“Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:5
From pre-school until 6th grade, I attended a small, Christian school in Massachusetts. I learned every day in a Christian setting, and when I came home, I was well-grounded in God’s word and shielded from negative hindrances to my young faith by a wonderful family, who loves me more than I could ever describe. I am extremely grateful for the strong Christian environment I grew up in. It did much to shape me into the person I am today, and I have no idea where I would be if it were not for the many individuals who poured Christ’s love into my life and inspired me to draw near to Jesus.
When I was entering 7th grade, my family and I moved to Georgia because of my dad’s job. As someone who had lived all her life in one place and didn’t know much of the world outside of that place, this move presented a few worries and slight apprehensions. Needless to say, my anxiety level hit the roof when I found myself seated in a public school on the first day of the school-year with more than 200 students in my class alone. I had never seen so many kids in one place before. Back at my old school, there were like…what…8 kids including me in my class. Yep. No joke.
And did I mention PUBLIC SCHOOL? My family, especially my mom, had been in much prayer about where I should go to school, and it seemed as if God was directing us toward the public school system. But yikes! Public school? Surely my G-rated life was gonna turn R-rated overnight. I wasted no time in terrifying myself with Biblical analogies. I was an exile in Babylon. If the homework got tough, I’d be an Israelite slave in Egypt. What direction was the promised land? Upward. The time for rapture had arrived.
And hang on a minute…my school’s mascot was a…dragon?!
WARNING, WARNING! RACHEL, RUN!
All of a sudden, my little bubble popped. I experienced a culture shock…yeah, a pretty dramatic one. Now, don’t get me wrong: I don’t want to make public-school seem like the worst place on earth. I grew to love my public school. My teachers were amazing. I met amazing people. I got to be in my school-band and discovered my passion for music. Believe it or not, my first year in public school is my all-time-favorite school year I’ve ever had. I would change nothing about following God’s will for me to experience the public-school system. Through it, I’ve met so many people who’ve had a major impact on my life.
There were things I experienced in the public-school system that I would have never been faced with at my old private school. I met many more people than I ever imagined I would have. People who came from many different backgrounds. People who had different passions, opinions and beliefs. People who were curious about what and who I believed in and took the time to listen.
And there were others who were…well…plain rude and fond of imitating borderline bullying behavior. People who used not-so-pleasant language. People who proudly presented my first-ever ‘culture shock.’
But you know the important thing God taught me? It was not my job to judge anyone, no matter how they behaved. Only Christ is worthy to be on the judgement seat. My job is to show Christ’s love to everyone because everyone needs Jesus. And when I remember how Christ showed His love to me, an underserving sinner who should have been judged and condemned to eternal death, I realize that as His follower, I cannot just be the recipient of such great love, but must display it as well.
Parson Davy tells Pat something along these lines in chapter three:
“…God could have just condemned me for my sin…but He didn’t. He saw beyond my sin to the hurting person I was, and He personally reached down to help me. He left His throne in heaven to come save me. That is God’s love, Pat. If His love is in my heart, I’ve got to look at others through the eyes of Christ. I have to respect each person, no matter their background; because first and foremost, they were created in the image of God and Christ died for them as well. Everyone is precious in the eyes of our Father, and that always holds true, despite the mistakes they might have made. We are never called to pass judgment on others, but to value them because of what they’re worth to our creator.”
You don’t have to attend public school to be a true vessel of Christ’s love. God’s will for me was to attend public school, but it is not His will for everyone. There are people who don’t know Jesus everywhere…even in Christian environments. Sometimes, they can even be hard to spot because they do everything a Christian does. I know because I was one of those people before I personally understood I was a sinner and needed Jesus as my Savior. And what was it that drew me to Jesus? His wonderful, incomprehensible love.
Judging others is serious business. When we do so, we are trying to remove Christ from His throne and place ourselves on the throne. We need to submit to Christ, and we do that by loving others with His love. We display the marvelous power of the gospel not by judging and condemning, but by loving non-believers, and, equally importantly, our fellow believers.
Jesus says in John 13:34-35: “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (HCSB)
It was in public school that I learned the importance of going public with the gospel through demonstrating Christ’s love. People are drawn to Christ through His love.
Dear friend, wherever you are, make sure you look for ways to intentionally love others and go public with the gospel. When they have a need you can meet, meet it. When they need a friend, be it. Most importantly, pray unceasingly for them, interceding for their soul before the throne of grace. That is probably the greatest demonstration of love you can exhibit.
For Jesus, through Jesus, in Jesus.