by Judy Brandon: CNJ columnist
Have you ever passed judgment on someone else without knowing all the facts?
I’ve told this story before, but it never goes out of style:
One Sunday night about 1963, I was sitting on the back pew at church with the rest of the teenagers. My father was preaching and a stranger walked in. As the newcomer stepped into the sanctuary, I touched my girlfriend’s arm and nodded in the stranger’s direction as if to say, “Well look there … who is that?”
“Doesn’t he know what time church starts?” I thought to myself.
I thought the stranger would sit down on the back seat. To me he seemed arrogant. He was dressed in a stylish suit. Then the man began to walk down the aisle to the front even though church was well under way.
“Surely he will sit down soon and not disturb everyone,” I thought. The man slowly strolled down the aisle, all the way to the front.
“I guess he wants to show off those expensive clothes,” I said to myself.
Finally he slowly and deliberately sat down on the second row. My mind was still going. “Doesn’t he know what time church starts? He has no right to interrupt like that.”
I was really put out with the man and didn’t even know him.
After church, the teenagers all went out together. I didn’t think much more about the man until I got home and I asked my father if he saw the stranger.
“Why did he go all the way to the front?” I asked. “I guess he was just so proud that he was there, he wanted all of us to make sure that we noticed him too.” I shook my head like I couldn’t believe it.
My daddy said, “Well Judy let me tell you about him. I visited with him after church. It is not what you think.
“He is from Albuquerque. He just got word this morning that his brother had died in Dallas and it was too late for him to get a flight out so he decided to drive through. He just felt the need to stop at church for a break because he thought it might make him feel a little better. He apologized for going all the way to the front but he told me something else about himself. Do you want to know?”
“Well, I guess,” I said, as I looked down.
My father continued. “The man said that when he was a little boy he had been badly burned in a house fire and it was still very painful to move quickly or turn quickly. That’s why he walked so slowly. Also in the accident, he lost nearly all of his hearing. He apologized that he walked all the way to the front but he could not hear on the back pew.
“We had a good visit. I was glad he stopped.”
Paul warned: “You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. Each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.” (Romans 14:10-13)
So the next time you get the urge to say something about some situation you have sized up from afar, think about this man. I’ve learned my lesson.
Judy Brandon is an instructor at Clovis Community College. Contact her at: