Yeah, I know I'm Late; Don't Judge Me, Bro.

I watched them enter the worship service, mom and dad with kids in tow. Something wasn’t right.

Mom is as perky as they come; she has a perpetual smile. Once dad has his morning cup o’ joe, he’s the best – cheerful, gregarious, light-hearted, a servant, a good dad and husband. When they entered the room for worship, I hardly recognized the persons taking their seats 20 minutes after our worship began - shoulders drooping, kids plodding, and no happy faces. Who are these people?

“Hmm,” I thought, “I wonder what happened this morning.”

I never connected with dad following Sunday’s worship. I did chat with the kids and mom. The youngest of the three hugged my leg as his older siblings told me about their Saturday. Mom filled in the missing details – nothing about the events of the morning and why they were so late.

Worship over, the building locked and all the doors closed, Brenda and I slid into our SUV and headed to meet our kids for Father’s Day lunch. While I missed dad, Brenda found out about the late family’s Sunday morning. It was chaos that involved a running loaner vehicle, needed because of another expensive repair. I mention running vehicle because the only set of keys were locked inside the car as the family stood at its doors ready to get in.

The poor dad. I don’t know what he had in mind for Father’s Day, but I guarantee being locked out of his running loaner vehicle, arriving late for worship at his church, and trying to find a solution for how to get into the vehicle without smashing a window wasn’t in his Father’s Day fantasy.

As I listened to Brenda’s retelling of the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad morning, I was reminded of how judgmental we can be.

Can’t you get here on time?

Nice of you to join us…20 minutes late.

Shameful the lack of respect. Probably stayed up too late and didn’t roll out of bed until the last minute.

Our Lord and his apostles condemn and warn disciples of Jesus about the tendency to make unrighteous judgments, yet we do it all the time. We see a behavior that doesn’t meet a standard, and we assume wrongly the reasons for the failure.

  • We would never be so spiritually immature.

  • We would never conduct ourselves in that manner.

  • We would never allow our children to do that.

  • We would never dress that way.

  • We would never let our children out of the house in that condition.

  • And on and on the examples go.

I am so refreshed by this young father’s commitment to lead his family on the Lord’s Day. He had a ready-made excuse to stay home, but he didn’t. He would be late. Everyone would know it. Somebody may make a snide comment to him or cast a look of disdain, but that would not keep his family from meeting with God together with his church on the Lord’s Day.

I am so encouraged by this young husband’s love for Jesus to love his wife enough to direct her to their Lord on the Lord’s Day. He didn’t let the battle against the flesh defeat him. He would love her by loving her Lord.

We have no idea what’s going on in the lives and homes of the people in our church. No idea at all. We cannot judge what we do not know. We must not assume our conclusions are on target. Instead of judging, let’s come alongside and ask questions.

You look like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders. What’s up?

You’re not usually late like that. Did something happen at home today?

I’m glad to see you and the family this morning. How’s life? You good?

The safest place for Christians should be the gathering of the local church. Here, brothers and sisters-in-Christ should find people different in so many ways from those outside the circle of the church. Here, they should find patient, loving, kind, and empathic sinners saved by grace willing to extend to the failing the grace they’ve received and hope to receive from others. Here, they should find those who give only righteous judgements and those who speak the truth with love-glazed words and eyes.

The gathering of the church isn’t always the safest place, but it should be. The church can be the safest place when each of us recalls the extent of God’s longsuffering towards us.

As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing