by Kenneth Justice
~ The other day at coffee I was congratulating one of my coffee acquaintances, “Dude, for the nearly 10 year’s I’ve known you, this is the longest you’ve dated a woman…what’s its been now, a little over a year?” I asked
He gave me one of those quizzical looks people give when they want to tell you something, but aren’t sure how to say it,
“Look Kenneth, I’m gonna just come out and say it cause I’m tired of trying to dance around the truth with ya; to be perfectly honest with you, I’m the other man” he said
Apparently the woman he’s been dating for the past year has another boyfriend…..and my acquaintance is merely the ‘other man’. “Does boyfriend #1 know about you?” I asked
“Yea, sort of….this is one of those situations in which we’re all aware of what is going on but we simply pretend that we don’t…..sort of like the whole ‘don’t ask don’t tell’ policy” he said
Maybe its just me, but the longer I live the more I realize that there are a lot of people out there in life who live very different lives than mine…..and they are okay with it. For me, I grew up in a church culture where everyone had to conform to certain standards of living and anyone who deviated from the path were treated like lepers and shamed for being awful sinners. Even though the bible never says that we should treat people like s**t……somehow it was implied that if certain ‘sins’ were found out, there would be hell to pay;
—) have sex before marriage and you were treated like you were the worst of sinners
—) be the ‘other man’ and well,…..let’s just say that the church leaders aren’t going to pat you on the back on Sunday saying, ‘good job dude’
A decade ago if someone were to have sat at coffee with me and tell me they are the ‘other man’ I probably would have chewed their head off with my sharp criticisms. Surely I would of condemned him and told him that he was a terrible human being for being the ‘other man’. Yet now….all these years later I ask myself; what was the point of all the hostility I displayed toward people when I was younger? Did I really make someone’s life better by condemning them and telling them they were an awful person, mired in the depths of sin?
A number of readers have commented and emailed me this past week on the topic of sin and hell (to be honest I get comments and emails on this topic every single week). The general theme of those who disagree with me is their belief that one of the most ‘loving’ things Christians can do for those who do not believe in Christianity is to tell them they are “headed to hell”
I suppose this is the 10th article on this topic I’ve written in the last six months and the reason I keep coming back to the subject is that nowhere else in my thinking is there the evidence of the greatest change than right here.; I’ve learned that I would rather demonstrate grace toward others than condemnation.
The old saying says, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” but in the course of the last few years I have to be honest; I’ve experienced a great deal of change in this area. At first it involved me biting my tongue; I would hold back what I really wanted to say to someone….I can remember instances where I was chomping-at-the-bit to chew someone’s head off for some particular ‘sin’ or ‘bad behavior’ they were involved in……and begrudgingly hold back what I really wanted to say. However, as the years went by and I focused more on loving people…..I found that I didn’t have to bite my tongue as much because to put it quite simply; I realized that I no longer harbored those angst-filled condemning words that used to flow so easily from my tongue.
I noticed that the more I focused on simply loving others and demonstrating grace towards them, (the same grace that many have shown towards me) my heart began to change. Instead of having to ‘work’ at biting my tongue…..my entire demeanor and attitude experienced a paradigm shift and all my previous hostility was slowly fading to grey.
I realize more and more that its not my place in life to tell others how they are supposed to live. Now for a lot of people, that last sentence might send them into a tizzy because they believe there is only ‘one’ way to live and anyone who deviates from the ‘one’ path must be told they need behavior modification. However, as I’ve written before,
“Authenticity wins in the end. Truth (whatever the truth may be) wins in the end. Coercing people, ramrodding your religious beliefs down people’s throats, throwing people up against the wall……those tactics are simply sad and disheartening”
I’m six days away from the beginning of a year long journey stretching out into 10 countries and 25 U.S. States……the success of this journey rests not on me meeting with people and condemning them…..but rather; it rests upon me connecting with others, listening, learning, and ultimately me demonstrating the same type of love towards others that has been shown towards me. Whether you believe in god or not isn’t something I worry about…..but for me, because I believe I have been shown a lot of grace from heaven; I feel its my responsibility to return the favor and show grace towards others.
Its freezing here in the Midwest….and the coffee at my table really helps,
(P.S. If you haven’t heard I’m going on a national and worldwide tour of 100 coffee houses in 2014 check out my link for the news and stay tuned for dates and locations <link> )