The first time that I had a man sit with his wife across from me in my office and tell me that he was about to be arrested for a felony crime that would bring major consequences, I was challenged internally. I had handled many criminal offenses, but they were largely misdemeanors with potential jail time but no real victim. Up until that point, it was mostly people just messing up their own lives. This was different; the allegations were that somebody else’s life was dramatically impacted.
I listened as this man, who had never been in trouble before, cried and told me of the situation. I wasn’t sure how to react to the egregious nature of the allegations and was careful not to react at all. Finally, after quite a bit of me being quiet and them talking, I offered this, “I’m not sure what we’ll do about your case but what I’ll offer you at this point is that I won’t judge you. For now, that’s all I have.”
Sounds simple, I guess, but it was a little more of a watershed moment than that for me.
- I started to see grace and judgment and accusation and guilt differently that day.
- I started to understand, at a level which it had not previously reached, the value of true acceptance despite the evidence of guilt.
- I started to comprehend like never before that I’m not equipped or asked to be the judge. There will be a Judge, it’s just not me.
- I was able to begin to see people differently beyond the flaws and choices and into the intent and design of their creation.
The ramifications of my change in perspectives have been enormous. The value of seeing people despite the distraction of their behavior (most of the time) is infinite. The benefit of being released from having to form an opinion on everybody’s deal to let them know what I think of them and what they did is liberating. The relinquishment of evidence to decide the value of a person in exhange for the freedom of accepting them as the person God intended them to be is peaceful. Underneath of it all, I’ve learned to some small measure the perspective of Jesus as we come to Him crying.