While out on an early morning walk one Sunday, I passed a church just as some cars were pulling into the parking lot for a worship service. I wondered if the people in those cars might think I was an unbeliever because I was out walking instead of going to church. My own church was on a different schedule and I would be attending later, but they couldn’t know that. Without any valid reason, I felt judged and resentful.
As I walked on, I realized I had been projecting my own occasional feelings of smugness onto innocent strangers. On more than one occasion I’d seen people involved in “worldly” activities on a Sunday and had felt just a bit superior because I was faithfully going to church.
Recognizing the presumptuousness of attributing my own failings to these strangers was a wake-up call. Feeling myself wrongly judged by those folks driving by, if only in my own imagination, awoke me to the insidious complacency creeping into my attitudes. Just because a person’s times, places, or styles of worship don’t match mine, doesn’t give me the right to assume they are any less pious and faithful than I.
This is the very point of the Apostle Matthew when he instructs us to “judge not”.
7 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? – Matthew 7:1-3 n (NIV)
This admonition isn’t telling Christians to be gullible, or uncritically accepting of lies and evil, it is a warning not to jump to self-serving conclusions.
Snug or smug? Only a single letter separates the two words, but the attitudes are miles apart. Those of us snug in the assurance of God’s promises must never become smugly self-righteous.
It is unwise judgment and a haughty spirit which change one’s faith into smugness, while it is mercy, received and given, which prevents that unhappy distortion.