Stop Judging Please. Passing Through Rome. The Thank You Circuit.
To misquote a misquote attributed to F. Scott Fitzgerald, I lost my faith slowly, and then all at once.
I was unbelievably rigid in my spirituality growing up, to the point of being obnoxious. This only became apparent in my teenage years, when I transitioned from a private Christian school to a public school. I participated in group hold-hands-around-the-flagpole prayers before school and frequently took a holier-than-though stance about others religions. A Wiccan classmate trolled me by asking if a sexually promiscuous Christian could pray their virginity back. I took the bait and stupidly said “yes.” I think I enjoyed the martyrdom of being outwardly public – I viewed it as a way to minister to my friends. I even chastised two female friends who lost their virginity; both cried and apologized to me.
I’m surprised I exited high school with any lasting friends at all. I was just so judgmental.
A creeping ambivalence caused the first cracks in my façade. It was so easy to stay faithful when I could look in judgment at those around me – a hardnosed approach that left little wiggle room for nuance. But when I met these people – just like me – who were considered “fallen” and “lost,” it just seemed so much less appealing. My parents grew up secular and became Christian after my older sister was born, and there was a communicative iron curtain put down about their lives before then. My mother always said, “I don’t talk about my life before God. I had no purpose to my life.” and so my imagination ran away with the secrecy. These kids in my high school – I thought – were little versions of my parents before Christ. They were purposeless and stray, distraught and angry.
Except they weren’t. They were happy and healthy – and yeah a little screwed up, but we were all high schoolers, so that was expected. They sought to do good in the world – and yeah, they were a little self-serving, but they were high schoolers. And so, my ambivalence continued to grow.
But then came college – and once my sexuality was set so firmly in opposition to my faith, it disappeared at once.
Paul closes out his sermon with instruction on how to deal with those of lesser faith, starting by first saying:
“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” (Romans 14:1)
He compares all of our journeys in faith, drawing the metaphor of those who eat meat and those who eat only vegetables. One may be more faithful than the other (can you guess which one?), and yet, the greater must accept the weakling’s plight. In fact, the greater should adjust their behavior to help the other. “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat,” Paul says, “you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died.” (14:15)
Don’t judge, don’t judge, don’t just. That is quite the recurring theme in all of this, isn’t it?