Overcoming that ‘Better Than Thou’ Attitude

Fr. Gordon Hines, Rector, St. George's Anglican Church

Overcoming that Bettter-Than-Thou Attitude

“The Gospel Reading for today’s message is taken from the sixth chapter of St. Luke, beginning at the 36th verse.”

“BE ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again. And he spake a parable unto them, Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

I am certain each one of us can recall when we were young, being labeled by our peers, siblings or parents; branded a name that, we felt, would forever define us.  “Oh, you’re the geek, the jock, miss popular, or Tony’s brother. You’re that bad kid, that poor student, or that goody, goody.” Make a blunder, acquire a bad habit, say or do a silly thing, or look a certain way, and those actions bring judgment. I knew of a child who was only two, who was called by her parents, “The Beast,” because of her, at times, bad behavior. With such a mark of disparagement on her person, I wonder what she is like today.

Being young, at an impressionable age, struggling to figure out who we are, it is easy to accept the opinions of others and to carry those into our adulthood. These scars of degradation can still cause us pain today.

Worse, as adults, we are in the crosshairs of being judged at any moment, whether by our past, present or perceived sins.  Maybe you have recently been refused an invitation to a wedding or party, or have been cut off by a friend or family member. A judgment has been made that you are not worthy to be in their presence.  Mind you, if you caused a scene at a social gathering, or threatened violence, it may take time to rebuild their trust before you are admitted back into their presence – there are those we must love from a distance. But, oftentimes, such judgments are done from baser, sinful motives, such as spite, jealousy, pride, or anger.

Our Lord’s teaching from the Gospel of St. Luke is that we are not to judge, but rather, we are to be merciful, as our Father in Heaven is merciful (Luke 6:36). This isn’t to say we are to wink and ignore bad and destructive behavior in others. We are called by God to discriminate, to discern between right and wrong.  However, before we go further, before we take action to deal with evil in others, our heart must be in alignment with God’s, we must see others as He does, as a merciful Father, who is described as the “lover of souls.”

We can now know the heart of God the Father and how we are to emulate His mercy, through His Son, of whom Isaiah prophesied, “A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench :…(Isa. 42:3)

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