A Beautiful Balance

I followed my friends out to the sunporch to say goodnight, but before they stepped out into the summer evening, I remembered a funny story. One of them had called me the week before, disturbed by the message on a church sign. But when she told me what it said, I didn't interpret it in the way she did. When I told my husband, Paul, he saw it differently to either of us. Later on, I told my friend Susan about it, and she had yet another take on it the sign. As did her husband, Ron. That 's five different perspectives on an eleven-word sign, which said:
If you want holy water, boil the hell out of it
The many interpretations of the meaning of the sign illustrate why communication is fraught with potential pitfalls. Our personal filters and many other factors influence what we "hear."

Then, the sun-porch became a confessional,  I said that I felt terrible about judging people's words and ideas when they're talking to me. Maybe "evaluating" is a kinder word, but I thought it would be better to ask more questions so that I understand where people are coming from when I question the point they're making.

That week I thought about the conversation on the sunporch, and through scripture that popped up in books I read, I saw that judging can be wrong, but it can also be right. Here are scriptures that show the beautiful balance:

1 John 4:1 New English Translation (NET Bible)4 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
John 7:24 New English Translation (NET Bible)24 Do not judge according to external appearance, but judge with proper judgment.”
1 Corinthians 10:15 New English Translation (NET Bible)15 I am speaking to thoughtful people. Consider what I say.
Colossians 3:16 New English Translation (NET Bible)16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.
Revelation 2:29 New English Translation (NET Bible)29 The one who has an ear had better hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Luke 6:37-38 New English Translation (NET Bible)37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38 Give, and it will be given to you: A good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be poured into your lap. For the measure you use will be the measure you receive.”
Mark 4:24 New English Translation (NET Bible)24 And he said to them, “Take care about what you hear. The measure you use will be the measure you receive, and more will be added to you.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 New International Version (NIV)21 but test them all; hold on to what is good,
John 10:3-5 New International Version (NIV)The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

I close with words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer that talk about (I think so, at least,) the fact that spiritual unity does not come through wrestling with ideas and thoughts, but exists in spite of that. And yet that wrestling and evaluating is good and healthy and a key to unity:
The spiritual unity of the Church is a primal synthesis willed by God. It is not a relationship that has to be established, but one that is already posited (iustitia passiva), and remains invisible. It is not made possible by concord, similarity or affinity between souls, nor should it be confused with unity of mood. Instead it is real just where seemingly the most intractable outward oppositions prevail, where each man leads his quite individual life, and it is perhaps absent where it seems to prevail most. It can shine more brightly in the conflict between wills than in concord.


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