It was a miracle for goodness sake! The man had been blind since birth living in total darkness until that day. Jesus’ disciples found him and wanting to learn more asked Jesus, “Was it because of this man’s sin or his parents that he has been born blind?” What a question! Thoughts of doubt and fear must have run through the man’s mind wondering if his affliction was his own fault.
How sweet it must have been to hear Jesus say, “Neither, but it was for the glory of God.” Suspense and anticipation replaced the anxiety within. He could not see Jesus stooping down. He heard him spit, but did not understand. Jesus then rubbed something on his eyes and told him to go and wash his eyes. Wanting to run to the pool, he knew his limits. He waits for someone to take him by the hand and guide him to the pool. He wanted to run, but not yet. He washed and light bled through his eyelids. Squinting to slow the flood of light, his eyes opened to a new world. Just thinking about this, I am filled with excitement for this man. I know it happened way back in Bible times, but don’t you just want to shout “HALLELUJAH!!”
Everyone is astonished. Every day begging, but now he could see, and run, and jump, and he did. The people took him to the religious leaders to brag on God. If there is anyone who can steal a blessing it is a self-righteous, two-faced, mean, judgmental, harsh religious person Did I hear an ‘Amen!’ They tried to steal his joy, his miracle. “Was this man really born blind?” they asked. They even questioned his parents. They did not want to believe that Jesus had done it again…and on the Sabbath too.
Just last night, I was speaking to a young lady in our church who said she had gone to her aunt and uncle’s church and the preacher began belittling women with short hair or colored stripes in their hair. “It was sinful,” he said. She was embarrassed and offended. Her hair was…well…you know. Religious people make it very hard to love God; almost impossible to follow Jesus. They claim the God of grace while judging everyone to Hell. Another lady spoke shared how a preacher told her she was going to Hell because she did not go to his church. Seriously!?!
These people are in every church, everywhere. When we go to church, we want to enjoy the fellowship and the sweet Spirit of the Lord. We do not want to be judged by our clothes, our hair, our skin color, our tattoos, our lack of Scriptural knowledge, our ignorance of when to sit and when to stand. When Jesus said, “I am the Good Shepherd,” He was calling out all the bad shepherds in every church, yours and mine. They have a gift of saying just the right thing to make you feel so small. They are harsh, judgmental, and condemning. Jesus compares them to thieves and robbers trying to steal the sheep away from the Good Shepherd. Thieves use deception for their own profit. Ever known anyone that would tell any lie necessary to get what he wanted. Even in the church, there are thieves. Robbers use force, emotion, and violence. They seek their own prosperity to the detriment of everyone else’s. I have been in board meetings where people used intense anger in an attempt force the rest to do what they wanted. We don’t like it that these people are in the church. but we have all come across them. And many of us have crossed them too. How do we deal with judgmental, harsh church people?
Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. (NIV)
Jesus says, “Don’t listen to them.” But I don’t know that it is that simple. Sometimes, these people are relative, friends, and people in our church who are not about to leave anytime soon. How do we not listen to their snide comments?
The word for ‘listen’ here means ‘to give audience to.’ When I go to a concert, or to hear a speaker, I am placing myself in their audience. I have taken a posture to listen and take in whatever they say or sing. I take it in. I give space to their utterance. I let their words take up residence in my spirit. This is what the serpent did in the Garden of Eden. He spoke. Adam and Eve let those words roam in their minds, in their spirit. The longer the words remained, the more their mouth watered for the forbidden fruit.
Like bad renters, we must kick these words out of our mind. We can’t let them stay. They may be stubborn, but we can’t give these people and their harsh criticisms power to crush our spirit. But here is the kicker…we have been designed by God to let words, especially of our authorities and those we love, to go down deep. It happens before we know it and they are alive in our head. So how do we get them out? Let’s go back to Jesus’ words:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. (NIV
Pushing out the words of bad shepherds requires two things. First, we must listen to the words of the Good Shepherd. Second, we must follow the Good Shepherd. Let’s look at these two steps. When someone has judged you, criticized you harshly, you must gather from your memory the words of Christ, the voice of the Good Shepherd. Even if you can’t quote Him exactly (but this is a strong case for memorizing Scripture), remind yourself of His precepts.
They say you are a piece of crap. You remind yourself the Good Shepherd said you have been fearfully and wonderfully made. They say you are wearing the wrong kind of clothes. Call to your memory that Jesus declared you dressed in a white robe. They say you have too many tattoos. They say you are too fat; too ugly; too short; too sinful; too whatever. Let His Word fill your mind declaring from the Heavens that you are the righteousness of Christ, washed in the blood, perfected in the Beloved. If God is for you…who can be against you? Master this first step, but do not stop there.
We must also act. We must force our body language, our tone of voice, certainly our words, to follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. As He leads us, He calls out ‘grace, forgiveness, peace, love,’ and we must follow His words. Until we begin to physically move according to His call, the bad shepherds will feed us with their hatred, disdain, and arrogance.
We can’t avoid judgmental people in church, but we don’t have to listen to them. We don’t have to give them power to steal our peace. Listen to the Good Shepherd and follow His voice. If you do this, never again will a judgmental, harsh, critical, self-righteous, smug, preachy, holier-than-thou, sanctimonious church person get the best of you. Nope, let them keep blabbing and babbling. You follow the Good Shepherd into green pastures and quiet waters.