As my wife and I were leaving a local clothing store the other evening, I noticed something curious. The clerk was very business-like and to the point, speaking in a tired drawl that clearly intimated weariness at the end of a long day of retail customer service. I’ll spare you the details of our entire interaction, other than the fact that I was fixated on the huge tattoo on the clerk’s arm that read (in all caps): “ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME.” I observed the markings right away and the words set me off speculating why someone would ink that phrase on their arm. I wondered what kind of story this person was living.
I considered the times I have felt the judgment of others. I thought about my tendency to judge folks.
Judgment happens when we muddy our belief in God (and Jesus) with our own agenda for other people.
Who “judged” this clerk harshly enough for her to point out this truth in permanent ink for the entire world to see?
I had the urge to interrupt the sales transaction and tell her the truth about her tattoo – I didn’t want her to confuse the judgment of people with the love and grace that God offers. I didn’t say anything. I justextended an unreturned smile and walked out of the store. For some reason, I had the suspicion that the last thing this girl needed at closing time after a long day was someone else mentioning her tattoo.
The funny thing about permanent ink (especially the ones that are so visible) is that they really portray the passions of a person. This clerk had some conviction about not being judged. The words on her arm were unquestionably, theologically correct.
I thought all weekend about that tattoo. I am sure there are thousands of religious folks out there that would utter a “that’s right” or an “amen.” The more Ireflected about that ink and the store clerk, the more I have realized the truth that judgment is the easy way out. We do it naturally, effortlessly — each and every day of our lives.
Love is a much tougher response. Look what love required of Jesus. Maybe someday, that clerk will come into relationship with some folks whose only agenda will be to show her the love of Christ. Maybe then she can complete the tattoo on her other arm (in all bold letters) “BUT GOD LOVES ME.”