Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12, 13

A young mother was recently sharing a note her child had written on the occasion of a disappointing grade, “I did my best.” I don’t know about you, but those few words brought tears to my eyes. If they touched me so deeply, I’m thinking our heavenly Father is often moved when we fail even though we’ve done our best.

Think of how our behaviors and interactions would be altered when someone comes up short in our measuring scheme if we extended mercy and not criticism. If we embraced them with God’s love and not our selfish, petty condemnation. We assign this and that motive to actions (or inactions) of which we disapprove, and then we behave accordingly. We cut people off because they don’t meet our standards or they hurt our feelings or they don’t respond as we expect.

But WHAT IF, instead of judging and punishing, we begin to say, “He/she did her best.” Sure, I can think of all the reasons people behave as they do – their family backgrounds, their experiences, their education (or lack), their culture, their traditions… And so, what difference does all that make if we really want to love them with God’s love and if we want to respond the way we want God to respond to us?

Father, you told us that we are to do to others as we’d have them do to us. Help us to give up our gavel and robe and instead say, “She did her best.” In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.  Matthew 6:15


K. Chesterton writes a provocative story in his Father Brown series about an occurrence among a small clique of close friends. One has challenged another to a duel, and when a death results, the killer flees into exile. After many years, the friends learn that the runaway has returned but refuses to reenter society.  There is great talk about forgiveness and the justification of the duel (which was legal in those days).

The well-intended friends discuss how best to coerce their friend to leave his isolation even as Fr. Brown cautions against it.  Finally, they force the recluse’s hand only to discover that the living person is actually the one thought to have been killed while the dead friend was essentially murdered by the living.

The little group is incensed.  Brown chastises them saying that they forgive only those sins that they think aren’t really sins (such as a duel) while tolerating “conventional” wrongs.  Someone protests that what was done was vile, and Brown counters with, “…leave [me] to console those who really need consolation; who do things really indefensible, things that neither the world nor they themselves can defend; and none but a priest will pardon.  Leave us with the men who commit the mean and revolting and real crimes; mean as St. Peter when the cock crew, and yet the dawn came.”  By twos and threes the others left in silence.  In the story Chesterton is not pardoning the killer; he is forgiving him—while pointing out the hypocrisy of his “friends.”

Do you ever quantify sin?  This sin is worse than that—this is nothing while that is heinous and unforgivable.  If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand  (Psalm 130:3)?  And yet, it’s so easy to slip onto the judge’s bench and point fingers.  Let us leave the judging to God and become the best forgivers in the Kingdom.  After all, he forgave us.



Father, pull me up short whenever I am tempted to withhold your forgiveness from any one.  Love through me and forgive through me.  Heal through me.  Restore through me.  For your Kingdom’s sake and for your glory.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.



For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  Matthew 7:2  (NIV)


My friend Maria was traveling in South America in a city known for its high crime rate.  She had a business appointment and wanted to reach her destination as soon as possible.  She noticed that the cab driver had been traveling a circuitous route from the time he picked her up.  Having lived a number of years in New York where cabbies would often drive out of their way in order to hike rates, Maria became rather annoyed but didn’t say anything.  She later learned that kidnappings occurred whenever someone stopped for a red light, and her driver had been turning a different direction any time he saw the red lights—to keep her safe.

How often do we make judgments of people based on our personal experiences or evaluation of their character?  Jesus told us that we are not to judge (Matt. 7:1), and if we do, we’ll be judged by the same measure.  Do we look at others with mercy and compassion, making allowances for background or circumstances?

What about the rule of love?  Love doesn’t dishonor others; it doesn’t delight in evil; it protects and hopes; and it never fails (I Cor. 13).  The Golden Rule that we like to have applied to ourselves should remind us that “what goes ‘round comes ‘round.”  Let us love, not judge.  Besides, Oswald Chambers says there’s always one more thing you don’t know about that other person…


Father, thank you for the grace that covers us.  If you should mark iniquities, who would stand?  We’ve all fallen short of your righteousness and constantly need your mercy.  Help us, in turn to be merciful.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.


…man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart. I Samuel 16:7 (KJV)

An amusing story is told of a visit T. E. Lawrence, the famed “Lawrence of Arabia,” paid to his good friend Thomas Hardy, the poet and novelist. At the time, Lawrence was serving in the Royal Air Force and was dressed in uniform when he showed up at Hardy’s house for tea. The mayoress of the village also happened to be a guest and was horrified to be in company with a common soldier. She looked over at Mrs. Hardy, addressing her in French, and said that she’d never in all her life had to sit down to tea with a private soldier. No one said a word. Finally, Lawrence with grace spoke to the mayoress in perfect French, saying, “I beg your pardon, Madam, but can I be of any use as an interpreter? Mrs. Hardy knows no French.”

Oops. Are we ever guilty of looking at people and forming judgments based on what we see rather than waiting to see who they really are? Many people in Jesus’ day did just that. They didn’t wait to see what was behind the humble man with calloused hands who called sinners and publicans friends. They didn’t take time to learn who Jesus was.

Lord, open my eyes so that I see the people you created behind the shapes they inhabit. Give me a heart to love and to serve and to touch all those you bring to me. Remind me that you love me, warts and all, and help me to do the same with others. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.


In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. I Thessalonians 5:18 (KJV)

That day we had vaccinated 155 dogs and 17 cats as part of a vet team in another country. The hours had been long and intense, but, happily, we had been working in shade with a cool breeze.

We had been told not to expect gratitude, but still something troubled me. Only one person of all the people whose animals we had treated said thank you. That wonderful team of 28 people had given their time and expertise and had spent money to leave their comfort zone to come to help. And only one person was thankful.

The week went by as we moved to various locations with much the same response. On the final night, a local business that had provided transportation, drivers, and warehousing for the medications gave a lavish fiesta for the team complete with delicious local cuisine, entertainment, and gifts for us all. When it came time for me to receive my gift, how did I respond? I forgot to say thank you. All week long I had quizzed myself over the failure of so many who had received so much, and when I was in the same spot, I forgot.

It was easy for me to see something troubling in someone else, but when the same shoe was on my foot, I saw how easy it was to take generosity for granted. God’s standard is higher: “…to whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required…”

Father, you have given us all so much. Forgive me for forgetting to say thank you. Work gratitude into my heart so that I remember the Source of every good gift and always express thanksgiving. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Matthew 7:2 (NIV)

“So how is he going to be judged?” I was asked at lunch. Do you ever think people are getting by with things? That they ought to suffer for what they’ve done? It’s so easy to be tempted with those kinds of thoughts. And then we look in the mirror and are so grateful for mercy.

My mom used to say that when we judge someone, we’re assigning motive to their actions, which is arrogance on our part. And however do we know why anyone does anything? Only God knows the heart.

The very instant we begin to judge each other, we lose our peace, and the more we concentrate on their perceived wrong, the more we become distracted from what God has called us to do. Oswald Chambers says there’s always one more thing in that person’s life that we do not know—one more thing that affects his behavior.

Interestingly, even Jesus said he didn’t judge—that was the job of his Father. He allowed that the wheat and the tares grow up together lest the wheat be torn out with the tares if removed prematurely.

Staying focused on Jesus, abiding in him, and rejoicing always in him leaves us no time to look for flaws in others. Actually, judging is a job best left to God who alone knows all things, especially our hearts.

Father, forgive us when we take your job into our hands. All of us need your mercy, and we all should show mercy. Remind us of that when we are tempted to be judgmental. In Jesus’ name. AMEN.