Walking a Thin Line

Written for my church’s daily devotional in June…

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?

Romans 2:1-3

As a chaperone for a New York City field trip, I boarded the subway with my daughter’s class. A man lay on one seat, sweatpants pulled up to the knee revealing legs crisscrossed by scabs. Despite open eyes beneath his blue-tinted sunglasses, he remained oblivious to our group. When spoken to, he either could not or would not respond. A wet stain with yellowed edges on his pants added a tragic stroke to an already dismal image.

Recognizing signs of drug abuse, I stood between him and the teenagers in my care, uncertain how the chemical cocktail in his veins would manifest in his behavior. My heart hurt for him.

Early in my Christian walk, I lacked such compassion. Shamefully, I often disdained anyone who fell short of obeying God by my standards, blind to my failure in obeying Him to Christ’s standards. Such judgmental thoughts never stay secret but corrupt actions and attitudes, poisoning our witness.

Since those days, God has humbled me, reminding me I’m no better than the man on the subway. But for the grace of God, I could have been lying there.

As an unbeliever, I struggled with an intense self-focus I preferred to call depression. I congratulated myself on not taking prescription antidepressants even as I self-medicated with alcohol and marijuana. Pride blinded me to my double standard. How many steps down this slippery slope did I lack before tumbling into my own pit of addiction? I shudder to imagine.

 The truth is, the condition of the man on the train closely mirrors anyone’s spiritual state apart from Christ. Including mine. When I reflect on the mercy God showed me, I can no longer condemn others.

What horror brought this man to a point of surrendering hope and dignity for a temporary respite from reality? I doubt he made a conscious choice to enslave himself to a drug. Addiction is insidious, seeming to offer relief. But over time, it takes more and more until it has complete dominion. Exactly like every other sin.

Today, Christ alone stands between the filth of my sins and the wrath of the Father, and He alone offers genuine and lasting relief.  He offers it to the man on the train, as well. My place is not to judge but I have the privilege of sharing the freedom I’ve found in Christ. I pray that poor man will find Christ, too.

Questions to Ponder:

  1. Most of us struggle against addiction in some form. If not drugs or alcohol, it could be porn, food, approval, work, reward, entertainment – the list is long. What are you prone to enslave yourself to?
  2. Does what you give your time and effort to really satisfy, or does it take more and more over time?
  3. Next time you find yourself craving some relief or release, try crying out to God instead, asking Him to change your craving for what does not satisfy into a desire for Him.  He alone can truly fill our gaping need.

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