It seems that as humans we find casting judgement just about as easy as breathing, and far more entertaining if the sheer volume of it is any indication. I used to think that this sort of thing was a phase you grew out of, but the older I get the more I realized that we don't stop judging, we just change the topics that we care about enough to mention.
As a single adult, I get why aren't you married/ don't you want a husband/ are you gay/ have you tried xyz dating service/ you should pray more/ just wait for Jesus more/ stop thinking about getting married and God will surprise you with a spouse when you least expect it. I've been given unsolicited and unwanted dating advice in all sorts of places, most notably at the funeral home during my grandfather's funeral. (I wish I was kidding.) But of course if I do get married one day, it won't stop there.
Friends of mine who have faced infertility have had unspeakable things said to them. One family who was blessed with quadruplets gets "wow, isn't that a lot of children?" while yet another friend, a mother of twins, has perfect strangers asking about her medical history. If you have one child people want to know when you're having the next one but for goodness sake don't get pregnant too quickly, or wait too long. What is it about us that makes us think we have any right to ask, let alone any claim on the answers?
I was talking to Dallas today and he said, "in the old testament we used stones, after the curtain ripped Jesus allowed us to exchange Rocks for words". He was joking around when he said it but it struck me how much truth is in those words. We so easily throw judgements around but they are not little harmless pebbles, they are rocks. Jesus said that whoever was blameless was allowed to throw the first rock and I think it would be good to keep that in mind when it comes to judgements too. If I am faultless then I am qualified to judge, but until then I can only hope to become well versed in the language of mercy.
Shakespeare spoke of mercy dropping like the gentle rain of heaven. Mercy is often associated with weaker words but there is an incredible depth of strength in it. To be merciful I have to be secure enough in myself that I don't need to take anything of yours. Mercy comes out of our excess. It is a generosity of spirit, of choosing not to take the cheap shot and the cheap thrill that comes with it. Mercy says, "I don't need to point out your faults, or prove to you how smart I am". Mercy is the one who is there to help clean up the mess without commenting on how the mess got there in the first place.
I still remember, four or five years ago now a good friend of mine showing up to church heavily pregnant and unmarried. As she stepped into the sanctuary someone made a horrible comment to her as if she did not know which choices lead her to where she stood. It was hurtful and so very unnecessary and the one and only time I have ever really wanted to punch someone in a sanctuary. She was like the poor man with only one lamb in the story Nathan used to rebuke David in 2 Samuel 12. She was feeling pretty alone but she came to church hoping for a little support and received harsh words instead. It would have taken so little for this person to simply say "Good morning, I'm glad you're here." Where else should she be on a Sunday morning?
It's always a tricky business talking about judgement because it's pretty much impossible to be anything other than judgemental while doing so. So let me say it here, "mea culpa". I totally do this too. Why do we do it? Well tell ourselves that we're just trying to help but that's not true. If we wanted to help, really and truly, we would do a lot more listening and a lot less talking. We would make a meal for that new mother instead of berating her for not breastfeeding. We would offer a little comfort instead of kicking the person who is obviously down. We would remember that only God can cast the first stone, and then we'd go back and read that story again and remember that He choose not to throw a stone at all. Instead he said, "neither do I condemn you." Now there's words to live by.