Here’s the message from last night, building on the fact that we are created in God’s image, so deeply loved by God, and called to have a relationship with Him.
[Recap of last night.] Does anyone know where the first sin occurred in the Bible? (Hoping at least one person will know.) It was in Genesis 3. This is an account of the first sin. The serpent tempted Adam and Eve. They followed through with the temptation and directly disobeyed God. Pretty simple story, right? Yes, it is. Well unfortunately, it is so easy to sin. It happens every day because it is a part of our human nature. Even though we are so deeply loved by God, we are still separated from Him. And what separates us from Him is our sinful nature. Tonight I want to focus on one particular way we all sin. But first I want to share a story with y’all about a woman waiting on her flight in an airport…
[Tell the story in middle-schooler language.]
‘A woman was waiting at the airport one night,
With several long hours before her flight.
She hunted for a book in the airport shop,
Bought a bag of cookies and found a place to drop.
She was engrossed in her book, but happened to see,
That the man beside her, as bold as could be,
Grabbed a cookie or two from the bag between,
Which she tried to ignore to avoid a scene
She read, munched cookies, and watched the clock,
As the gustly “cookie thief” diminished her stock
She was getting more irritated as the minutes ticked by,
Thinking, “If I wasn’t so nice, I’d blacken his eye!”
With each cookie she took, he took one too.
When only one was left, she wondered what he’d do.
with a smile on his face and a nervous laugh,
He took the last cookie and broke it in half.
He offered her half, and he ate the other.
She snatched it from him and thought, “Oh brother,
This guy has some nerve, and he’s also so rude,
Why, he didn’t even show any gratitude!”
She had never known when she had been so galled,
And sighed with relief when her flight was called.
She gathered her belongings and headed for the gate,
Refusing to look at the “thieving ingrate”.
She boarded the plane and sank in her seat,
Then sought her book, which was almost complete.
As she reached in her baggage, she gasped with surprise.
There were her bag of cookies in front of her eyes!
“If mine are here,” she moaned with despair.
“Then the others were his and he tried to share!”
Too late to apologize, she realized with grief,
That she was the rude one, the ingrate, the thief!!!!’
What do y’all think the moral of this story is? (Possible comedic moment.) Well what I get from this story is that we shouldn’t be too quick to judge or assume. Most often when we do so, we end up feeling really guilty or hurting someone’s feelings. So the topic for tonight is about judging others, something we are all guilty of doing, and just one example of how we all sin.
We read from the Old Testament, so let’s now read from the New Testament. Have you guys ever heard of the Sermon on the Mount? Well, it was one of the longest and first “sermons” ever preached by Jesus. A lot of the time, Jesus taught by way of parables which are stories that have meaning behind them, like the “Cookie Thief” story I just told you. Well here in Matthew 7, Jesus talks about judging others. So, let’s all turn to Matthew 7:1. We’ll read verses 1-5.
To give you a different vision of this Scripture, I’d like to read it from a different version of the Bible, called The Message. It reads:
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.”
I want to share with y’all a time when I had an “ugly sneer” on my face. As you all know, I go to school with Mary Beth at Candler School of Theology back in Atlanta and part of our education is this thing called Contextual Education where we basically volunteer somewhere outside of Candler. I volunteered at a homeless shelter for families called Genesis. I hadn’t really spent much time at all in a homeless shelter before, but I carried this thought in my head that homeless people weren’t very smart. I assumed that they didn’t have an education. Well, the family I worked with for the entire Fall semester changed my entire image of homeless people and homelessness. The single mother and her 5 children were so bright; in fact, her oldest daughter took the PSAT to prepare herself to get into a good college and at the time she was only in the 6th grade! They had an impact on my life that I can’t really put into words.
Even though I never said anything out loud about my first assumptions about homeless people, I still felt awfully guilty about even thinking about it. I was quick to judge. Here’s the thing guys. Judging others is just one way we sin. Like I said earlier, we are going to sin for the rest of our lives. It’s a part of our human nature. And it’s what keeps us separated from God. But even though that barrier does exist between God and us, we can still continue to grow in our relationships with God by doing our best to try and recognize our sinful nature. Maybe ask yourself a couple of questions like, “Will I hurt someone’s feelings if I do/say this?” Or more importantly, “Will it draw me closer to God?”
I know that sometimes things happen so fast and there isn’t time to sit there and thoughtfully and prayerfully analyze the situation. We’re not perfect, and that’s clear from the Bible. We’ve all fallen short from the glory of God. However, because God does love us so deeply, thinking more thoughtfully before we say or do something too quickly is something we can all work on to continue growing in our relationships with God.
I think it went well again! But I have to be honest. I felt awkward holding the mic. The first night I tried to just hold it in my hand but that felt weird. Last night I tried keeping it on the stand. Tonight I’ll probably try holding it again. Regardless, tonight will be intense, on purpose. Two down, two to go!