Recently, I was at a function when a man I’d never met before, walked up, said he’d spotted the tattoo on my wrist and asked what it was. I explained it was a Bible verse and I’d had it done about 4 years ago.
‘Do you know what the Bible says about tattoos?’ he asked, before popping out a small Bible from his pocket and thumbing to Leviticus 19:28.
Do not cut your bodies for the dead or put tattoo marks on yourselves. I am the Lord.
What do you think of that? He said.
I was a bit dazed at the suddenness of his theological ambush. There were lots of things I could have said but I (clumsily) opted for a light defence; my tattooed Bible verse about God’s faithfulness, was a reminder to me – definitely not any kind of dead-people-worship.
My new acquaintance couldn’t see the difference, dismissed it as an ‘offence to God’, cheerily let me know that I shouldn’t feel condemned for my ‘sin’, before swiftly moving on. Cheers, my friend.
I stood there for a minute, feeling a bit sick and wobbly and the feeling stuck with me all night. Later I was trying to figure out why I felt so strange and then it hit me; I’d been judged.
This man had formed a whole opinion about my character, my spiritual life and personality, based on some ink on my wrist. I felt so wobbly because what I wanted to say was, ‘but there’s more…there’s a story about why I did it…there’s more to me, than a bit of inky needlework on my skin’.
But he’d made up his mind based on what he’d seen.
Being judged actually feels quite rotten. I suspect over the years, I’ve done plenty of my own judging, but rarely have I felt the effects of it. If I’m honest, I too will have judged others on appearance or thought they’d not be ‘my kind’ of person. Haven’t we all? We make snap judgements about people and situations all the time. I wish I didn’t, but the thought is sometimes in my head before I’ve even had chance to notice it was knocking at the door.
It’s not till someone does it to us, do we realise properly, how hurtful and harmful judgement is. I love how the Message version of Matthew 7 puts it;
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticise their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudgeon your neighbour’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbour.”
(Matthew 7:1-5 MSG)
Strong words from Jesus, who knew just what judgement could do…not just because of the harm it can do, but also because he knew what it felt like.