A Nonjudgmental Presence
To the degree that we accept that through Christ we ourselves have been reconciled with God we can be messengers of reconciliation for others. Essential to the work of reconciliation is a nonjudgmental presence.
We are not sent to the world to judge, to condemn, to evaluate, to classify, or to label. When we walk around as if we have to make up our mind about people and tell them what is wrong with them and how they should change, we will only create more division.
Jesus says it clearly:
“Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge; … do not condemn; … forgive” (Luke 6:36-37).
In a world that constantly asks us to make up our minds about other people, a nonjudgmental presence seems nearly impossible. But it is one of the most beautiful fruits of a deep spiritual life and will be easily recognized by those who long for reconciliation.
– Henri J. M. Nouwen
An Alternative Story
“Ivan Illich was once asked, “What is the most revolutionary way to change society: Is it violent revolution or is it gradual reform?” He gave a careful answer: “Neither. If you want to change society, then you must tell an alternative story,” he concluded.
GENESIS – by Eugene Petersen
First God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don’t have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at centre and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God.
Genesis gets us off on the right foot. Genesis pulls us into a sense of reality that is God-shaped and God-filled. It gives us a vocabulary for speaking accurately and comprehensively about our lives, where we come from and where we are going, what we think and what we do, the people we live with and how to get along with them, the troubles we find ourselves in and the blessings that keep arriving.
Genesis uses words to make a foundation that is solid and true. Everything we think and do and feel is material in a building operation in which we are engaged all our life long. There is immense significance in everything that we do. Our speech and our actions and our prayers are all, every detail of them, involved in this vast building operation comprehensively known as the Kingdom of God. But we don’t build the foundation. The foundation is given. The foundation is firmly in place.
Jesus concluded his most famous teaching by telling us that there are two ways to go about our lives—we can build on sand or we can build on rock. No matter how wonderfully we build, if we build on sand it will all fall to pieces like a house of cards. We build on what is already there, on the rock. Genesis is a verbal witness to that rock. God’s creative acts, God’s intervening and gracious judgments, God’s call to a life of faith, God’s making covenant with us.
But Genesis presents none of this to us as an abstract, bloodless “truth” or “principle.” We are given a succession of stories with named people, people who loved and quarrelled, believed and doubted, had children and married, experienced sin and grace. If we pay attention, we find that we ourselves are living variations on these very stories. Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, Noah and his sons, Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel, Joseph and his brothers. The stories show clearly that we are never outsiders or spectators to anything in “heaven and earth”. God doesn’t work impersonally from space; he works with us where we are, as he finds us. No matter what we do, whether good or bad, we continue to be part of everything that God is doing. Nobody can drop out—there’s no place to drop out to. So we may as well get started and take our place in the story—at the beginning.