Wouldn’t that be a great sign to see on the highway?
I drive through a construction zone on my way to work each day. It’s been there for over a year now and according to the city’s website the project, an overpass for a new commuter rail line, won’t be finished for at least another eighteen months. Most of the time it’s not a big deal, the construction engineers have planned the project in such a way that, so far at least, they haven’t had to close any lanes on the highway, so the effect on traffic flow has been minimal. People still slow down and at certain times of the day it’s best to avoid the area altogether if you can but for the most part it’s okay and once the project is finished the amount of cars that are on that particular stretch of road will be greatly reduced as more people simply take the train downtown rather than drive. But for now, no pain, no gain, as the mayor once said.
I thought about that construction zone recently when someone mentioned how free life feels when we live without any sense of judgement or shame.
Like a construction zone, when we feel the judgement of others it causes us to slow down. It restricts the flow of ideas to an approved “lane” created by people who want to control us. And worst of all it makes us feel ashamed of ourselves when we try to cheat the system and drive on the shoulder.
In many ways I think the idea of shame, which is the result of judgement, is wrapped up with original sin. At the end of the creation story we read what I believe are perhaps the most beautiful words in all of scripture.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. [Genesis 2:25]
What this verse gives us is an image of complete vulnerability and deep trust. God is there too, of course, communing directly with his creation, but it is the mutual vulnerability and intimacy of the scene that captures my imagination. To be naked and unashamed means there is no judgement, there is no restriction in the interplay between Adam, Eve and God. Everything is out in the open there are no hidden agendas and no questionable motives, just free flowing community.
That all changed when the serpent seduced Eve into eating the apple. The forbidden fruit though was not any particular sin. Many theologians will tell you that the “original sin” has to do with trust and obedience and I agree I also believe that the heart of the matter is even simpler than that. I believe that the forbidden fruit is nothing more than the knowledge of right and wrong because with knowledge comes judgement and with judgement comes shame.
Jesus gave special attention to children for just this reason. Without knowledge of the evils of this word children are able to maintain a level of innocent sincerity in all they do. That is until someone breaks their bubble.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who, then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me. If anyone causes one of these little ones – those who believe in me – to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! [Matthew 18:1-8]
That is also one of the reasons why I believe Jesus was so charismatic. People were drawn to him because they felt that he understood them in a way the rest of the world could not. Jesus knew everything about the people he interacted with but reserved judgement, instead allowing them to partake of his blessings without the need to meet any sort of religious criteria, atone for any sin or be cleansed of any impurity before they approached.
Jesus’ interaction with the woman at the well is a perfect example. He knew everything there was to know about her sinful past, yet he did not judge her and she went away filled with “living water” calling everyone she met to draw near and learn about a man who “told her everything she ever did.” [John 4]. Released of her shame the woman became one of the first evangelists.
So here’s the deal.
You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, at least not in the way that Jesus does. If Jesus, who knows everything we’ve ever done, refuses to judge and condemn an adulterous woman and insisted on protecting the innocence of children the least I can do is proclaim the world around me a “judgement free zone”.
I’m sinful. I won’t get it right every time (or even some of the time for that matter) but I can try and that’s enough. Because this is a judgement free zone, and that includes judging myself.