In my last post I talked about resolving to stay with my church, and that resolve was not without more times of testing and trials. Testing comes in many forms. Like when you feel like you’re being judged and you don’t really know how to handle it. Not in a godly manner anyway. Especially when you’re a new Christian or when you’ve just found the courage to walk into a church. It’s the thing that keeps a lot of people from going to church in the first place. “The church is full of hypocrites” or so I have heard. I didn’t want anyone judging how I lived my life. It was not until I truly saw my need for Jesus that I was able to get over that and go to church.
When I was a new convert, only attending services for a couple of weeks, I wore a red skirt just above my knees, 3-inch red high heels, red sleeveless sweater and a red jacket. It was near valentine’s day. I thought I looked good. This was an outfit that I wore regularly to work in a professional office. My nails were long and painted red too. I had been so happy to go to church that day! I wanted to be there with my girls in their dresses and my husband in his suit. I was not trying to turn heads at all. But I did, and it was mostly the “church women” who looked at me. I saw them. I saw their eyes. I saw their little gasps. I felt “dirty” somehow. I wouldn’t talk to anybody. Not because I was new, but because I felt them staring. I wouldn’t dare go up during the altar call that day. I didn’t want to go back the next week either, but my husband talked me into it. He said I looked good to him and that was all that mattered. I don’t believe I ever wore that to church again. I also didn’t think it was revealing. Maybe it was just too red.
Later that year, I had begun working in the nursery. At the time, it was required of moms of babies to work one service per month. One Sunday morning when I was scheduled to work, a leader came up to me and gave me a hug. She openly, and loudly, smelled my hair. She turned to the other leader and said, “I don’t smell it.” I, being who I was, said “What the h---?” They were so shocked by my response that they could hardly explain themselves! Finally, one of them said, "we thought you’d been smoking." The truth is I was still smoking. I hadn’t been delivered from that yet. Honestly, at that time I was not trying to be. God was working on so many things in my life that it just wasn’t an issue. However, I wasn’t about to admit to them that I was still smoking. Had I been approached in love, maybe I would have admitted, and then they could have prayed for me. I wanted to run out of there. I worked that morning anyway but couldn’t wait to light up a cigarette on the way home!
There are so many other instances I could tell you about. But I think you get the idea from these two stories. It just doesn’t matter to me anymore whether people are judging me or not. Maybe that comes with age, or with Jesus, or both. Maybe there is truth to the “judging” or maybe not. I just know that there is a tendency to feel judged. It could be coming from people who think they have “arrived.” On the other hand, it could be that God is dealing with sin, and in our little minds we think that “everyone knows.” We feel like we’re being judged when really it’s the conviction of the Holy Spirit and we should take heed.
We must fight this feeling and not run out of the church. We need to look at and judge the situation ourselves. Is there a reason? Is it founded? Are we still smoking? Either way we need to hold on. Hold our head up and keep serving God. Trust that he will bring us through. If people are being judgmental then that is on them. We correct what the Holy Spirit is calling to our attention and leave the rest alone. We need to learn from it. If we hold on and get rooted there will come a time when the Holy Spirit will have us bring something to the attention of someone else. We need to know how to do it. We should be helping and not hurting each other. "Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted." Galatians 6:1. If we are to correct one another it should be done in love, so the other person does not feel judged, but rather led to go further into the Kingdom of Grace. It isn’t easy.
The point is, we all have judged (admit it) and been judged. But Jesus said in Matthew 7:1 -2 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." The problem is, there are people in church. People are made of flesh and the flesh is weak. The solution is what we do with the problem. The last thing we want to do is get an attitude and leave! Let God, through his Holy Spirit, change you and mold you into who he wants you to be. Know that God can’t do that if we leave the place He has put us.
(I am happy to share that I was delivered from smoking cigarettes on August 1, 1997! I had smoked a half of a cigarette about a week later, because I thought I needed it. I quickly realized I didn’t. I threw it, and the rest of the pack, out of the car window as I was driving. To God be the Glory!)
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