Monday, November 24, 2008

Your Place or Mine?

“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge . . . But you - who are you to judge your neighbor?” ~ James 4:12 (NIV)

The ideas and inspiration for my weekly columns come from a variety of sources, and this week’s idea began with an email story my stepmother Barbara sent me. It goes like this:

A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside.

"That laundry is not very clean," she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap"

Her husband looked on, but remained silent.

Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments.

About one month later, the woman was surprised to see a nice array of clean wash on the line.

"Look,” she said to her husband. “Our neighbor has finally learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?"

The husband replied, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."

And so it is with life. What we see when watching others depends on the purity of the window through which we look.


“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.”

~ Matthew 7:1-5 (NKJV)

When we judge and criticize, we're really saying, "If others don’t act, or think, or live like me, then they’re wrong.”

Here’s a poem I wrote one night last week when I couldn’t sleep.

You and I

By Eileen Umbehr

If you like homemade clothes
And I like store-bought the most
And you make your own bread
But I buy Wonder instead
If you like to can jelly
And I like Welch’s as well-y
If you grow tomatoes in a garden
And I buy mine at the market
If you homeschooled your kids
And that’s not what I did
If you hang clothes on the line
And the dryer dries mine
If your house is picked up
And mine, you can write in the dust
If you’re still a size 10
And I’m not nearly as thin
If you travel and roam
And I prefer to stay home
If you have a degree
And, well, me, I’m just me
If you read Wall Street Journal
And I prefer a good novel
If you go to church weekly
And I simply pray meekly

Does that make you better than me?

No, we’re all unique beings
Shaped by our upbringings
And no one is better than the other
So rather than conform
Or try to fit in the norm
How ‘bout we just accept one another?

Then I’ll love you for you
If you’ll love me for me
Although we both have our faults and shortcomings
And I’ll overlook yours
If you’ll overlook mine
Then we’ll all share a joy-filled homecoming

“Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. . .” ~ Luke 6:37

In a way, that poem ties into the theme of Thanksgiving, because while Thanksgiving is a time when families gather to celebrate and enjoy one another’s company, it can also present opportunities for conflict and bickering.

This Thanksgiving and Christmas, be determined to resist the temptation to lash out at your relatives when they rub you the wrong way.

“For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention ceases.” ~ Proverbs 26:20

Remember, you’re only together for a day or two, so just zip your lip and let annoying comments roll off like water from a duck’s back. In other words, don’t be a turkey this Thanksgiving, be a duck!

This next passage comes from Romans 14:1-5 in The Message Bible:

“Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don't see things the way you do. And don't jump all over them every time they do or say something you don't agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.

For instance, a person who has been around for a while might well be convinced that he can eat anything on the table, while another, with a different background, might assume he should only be a vegetarian and eat accordingly. But since both are guests at Christ's table, wouldn't it be terribly rude if they fell to criticizing what the other ate or didn't eat? God, after all, invited them both to the table. Do you have any business crossing people off the guest list or interfering with God's welcome? If there are corrections to be made or manners to be learned, God can handle that without your help.

Or, say, one person thinks that some days should be set aside as holy and another thinks that each day is pretty much like any other. There are good reasons either way. So, each person is free to follow the convictions of conscience.”

In the following verses from I Corinthians chapter 3, Paul addressed the issue of division amongst the church:

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not mere men? What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.”

My prayer for your family – and mine – is that this holiday season will be one of unity and love rather than division and strife. We have so much to be thankful for, so let’s be grateful and remember to “praise God from whom all blessings flow.”

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“The Lord is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him.” ~ Exodus 15:2 (NIV)