Adam Hamilton, a United Methodist minister, tells the story of a time when he was conducting a funeral service for a young man who had committed suicide. The family of the young man was struggling with intense grief and guilt. He tried to help the family through their grief and in the service remembered the young mans special qualities and how he impacted the lives of those around him in positive ways.
After the service, a husband and wife approached him and demanded to know why he had not told the family that their son was in hell.
With a rising sense of outrage the minister asked how they knew the young man was in hell. “Were they able to read his heart and examine his mind?” he asked, “ Did they profess to know the mind of God?” The husband and wife stared at the minster in disbelief, turned and walked away in disgust.
Your first reaction might be to judge the husband and wife for being insensitive and cruel. But as followers of Jesus we are told not to judge the young man, but also not to judge the husband and wife. We cannot read the hearts or know the minds of others nor do we know their life experiences that have shaped their attitudes and beliefs. Are we to forgive everyone for everything? If we forgive everyone for everything what do we stand for and what do we believe? Judging is easy and feels good. Forgiving is hard and painful. In the end, it seems we must place our trust in God’s mercy.
Jesus said, “ The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”( Matthew 7:1) Maybe we should be more gentle in our judgments of others. By loving, forgiving and treating others with respect we can attract others to know Jesus, they can be reconciled to God, and be comforted as they mourn. JDI