Last week a few friends and I were discussing how often we have judged or misjudged people and how frustrated we were with ourselves for doing so. Each of us gave examples of people we had judged according to their skin color, cultural differences, their appearance or even their weight. We recognized that by being so critical of people we were not being good examples of Christianity. I believe that most of us have been guilty of unkind thoughts and comparisons of “those people.” You know who they are right? To judge anyone who does fit what we deem to be “normal” or in other words, like us. Our group agreed that we were going to work very intentionally to change the way we see people, to look at them through a lens of love and respect and not of judgment.
Having just visited the land of the Bible, I am reminded of another group of people who have frequently been misjudged by many people who study the Bible. This group is known as the disciples whom Jesus called to be his followers. He wanted to teach them about God’s love so that as his disciples they could share his love with the world. By his example and words, Jesus taught them how to care for all people just as he did. He wasn’t picky about who he healed or loved. It didn’t matter if they were Jews, Greeks or even a Samaritans he just cared for them. The disciples were just ordinary fishermen who lived in the 1st century culture with all of its traditions, rituals and laws. Imagine how difficult it must have been to understand and replicate their teacher, Jesus, who did not follow the expected rules.
The gospels are filled with stories about these fishermen who at times seemed like bumbling idiots. Very often we read about how they messed up and were clueless about what or who Jesus was. Take the impulsive disciple Peter who jumped out of the boat to walk on water when Jesus invited him to do so however it didn’t take long until he started to sink and cried out for help. Jesus questioned lack of Peter’s faith, which caused him to doubt and sink. Of course most of us agree with Jesus and think Peter should have had more faith. We can easily think that we would have had enough faith to walk to Jesus without fear or doubt right. Again we read that this same Peter denied Jesus three times, his friend, mentor and teacher! What was he thinking! Then there was Judas who betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, which led to the crucifixion of God’s Son. We would never have betrayed Jesus right? Then of course there is Thomas, who has been known as “doubting Thomas” because he doubted the risen Christ. How could he doubt that Jesus was alive and whole? These disciples spent three years of their lives with the Son of God! What’s not to understand about Jesus and the love of God, his Father? I believe that each of us have doubted, denied or betrayed God by our thoughts and actions.
These men of God were real people who lived in the 1st century following a man who was both Divine and human. How does that happen anyway? How confusing it must have been to understand and believe his radical teachings that changed everything they knew as normal to a new way of living. It is easy to judge his disciples and think that we would have been more faithful followers of Jesus however we have the benefit of knowing the rest of the story. Peter, Thomas, John and the others were breaking into uncharted waters to usher in a new way of living and loving. Through Jesus these simple fishermen found grace and love despite all so their flaws. It is my prayer that in spite of my bumbling and missteps, I follow the disciple’s example to offer that same grace and love to others regardless who they might be.