Wading Through the Muck

Wading Through the Muck

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers . . . There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

At our house, we’ve had many discussions lately about how we talk about the struggles of those around us. When we see someone repeating the same mistakes over and over, it’s easy to sit back and be critical. What an idiot. I’ve been there though. I’ve had my own life disasters and I’ve still got my struggles. I’m far from perfect so who am I to judge, right? Still, as Christians, we believe that we’re supposed to work on our stuff and to help others with their stuff. Part of living in faith and recovery is to point the way to those who need it. How do we do this without being judgmental?

The problem is that it’s always easy to point out the failures of others. When we make any attempt to help someone stuck in their muck, we see ourselves as spotless. Then, we criticize others for their dirt and stench. The reality though, is that we have our own muck as well. We’ve all got something, but we often don’t mind our own stink. We’ve grown accustomed to it and it makes us feel better to condemn those covered in a different kind of muck. I might smell a little, but you’re far worse.

In today’s passage, James said that we must not speak evil or judge each other. There is one judge – God – and we’re not him. We’ve all got our own flaws, which disqualifies us from judging anyone. Does this mean then, that we cannot identify sin as sin? When I see someone drowning in their addiction, must I just sit back and pretend I’m blind? No, that’s not what James is saying. How then do we approach the struggles of those around us?

The best way I can think of it is to view it as a physician should. As a physician my job isn’t to mock the smoker. My job is to identify the harmful behavior and point the way to fixing it. It’s not wrong to call destructive behavior destructive. Smoking is bad for you. “You’re an idiot for smoking”, is very different though, than, “Smoking will cause sickness and premature death. Are you ready for help with quitting?”

It’s easy to sit back and play judge. It’s far more difficult to try and help. We may not all be physicians, but that doesn’t mean we can’t point the way to faith and recovery. We’ve all got our own stuff, which disqualifies us from judging, but not from helping.

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