Are You My Judge?
by Steven Garren
We live in a world in which everything is judged by appearance. Which is one reason why there is so much injustice in the world. For almost 38 years of my life I have lived with physical disabilities severe enough at times to keep me mostly bedridden. Yet if I was in public most of the time people would see me as normal. And for 38 years I have had to deal with people that had no understanding of what I was going through. My mom also endured similar struggles. Christians of all people should know better than to judge by appearance but most don't. You can tell people your problems repeatedly but either they won't listen or can't understand. After all “you look normal so get on with your life.” People may mean well but be hurtful by their ignorance.
Invisible disabilities affect millions of people in America, many unable to hold a job. There can be many reasons for this. For myself chronic pain has my companion for most of my adult life. Add to that other problems such as chronic fatigue and chemical sensitivity. Tell me friend do you know what it is like to live with at least some pain almost every day? Do you know what it is like to desperately need to lie down awhile because of severe fatigue even on the best days? Do you know what it is like to have to go back to bed sometimes after arising because you aren't well enough to function? Do you know what it is like to have to flee a store immediately because of disabling fragrance? Do you know what it is like to be so dependent on specialized chiropractic care that you would die without it? If not then why do you judge me? I know, I look normal. You think all I need is to get out more. Go to a move, a ballgame. Take a vacation. And of course I must absolutely go to church, somewhere, anywhere, just go! Even if I were perfectly well have you ever stopped to think that my desire for the things of this world may not be like yours?
Even the secular world knows what is right though they may not follow it. There is a song titled “Walk A Mile In My Shoes” with the verse, “Yeah, before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.” Sam Bristow wrote these words, “Why Do You Judge Me? You have not walked in my shoes, You have not been down my road, You have not cried my tears, You have not carried my load, Why do you judge me? Wayne Dyer wrote, "When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself". Now there is a sermon in that statement.
The Bible has a lot to say about judging. We as Christians must have a strong judgmental attitude in these days of apostasy and anything goes in the name of Christianity. However in judging those we know about personal issues in their life we need to be very careful about usurping the sole ability of God to judge rightly. Matthew 7:2 says, For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. John 7:24 says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” If you cannot judge correctly then don't judge at all.
I haven't been to "church” since I was initially severely disabled in 1974. Yes, I have had much improvement off and on and am generally in much better health now than then. However even my best days are far from normal. That is why home is such a sanctuary of refuge. I can immediately collapse in rest when needed. Do you think I enjoy the isolation and loneliness I've had to deal with most of my life? It is not my choice. Yet God has clearly been directing my life. I wouldn't trade the spiritual blessings God has given me for all the normalcy in the world. The only thing I've missed being away from church has been fellowship with more believers. I dare say I've learned a lot more Biblical truth at home than I probably would have at church where spiritual meat is hard to find.
Some Christians use Hebrew 10:25, "forsake not the assembling of yourselves together" as a whip in an attempt to drive any non-attending believers to a church. And all the while ignoring the context of the verse which was directed at baby Jewish Christians in the early Church. New converts had little chance of going it alone. Some had already fallen back into legalistic Judaism. So the verse is essentially an admonition against falling into apostasy. Directing mature believers that have fled or been led away from "churchianity" back to church is the worst thing any friend could do.
An article by Elwin R. Roach titled “Forsake Not The Assembling?” was insightful to me. There is a big difference between assembling and gathering. He wrote, “I do not believe we are wrong by saying that most Sunday morning church services are gatherings rather than assemblies where everyone is in one accord." One can be physically separated from other believers but spiritually united to the universal Church. Many believers in churches are physically together but spiritually separated. Again he writes, “Others may sit every Sunday morning in churches of 100 members, or in cathedrals of 5,000 and not be assembled. They may sing in their choirs, teach Sunday-school classes, preach firebrand sermons, and still not be assembled, only gathered. What a difference! Just being there does not constitute a true assembly. Those who are active in their churches may feel they are assembled, but this does not do it either. Men and women can be full of "good works" but totally void of the assembled Spirit and Godly works of Christ.”
If God has called you to be a member of a biblically sound church then rejoice. But don't try to force all members of Christ's Church into the same mold. Trying to conform everyone to the same mold is what the world does. God deals with believers individually. He drove Moses to a desert in preparation for his work. John was exiled to an island where he wrote down much of God's prophetic Word. He told Jeremiah not to take a wife. Hosea he told to marry a prostitute. Where would be today without the Psalms in which David penned in his isolation? Enoch walked with God alone and they were so close God took him. I wonder how many Christians want to walk with God so close they are willing to give up this world completely? And now, not when they are old and infirm.
Every Christian endures some kind of a desert situation in life. For some it's a short time and for some it's a lifetime. There are times when the advice of a friend or relative is good. Many times though it's best to just let God do his will in that person's life. The best friends are those who listen and comfort more than speak. Most of my best friends I will never see in person in this life for like me God has called them to a long desert experience.
Even it I could find a good church to attend I don't think I could ever feel at home again there with all the denominational hangups, modern influences, unspoken dress codes, affluent structures, and the myriad of pagan trappings institutionalized Christianity has absorbed, all the way down to building architecture, all of which have nothing to do with the real Church. But if God wants me back for a reason I think he can tell me himself.
I don't criticize those that are satisfied with institutionalized churches but God has called many to flee the traditions of man. Chip Brogden is a former pastor whom God called out of churchianity in 1999. He has written many insightful articles. In No Fellowship? No Problem! he asks, "is Jesus enough for you? I asked that question of a group of Christians once: is Jesus enough for you? Because most Christians do not believe this. They want Jesus, but they also want fellowship with others. Really, do you know what Christians want? Not fellowship with others. That sounds so spiritual. Really what they want is acceptance from other Christians. You go deep down and that’s what they want. They want to feel accepted by other Christians. Well, all I can tell you is that you’re setting yourself up for a huge disappointment. Eventually there will come a time when you will have to decide between the truth that God has revealed to you and the acceptance of other Christians." Well said. For myself the truth that God has revealed to me is much more important than acceptance by others. With knowledge comes the responsibility to act upon that knowledge. Otherwise what good is it? If God calls me to walk alone with Jesus the rest of my life then amen to it.
In The Loneliness of the Christian A.W. Tozer wrote “The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone.”
So Hebrews 10:25 may be the ideal situation but it is not for all Christians, all the time. I believe the time is coming when genuine Christianity in America must get back to the roots of the early churches that met in homes. Otherwise it will die when persecution comes. So until then let God be God as he prepares each of us in his own way for his eternal purposes. Those like me will thank you and God will thank you.
June, 2012 - permission granted to copy and distribute if unedited
Forsake Not The Assembling?
The Loneliness of the Christian