On the eve before I leave the African Continent, I'm reminiscing back to the youth conference this last week. Thousands of teenagers, all coming together for the central reason to learn how to focus on the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 6:33)
Sure they had pastors evoking emotional response, they had the excited evangelist, but they also showed me that humanity is humanity no matter where we live.
On Saturday, I was talking about our responsibility to people around us as we engage in God's Kingdom, and I told the story of the young girl who called our office a few years ago. She claimed she couldn't work as a counselor that summer because she found out she was pregnant.
I had no idea how this story would translate into the eastern African culture, but as soon as I began telling the teenagers how Jamie Jo handled this young girl, I watched their eyes focus in on me with an unusual gaze.
I told them how we decided to become a place of encouragement and help to this young mother; rather than to become a place of judgment. I told them, instead of excommunicating this girl, we took her into our home, and helped her through the 9 months of pregnancy.
I told them how we encouraged her to continue her school, gave her diapers, sent her a stroller, and told her she could find a house of refuge in our home.
At the end of my speaking time, Bishop John came to me, "Andy…that was powerful. Our teenagers needed to hear that. The same stigma of pregnant girls in the U.S. exists here in Rwanda. We need to help our sisters, even after they make a mistake."
I smiled in appreciation, but quickly realized, humans are humans no matter where they live. We all have this auto-judgmental attitude to make sure we are being more holy than someone else. Why is it that any chance we have to elevate our own moral standing, we take the chance to look down on someone else and say, "See, I'm at least not as bad as her."
What if we had the courage and the brevity to disregard people's mistakes, and look at them like God does?
What if we had the ability to extend grace like God does?
Why do we rush to judgment so quickly, when maybe we need to take a step back, and just learn how to love people?
For sure there will be a time of judgment.
For sure there are consequences for sin.
For sure God will make us account for our actions here on the earth.
But until then….
May we be a people who can love people for people, not for what they do.
May we see people who sin as an opportunity to show God's love to them.
May we extend grace to those who need it most.
Because you can know for sure, sin alienates the sinner from society.
People who can show acceptance after sin; without condoning sin, are those that will be able to show how much God loves us. And those people will begin to see the Kingdom of God as Jesus describes in in Matthew 6.
Let's not forget, "God so love the world, that He sent His only Begotten Son. That whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." (John 3:16-17)