Imagine an inner-city neighborhood on a sweltering summer day. A long draught has baked the pavement and buildings, coating them with dust. An enterprising resident devises a way to turn on one of the fire hydrants full blast. It gushes into the street as people of all ages gather to splash and play. It’s like the Ganges River in the middle of concrete canyons.
A man cries out, “You’re wasting water!” and a woman exclaims, “Exactly! Come and enjoy it with us!”
It reminds me of a well-loved quote from Bishop John Shelby Spong, who died a week ago today.
“If the word “God” can be identified with the Source of Love that flows through the universe, always enhancing life…then the only way we can worship that which we call God is by loving, loving wastefully. Wasteful love never stops to ask whether love is due or deserved, one simply gives it away. The more we can give love away, the more that which is ultimate, real and holy will be visible in us.”
As my friend and co-author, Heiwa no Bushi, says, “Love wastefully. Turn on both spigots and let it run until the soil is good and muddy, until there is a pool that forms where others can be refreshed.”
Yes! How many times have we joined others in singing the Old 100th? Praise God from who all blessings flow. How often have we been reminded to let these blessings pour through us to the world, so that we are conduits for God’s torrent of grace?
For this to happen, we must overcome those attitudes of heart and mind that cause us to restrict our flow, siphoning down the blessings poured into us.
Jesus addressed one of these primary restrictors. “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (Matthew 7:1-2)
Let’s be real. We all judge others. We justify ourselves with semantics, saying I’m just discerning, or I’m speaking truth to power, or I’m fighting the good fight.
OK. Yes. Amen. But SURELY every one of us, no matter our politics, theology, or morals can see how judgement erodes our common humanity. Even with noble intentions, we can easily foment division.
Judgment seems hard-wired into our human psyches. I imagine Cro-Magnon tribes already judging who among them was more beautiful, more athletic, AND who they needed to hate enough for violence. From time immemorial, we have certainly inherited the “sins” of previous generations. Just dip your mind into any news-stream on any given day. They literally reek of judgment.
Go even further. Think of how many people project this human proclivity for judgment onto their anthropomorphic images of God. Some point to this very passage from Matthew, settling on the words “you will be judged.” Jesus himself had to break the shackles of judgement, his life culminating in a crescendo of forgiveness even for his tormentors as he cried out, “It is finished!”
This teaching recorded in Matthew is not about crime and punishment, sin and retribution. It is an invitation to light and freedom. It is pure genius.
When Jesus says, the measure you give will be the measure you receive, think of it this way. If our Creator has placed within us a wellspring of love, an inner fountain to refresh every moment, then our judgments restrict the flow of this love not only for others, but for our own experience of joy!
To use a contemporary analogy, consider the ubiquitous smartphones in our culture, attached like appendages every waking hour. They exist within a bandwidth. When we judge others, we limit our ability to stream love from the Source, narrowing our experience from 5G to 4G to 3G to E. Finally, beyond the Edge is a life with no sustaining awareness of connection to our Creator.
Jesus implores us to experience a fuller measure of love that suffuses our lives. To use the image of water again, think of the words he spoke to that Samaritan woman at the Well of Jacob. “The water that I will give will become a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
As Bishop Spong said, when we let this water flow through us to others, even wastefully, what is “real and holy will be visible in us.”