Imagine an inner-city neighborhood on a sweltering summer day. A long draught has baked the pavement and buildings, coating them with dust. Suddenly, an enterprising resident devises a way to turn on one of the fire hydrants. It gushes into the street, attracting people of all ages who gather to splash and play. It’s like a Ganges River party 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!”
I’m reminded of a well-loved quote from John Shelby Spong who died in 2021.
“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 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.”
An early hymn in the Christian tradition is the Old 100th. Praise God from who all blessings flow. No matter our concept of a higher power, surely our calling is to let these blessings flow through us until we become conduits of love and grace!
Obviously, for this to happen, we must overcome any attitudes of heart and mind that cause us to restrict our flow, siphoning down the blessings poured so freely 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 by saying I’m just discerning, or I’m speaking truth to power, or I’m fighting the good fight.
There is a necessary place for discernment. But 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 the news streams of 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 in Christian scripture, settling on the words “you will be judged.” Jesus himself had to break these 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 our ubiquitous smartphones, 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. Some people would call that hell.
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 a Samaritan woman at the Well of Jacob, recorded in the Christian Gospel of John. “The water that I will give will become a spring gushing up to eternal life.”
As John Shelby Spong said, when we let this water flow through us to others, even wastefully, what is “real and holy will be visible in us.”