"For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
Against you have I sinned…
You are justified when you judge." - Psalm 51: 3-4
A minister friend did something wrong (no, not what you're thinking). It unsettled him for weeks, so he shared it with close friends. He needed some truth. What he got was support: It wasn't that bad. Your intentions were good. You're too hard on yourself. Let it go.
His friends made him feel worse. Either they thought him incapable of doing anything wrong, which he knew was untrue, or he didn't matter enough to them to be taken seriously. So he went to see a pastoral colleague.
She said a prayer affirming God's love, then invited him to confess. He did. She acknowledged his fault. Was he sorry? Yes. Would he make amends? Yes. Do things differently? With God's help. He prayed for pardon. Then she declared him forgiven in Christ's name. A final prayer recalled the joy in heaven over a lost lamb found. They embraced. He left in peace.
If you knew what he did, you might've agreed with his friends: It wasn't that bad, too small for such penitential formality. But whenever someone sheds a false sense of innocence and reaches for greater authenticity, even in a small thing, it's a big thing. It deserves the best response we have. Being supportive isn't always the best we can do.
There are good reasons why we don't want to judge anyone. Good reasons why we'd rather be supportive. Still, my friend got the greater gift that day—the knowledge that God thinks enough of him to judge him, forgive him, pluck him from even minor danger, and bring him safely home.
Because I'm worth everything to you, O God, judge me, please.
Mary Luti is a long time seminary educator and pastor, author of Teresa of Avila’s Way and numerous articles, and founding member of The Daughters of Abraham, a national network of interfaith women’s book groups.