There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor?–James 4:12
Here I am, sitting at my desk in my bedroom, going over my thoughts about how my experience growing up as a Christian has affected my current view of Christians. I was writing about how I had felt judged five years ago in the last bible study group I was a part of because I asked so many questions. In a way, I was making myself seem self-righteous by villainizing that group as close-minded judgers, and showcasing how I’m not like them, I’m not a judgemental Christian. Of course I can admit that I’ve sinned, and will continue to do so, even though I try my best not to. But it’s still nice to think of myself as being morally in line with biblical teachings. And then Unwritten by Natasha Bedingfield comes on while I’m in the middle of misleadingly flattering and comparing myself, and that’s when I burst into hypocritical laughter.
God has got a great sense of humor.
I’m hit with a gentle reminder that I’m no better than “that” group of Christians that I felt judged against. I don’t have my faith all figured out, I will continue to struggle with understanding it, and will make mistakes along the way. And so will everyone else within the Christian faith, if they’re being honest with you. I couldn’t judge them anymore than I can judge myself.
As private as this life lesson is, I’ll share it with you, and you can take from it what you want. Transparency as a learning tool is something I like to embrace, even if it goes against my comfort of keeping certain things to myself.
On a warm, sunny Tuesday at the end of August, I was on an overnight train from Croatia to Hungary. I made friends with these two Irish guys, and after 6 hours of resisting their flirty Irish charm and accents, I caved, and ended up making out with one of them in the middle of the night. His friend had gone to bed in another compartment, and the boxcar was dark and empty except for us, and the occasional conductor patrolling up and down the train. We had been listening to music before things started happening, and sometime in the middle of it, Unwritten came on, and I had to laugh at how cheesy his playlist was, he had the same music taste as me.
Looking back, I had a lot of fun, and I don’t regret anything. It was spontaneous, yet thoughtful. I won’t ever have an experience like that again, and it seriously felt like I stepped into a movie. But if you look at it from a biblical perspective, that wasn’t the most Christian thing to do…even though he was a Catholic. I followed my superficial curiosity rather than my more foundational morality, was selfish, and got a little hurt in the process. He said he would “check in occasionally” but I only received one text from him, and I doubt we’ll cross paths again. As I learned in Spanish class four years ago: Son las cosas de la vida.
So you can imagine me sitting at my desk, writing about victimizing myself from other Christians not following the word of God, and then being hit with a reminder in the form of Spotify. Even though these sins are very different, they’re still sins. And I’m really no better. My burns are healed and I’ve forgiven them, and now I’m ready to reenter a Christian community of peers again, with an open heart, despite my fear of groups with a strong single-mindset. I don’t want to be alone anymore.
And I’m not alone anymore! At the start of the semester I joined this quaint little bible study in Vlissingen, made up of students and led by this young family from Middelburg. It’s very different than past bible studies, and it feels more like we are all there to learn together and navigate together, rather than being talked to about the Bible. I’m really relieved to have the spiritual accountability back, and I know I’ll grow faster with them than on my own.