On books and judging and covers

I have really enjoyed John Dobbs’ recent thoughts inspired by Lost (here, here, here, here, here, and here). I can’t hardly watch anything without trying to make a sermon illustration of out it (it’s a curse, I can’t stop it). And art so often imitates life and is universal, so it makes for good reflecting.

James “Sawyer” Ford is good at being bad. He has some of the best one-liners and is easy to hate. He is a jerk. He is cruel. Everyone wants to beat him up. He steals. He lies. He is selfish. He is the kind of person most of us would want to avoid and would simply endure if we worked with him or lived in his neighborhood.

He clashes with everyone because of his attitude. But only one person gets to know him and find out more about him. Kate read his letter and discovered his secret. She began to look at him differently and treat him differently from the moment she realized he was the one who wrote that letter instead of being the recipient. I had more compassion for him at that point. I hope he still has chance for redemption and hasn’t simply been given the miraculous opportunity for revenge.

IMO, Jack’s flashbacks are the only ones which evoke more pity that Sawyer’s.
When he quits the con after seeing the little boy.
When he realizes he has been conned into killing the wrong man.
And most of all, the night his father kills his mother and then takes his own life while Sawyer is hiding under the bed.

These sad things don’t make him more likable. They don’t excuse his behavior. But they do help us to understand him. You can have compassion without condoning one’s behavior. I worry that many Christians don’t get that.

I often hear Christians say things like, “I just don’t understand why so and so misses church so much” or “I can’t figure out why they couldn’t salvage their marriage” or “It seems they they just didn’t try hard enough.”

Unfortunately, as minister, I am often more aware of someone’s baggage such as depression, addiction, childhood trauma. Maybe I was surprised the marriage lasted as long as it did. That doesn’t mean the divorce was okay with God or me. It is easier to understand why people are mean and bitter and do the things they do when you know more about them.

I am not saying a person is not responsible for his/her actions and attitudes. I am not suggesting we should empty the prisons and make sin okay. But we need compassion.

Anyway, this was just a longer way of saying this, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be used to you.”


17 thoughts on “On books and judging and covers

  1. It’s a hard walk with God, and an incredibly massive amount of people take that fact for granted – especially if they don’t know about the walk themselves.

    It might be hard, but in the end it’s so Blessed.

    That is, if we follow the path God has set for us.

  2. I don’t know how many times as a young green minister I’d think things like, “I can’t believe she’s leaving him and walking out on marriage,” or “Why can’t they get up and come to church?” As I’ve matured and learned (sometimes the hard way) sometimes, no most the time, we don’t have all the information. We’re critical when we should be compassionate.

    I remember a man sitting in my office one time telling me about how his wife won’t show him any affection. I thought what a terrible wife who doesn’t do what the Bible has told her to do. Later I found out “why” she wasn’t showing him any affection. She had a great reason and the bum didn’t deserve any.

    Thanks for the reminder of jumping to conclusions and instead showing mercy.

  3. I liike your statement on depression. I think so people think we can preach it away and have gotten sick of it in a way. I can emphasize having depression myself. The right medication has helped. The Church and Christians need to be more understand with people with people with depression, addiction, problems at home with their teenage children (as I have seen numerous times in youth ministry), members going through divorces, etc. We need to be less judgemental and be more graceous, helpful,etc. Church should be a place where people find healing and acceptance.

  4. Don

    The Gospel according to Hollywood?
    Yeah, I’m pretty sure we all have it wrong and Hollywood has the answers to “understanding” and “compassion”.
    (oops, did I say that?)

    First it was
    Sheriff Andy Taylor Theology
    now it’s
    Lost And The Art of Love.

    hahahaha- whew! I’m OK now.

    I’m ready for-
    American Gladiator Perseverance: Muscling Your Way to the Prize.

  5. johndobbs

    No, Don, “We” don’t have it all wrong, but we do need corrective teaching eh? And Hollywood certainly doesn’t have it all right … but a parable is acceptable perhaps?

    Or we could refuse to see a message when it is placed before our eyes.

    Now that’s funny.

  6. Brian

    Don, do you think Jesus would use primarily agricultural parables if he had come today instead of back then?

    majority of the world lives in urban centers, and unfortunately TV/Movies is one of the few things that all americans know about.

    just a sermon illustration, not seeking truth in TV.

  7. Brian

    “Yeah, I’m pretty sure we all have it wrong and Hollywood has the answers to “understanding” and “compassion”.
    (oops, did I say that?)”

    well, you are the only one who said it.


  8. Don

    Brian- (it’s his post)

    I understand the premise behind what you’re saying. I just don’t base my compassion on the level of misery of the compassionee.

    I really like the way those who jumped me for “picking” on their TV show- tried to find out the “why” behind my comments. I will now have to agree with you on this- compassion is something that is nurtured and developed and it doesn’t just come naturally- obviously 🙂

    Now, you know I don’t care about anyone’s salvos at me. I like a little passion every now and then. Especially from preachers.

    I just don’t happen to agree with your use of Mat 7.1-2.

    It is misused a lot in the modern church. Jesus is talking about condemnation and not making value judgments.
    You, and rightfully so, judged when you wrote this post about ‘uncompassionate’ brethren. If I took your post to the “nth” degree I’d never help anyone. I’d be as LOST as those in your illustration.

    And for those “modern” boys…. yes I use illustrations and not just agricultural ones………

    Again… sorry for crashing the party.

  9. Brian

    don, gotcha. I always appreciate and want your comments about Bible/spiritual stuff. and it’s usually better when you disagree. thanks

    maybe I should have quoted the Golden Rule.

    also, some people are easier to be compassionate towards, others not so much.

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