Romans 2:1-11

Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgement on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. You say, ‘We know that God’s judgement on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.’ Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God?Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgement will be revealed. For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.

Many people choose to give up a vice for Lent: coffee, sweets, Facebook, etc. The idea, as I have always understood it, is that the effort to give up these things helps us to focus on all that Jesus gave up for his forty-day journey into the desert, and his preparation for the ultimate sacrifice.

I have practiced Lent this way, but it doesn’t really work for me. My focus always tended to be on how many days were left until I could eat chocolate again, and so I gave up giving things up for a few years. Then, I took up the practice again, but this time, with a few differences.

I decided to give up behaviors that prevented me from walking God’s path and replace them with positive behaviors, and, though I would start this practice at Lent, I would try to carry it with me throughout the rest of the year. Last year, I essayed to give up judging others, particularly focusing on all those little judgments, like “who wore it best” or “who accomplished the most at work” or “who is more generous of their time and talents?” It was incredibly freeing.

In addition to letting go of my judgment of others, I also let go of my own judgment of myself by comparison with others. Of course, as with so many resolutions, I got further from my goal throughout the year, so this Lent, when I read this passage from Romans, I was recalled to last year’s Lenten intention. If we leave judgment to the omniscient Creator, we will be unencumbered by jealousy or fear of failure, and we are completely free to walk the wondrous path God has set for us.

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Ruthanne Swanson

Ruthanne was raised in a UCC congregational church, but was drawn to Broadway UMC in Chicago, IL by their radical justice work, and now calls them part of her chosen family.

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