have a list or undesirables? Who would I justify practising a 'flying kick' on?
When I am honest with myself, I have a list. People I think deserve what punishments they face, people who I think deserve to suffer because of their actions, and not in a righteous, criminal justice sort of way.
I have my own list of undesirables.
I'm not in jail, but maybe one day I will have to face a video, evidence incriminating me of my guilt. I will have to answer to why I thought that I was better than that individual, I will have to explain how I justified judging them.
Forgiveness is hard. I know that.
But we are called to forgive.
Not to judge.
Matthew 7 : 1-2
"Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.
For you will be treated as you treat others.
The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged."
My immediate reaction is to scream, "Ah! I don't want that! Forgive! Forgive! Forgive!"
I acknowledge that this isn't probably the proper attitude; to forgive merely because I want to be forgiven. I should be loving, honestly desiring the best (from God) for others'. But sometimes, that just is not naturally flowing.
When I compare people against a standard I create, of course they will fall. Even if I compare myself to my own standards, I've failed. I'm not the standard, and I do not create the standard.
It's not okay to beat up someone because they committed a crime you think is 'too terrible'. That's YOUR own standard, not God's.
And it's not okay for me to consciously, but silently wait for a terrible event to happen to someone because of their actions against me. It's not okay. That's me judging them, using my own standard against them.
It's called an up-side down kingdom for a reason- be loving when the normal reaction is to hate, to forgive when you want to be judgemental.
I want not only to be part of that kingdom, but actively in it. And for that, I have to not judge.
This last question wasn't the end of his long letter, but perhaps the middle. The obvious answer is a jubilant 'YES!', but I think a quick 'yes' overlooks the intensity of the real question.
Think about it for a minute. Think about it for you. And, if it's true for you, then who else is it true for?
"Is there a place in his kingdom for me, for real?"
***Thank you, Bob, for your motivating and heart-felt letter. You inspired me to be honest with myself, too.