A few years back I worked at a public transport location in another city not to far from where I live. I was inside the building, inside the information booth when I started hearing someone yelling. Nothing new there – anyone who works in the public sector knows all sorts of yelling can go on whenever strangers are thrown together. Eventually I went outside to see what was happening – did I need to call the police? I had to do that occasionally so my phone and 911 were at my fingertips.
Outside the building, on the sidewalk stood a middle-aged woman, average dress, average height, average everything except she was carrying a gianormous stick (think staff, or shepherd’s crook without the crook) in one hand and a well-worn Bible in the other. She was shouting out “Repent and be saved!” and Bible verses like John 3:16 (For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.) She wasn’t garnering any attention; the busy hub was filled with people going about their daily business, completely ignoring her. I left her alone and went back inside. I did have a couple of complaints about her but as long as she wasn’t preaching inside the building, she was free to do as she wanted (within the law, of course).
My first reaction was actually a smirk and some snarky thought crossed my mind. Immediately I remembered a teaching from the mega-church I had attended and left so many years before. The teaching was that when God inspires/tells someone to do something – no matter how ridiculous it may seem to me – who am I to judge that believer? They are doing what they believe God has called them to do and as long as no person or creature is harmed, how can I possibly know if it’s of God or not? Do I know the mind of God? Do I have the wisdom of the ages or some special insight into God’s workings with His children? No, and no.
This teaching, which I frequently remember as I am prone to judging other believers and how they represent God, came about during the 80’s when there were quite a few scandals involving Evangelistic preachers (Jimmy Swaggart, Jim and Tammy Faye Baker, and Ernest Angley come to mind). The minister of my church had overheard some members making fun of those preachers, mocking them and criticizing them. Whatever sermon he had pre-prepared went out the window because by the time he got to the pulpit that morning he was so angry he blew holes in the back of the church with his words of chastisement for his flock. And rightly so. I can say that because I was one of the ones involved and had to seek forgiveness for my judgmental actions.
The point of the teaching is that once God has given a gift to someone, He doesn’t take it back. When God calls a someone to preach or be a prophet or a healer or teacher, and he strays (as we all do) or she stands on the street corner ‘acting a fool for God’, God isn’t ashamed or embarrassed by them; He continues to love them and bless them and their gift remains with them – no matter how they use it.
Instead of judging or mocking another believer for how they interpret the workings of God in their life, pray for them – that God will continue to bless them and that through their efforts others are brought back into the arms of God.