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The One Person We’re Proud to Judge

I pushed the elderly woman in the wheelchair and started our conversation but I knew I had to whisper. For this college sophomore, the workplace had become a tricky arena in which to talk about Jesus.

I loved my job running errands at our hometown’s biggest hospital. It was paradise for an extrovert, providing the opportunity to get to know hundreds of people — from the staff members to the patients, many of whom were sick and desperate for a medical breakthrough. And as a self-described “Jesus freak,” I was happy to provide a treatment the doctors couldn’t: the power of prayer.

This led to me getting in trouble one day when I prayed for a really sick guy who turned out to be the husband of a nurse. Although I had gotten permission to pray for him first, his wife apparently didn’t appreciate what I did and told her doctor. The doctor reported me to HR and I got called into the office of one of the managers.

The manager was a Christian lady who did her very best to encourage me to use discretion while also trying to encourage me in my faith. I walked away assuming that I basically just needed to be a little quieter, but not silent, which brings me to the reason why I was whispering to the elderly lady in the wheelchair: I didn’t want to get called into the principal’s office again.

Evangelization Fail

“Ma’am,” I said, bending down to start the conversation as awkwardly as possible, “do you love Jesus?”

What?” she said loudly.

Apparently she had a hearing problem.

“Do you love Jesus?” I repeated, cranking up my whisper as loudly as possible.

Cheese?” she replied.

“No, Jesus.

DO I LOVE PIZZA?”

No, do you love …”

I gave up.

“Pizza — do you love pizza?”

“Of course!” she said, “Everybody loves pizza!”

New and Improved

The whole thing was so mortifying at the time, but in the years since, it’s one of my favorite stories to tell to poke fun at my college self. Yet I’m not nearly as lighthearted when I think back on that general period of time. I still feel embarrassed by the lack of discretion I had, the self-righteous things I thought and said, and the people I offended (see, for example, the time I told a nice, non-Christian coworker, “You know what your problem is? You’re evil.”).

I’m tempted to write off those college years as one big spiritual fail — to thank God I’m not like that guy anymore. It’s an odd way of being judgmental. I’m both the one being judged and the judge, as if that’s my job.

The Uncomfortable Reality

We’re all so desperate to avoid the uncomfortable truth that we may not be nearly as spiritually mature as we’d like to think. Maybe we’re still as messed up as we were way back when. Maybe we’re still problem children, those Christians, the ones who still aren’t getting it right. But as my friend Shon says, “Jesus didn’t come to save us because we were awesome. He came to save us because we were losers who actually needed to be saved.” We still need that salvation, no matter how long we’ve been believing in Jesus.

Our entire lives are an embarrassment outside of God’s grace. Even our absolute best efforts are still efforts by children who are pitifully limited by our weaknesses, and that’s a good thing, especially as we consider these kind words from Jesus to the struggling Apostle Paul: “My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.”

Praise God for awkward conversations about Jesusy pizza, for our parenting failures, for mistakes at work, and for immaturity in general, past and present. It’s our ongoing gift to the Lord that helps us recognize how badly we need Him to make us what we can never be on our own.

The scripture passage is taken from 2 Corinthians 2:7-10 in The Message. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons. If you’d like an email with a weekly recap of what I’ve written, click here.  You can also keep up with my latest articles (and more) on Facebook or Twitter.