Thursday, August 1, 2013

Fruit Inspectors?

A person I know very well uses a term to cover her tendency to judge others (no, it is not my wife).  When it is pointed out to her that she may be a bit judgmental in talking about others, she always says, "I am not judging.  I am being a fruit inspector.  The Bible says you will know them by their fruits."  To which I usually respond, "Regardless of what you call it, you are still judging."

Jesus had a good reason for saying the famous quote, "Judge not, lest ye be judged."  The verse does not stop there but continues, "for with the judgment you make, you will be judged."  (Matt. 7:1)  Or as it is often said, "What goes around, comes around" or "Whatever you sow, you will reap" or if you are of the Buddhist tradition, "That's karma, for you."

When we examine the faults, failings, or sins of others and pronounce them to be bad or sinful, we overlook all of our own failings.  All of us miss the mark in our lives.  Most of us know what to do--we just don't do it.  That is the reason why a very familiar prayer of confession includes the words, "we have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done."  (Book of Common Prayer)  The plea that follows the prayer is one for mercy from God, admitting that our lives could be better.  How sad, then, that we as human beings cast a disparaging eye toward others whom we consider to be sinful based upon some societal norm or some line of thinking that someone may have taught us.

A source that is very extrabiblical, the score from the musical, South Pacific contains the lyrics from the song, "You Have to Be Carefully Taught" in which a character sings about why it is that people hate one another.  The song contains a lot of truth-
You've got to be taught to hate and fear,
You've got to be taught from year to year,
It's got to be drummed in your dear little ear,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,

You've got to be carefully taught!

The story in South Pacific, you may recall, is about a sailor who falls in love with a woman from the island where the sailors are serving.  He is warned by some that if he marries her, they will not be accepted by others back home.  He sings the song to reflect upon the nature of hatred and why it is that some hate others just because of the way they are.  The song was not immediately accepted when the musical played on Broadway in 1949 when it debuted.  It hit a bit too close to home in an era when black military persons could serve alongside white ones but when they got home they found segregation as the rule of the day.

Today, we struggle with acceptance of others based on many criteria.  Some of the characteristics are those that our parents passed down to us and told us that such persons were unacceptable.  When we really take the time to know a person of a certain kind (you can fill in the blank with the characteristic that makes you uncomfortable), we may be surprised to learn that others share much more in common with us than have things to separate us.

Have you ever met someone and really got to know them that you have always dreading being around?  Have you ever had a friend who was different from you in skin color or religion or ethnic background or any other characteristic you can name?  If you did or do, you can remember how much you had in common.  If you have never exposed yourself to others who are much different from yourself, then perhaps it is time to step out of your safety zone and test the waters and see what may happen.  You may be surprised at how much it enriches your life.

Many of you know that I love to travel.  I would love to go just about anywhere in the world.  When I travel, though, I rarely stay in hotels.  Instead, we stay in bed and breakfasts or in spare rooms that people have and take in travelers in exchange for a small fee (there is a website that offers these arrangements).  We have never had a bad experience but instead have made friends across the US and the world.  Why put yourself out there where you are vulnerable?  As it said on a poster in my office when I was a school counselor--"Go out on a limb.  That is where the fruit is."  Delicious, ripe, juicy fruit of friendship and love...ready for any fruit inspector to have a look at.  Taste and see that it is good.

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