John 7:24 – Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.
My granddaddy was an inventor. He experimented with all sorts of things. In his work at the hosiery mill, he created several new systems and machine parts that resulted in patens for his company. Usually, when he had an idea, he would hold his thoughts to himself until he had worked out all possible scenarios in his mind. Once he could visualize the outcome, he was ready to pick up his tools and get to work. Until all the kinks were worked out, he was content to just think. It was a good system for him and proved to be quite effective.
His creativity followed him into the kitchen, but those outcomes weren’t always as successful. While he could envision the change of torque based on gear ratio, the perfect combination of flavors sometimes eluded him. The unknown never stopped his experimentation, though. I once watched him make a sandwich: a tomato, mayonnaise, and pimento cheese sandwich… with peanut butter. As he finished the last bite, the expression on my face probably betrayed my expectations. It looked disgusting, but he had eaten every crumb with enthusiasm. When I asked him how it was, his reply was straightforward: “Terrible, but I didn’t want to waste the tomato.”
Not all of his food trials were flops. Homemade ice cream was always better when Granddaddy made it. Vanilla with fresh peaches is a standard in many households, but my Granddaddy also made homemade Cheerwine ice cream. I was often his sous chef assisting with the measuring and preparation, and I paid great attention to his methods. However, I’ve never been able to re-invent that tastiness – never mastered that Cheerwine mixture. I only remember his was perfect. Peanut butter fudge was another exercise in flawlessness. Granddaddy was smart and had a sweet tooth.
I didn’t always like the appearance of his culinary research, and I wasn’t usually the first to try something new at his house. When it comes to the food I put into my mouth, I can be a little picky – maybe even judgmental – and I’ve continued that practice into adulthood. My son recently popped something into his mouth that looked terrible to me. Before I even thought about it, I spoke just one word. “Ew.” He didn’t even look up as he reached for another bite and flatly quipped: Don’t judge me.
Judgment can take on a life of its own very quickly. Scripture speaks to discernment in several places, and Jesus provided clear teaching on the subject. My personal challenge is in recognizing the nuances of judgment and discernment. Nowhere did Jesus say “don’t judge.” To the contrary, the teaching of our Lord is that we should judge – but we should only do so with “right judgment.”
In John 7, Jesus is helping the Jews to realize that they have misunderstood the need for the Law of Moses. They are judging Jesus based on appearance rather than discerning who Jesus is. To their eyes, Jesus appears to be neglecting the rules by healing on the Sabbath. In their judgment, he is to be condemned. Were they to follow God’s will and the spirit of the law to treat one another with respect and self-control, they easily would have reached a tastier conclusion.
Our focus is to be on what is best and right for one another rather than on following each letter of the law for self-righteous intentions. Jesus wants his followers to understand that their relationship with God drives them to make good decisions based on God’s will and God’s righteousness. Re-inventing that teaching to better fit our desires adds an evil bitterness to the mixture.
In simple terms, I should never think of myself as better than another because I think I follow more rules. My goal is to be so in love with Jesus that I only want what is best for myself and others, and I can easily discern between good and evil. The food I fill myself with is the honey-sweet Word of God which nourishes me and keeps me healthy – so healthy that I refrain from offering judgment and only serve mercy and love to others.
I haven’t mastered that recipe yet, but I’m willing to taste every morsel God puts in front of me as I learn and grow and serve. During these 40 days of Lent, may I be open to God re-inventing me in creative ways.
Combining God’s flavors,
PRAYER FROM JOHN 7
Preparing God, thank you for all the seasonings you provide to create just the right mixture within me. Stir me with your goodness, and flavor me with your Love. Help me cast away judgment and learn to discern your will so that I may feast in your presence. Amen.