“Do Love. Don’t Judge.”

I can just imagine the scene. It had been a long morning on the road and Jesus and his mates had stopped to take a rest. The dust of the road covered their feet and they were more than ready for a drink in the shade. Jesus sat leaning up against the trunk of a sycamore tree as this oddball mix of travelling companions gathered around him.

Three bikers taking a selfie in front of a signpost for Helsinki.
On The Road in 2023 

There had been some grumbling in the ranks and some jibes at someone else’s expense, as this rough and ready band of brothers followed their leader. “I’m not being racist, but did Jesus really have to spend so long talking to that Samaritan woman?” said one. “What about that lunatic in graveyard too?” says another, “I’m still trying to work that one out. It was such a drama getting there, and next to that pig farm”. “Oh, and what about those lepers too. Good grief, they stunk to high heaven. No wonder they’ve got no mates”, chipped in another, as he took a swig of water from the jar.

Jesus realises there’s still some of the basics the lads are struggling to understand. He gets their attention, and gives them a reminder, for what seems like the hundredth time. “The thing is guys; it’s about love, and not about judging people by their circumstances, their race, their afflictions, their failures or indeed their successes.” It would be a long learning curve for these first followers of Jesus, but one that eventually would make sense as they learned they could not pick and choose which bits of Jesus’s teaching to take seriously or not.

Overall it sounds pretty straight forward. Do love. Don’t judge. In practice though, it is considerably harder and too often, we don’t love, and we do judge. Like an addict craving for a drink, we return to what will make us feel better for a moment, selectively oblivious to the damage caused. We don’t take someone’s opinion seriously because we don’t understand their accent, their sexuality, or their heritage, and we mock. We assume because a person has a disability they somehow don’t have a voice of their own, and we ignore them. We place a person’s worth on the basis of some self-righteous sliding scale of whether they are better or worse than us. Within our church communities some faces fit better than others with cliques that exclude and all of these attitudes are a long way from the core teachings of Jesus that should always be about love, and not marked by prejudice.

I need to confess, I’m a card-carrying judge. Every personality profile test I have done reminds me of that. Of the Myers-Briggs personality types I am an INFJ and that ‘J’ for judgemental has been both a blessing and curse over the years. I can be fiercely critical of myself and set my own bar very high. I can be unreasonably ambitious when setting a bar for someone else and get frustrated when their expectations aren’t what I would settle for. Learning to live within my own skin, and learning to love others around me in theirs remains a challenge, but it got a whole lot easier when I listened a little more attentively to the Master, as I sat in the shade under my particular tree.

Many years ago, the words of Jesus, (printed in red in the bible I had), took on a deeper fascination. Amid questions and frustrations of what it meant to be a follower, the Sermon on the Mount became a magnet for my attention. A radical change in my thinking was prompted by engaging with these words in Matthew’s gospel. It called for a change of heart, mind and soul. It illustrated that God’s love is for all; if there was a judgement to be made, that was God’s call, not mine. 

It continues to challenge, and encourage me, that we are all a bit dysfunctional at times, yet we are all deeply loved and we should aspire to love deeply. None of us is a mistake and being a disciple of Christ, does not give me some God given right to think I can camouflage prejudice into a righteous life, and place a person’s worth on anything less than the value that God places on them. We are all fragile, we can be weak, we can fail, but we are not worthless. None of us is the sum of other people’s prejudice or judgement towards us.

In God’s Biker, I have tried to distil fifty years into 70,000 words. A big part of my journey has been learning not to judge, and to love instead. It is where I have found beauty in broken places – and that is precisely what God sees in each of us, those we love and, and those we find it hard to love.

Originally written for the SPCK Blog January 2019 ©Sean Stillman