By the late summer, living in the high desert, the color options are a tad limited: we have a generous array of browns, beige, sage green, some spring greens and a dash of yellow (wild sunflowers) and a lovely spot of blue (thank you, chicory). So to have a lazuli bunting show up to the feeder is a cause for celebration!
They are an astonishing combination of rusty red and a lovely blue. I had never seen such birds before I moved to Idaho--I am used to the Western blue bird. It has the same basic color combination, but in northern California, I wasn't so eager for bright color. Leaving near the coast, I filled my color quotient daily! I do love Idaho, but by the end of summer, the rather sedate color scheme needs a bit of encouragement and the buntings are made to order. The other day, one showed up that was not quite so inspiring:
Then, it hit me: it's a baby! This little guy is on his way to getting his beautiful plumage, but he's not there yet. I just assumed that buntings are always beautiful.
What a profound thought as we walk with our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord: we assume that they will always be beautiful: kind, loving, patient, reflecting Jesus. And yes, many are on their way to getting their beautiful "plumage": they really want to reflect the Lord's work in their lives. But what happens when they have a bad day? How do they act if they are tired/upset/angry/disappointed? Then the "plumage" isn't so lovely to behold. They are a bit raggedy as they show up to our feeder. Are we then rather judgmental? "Hey, you love the Lord! You should always reflect that!"
But let's reverse this, and I become the bird. I show up raggedy to the many feeders I visit, and I wouldn't want someone to look out of their kitchen window and say, "Wow! Look at her--she isn't a beautiful blue like all Christians should be." I would want to turn around and say, "I am having a bad day. I would like more beautiful plumage, and I believe I am on my way there, but today is not a good day." In other words, I would like a little mercy for my less than pleasurable shade of Christian blue.
I believe that's what the "judge not, lest you be judged" scripture is all about. Let's look at the passage:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye" (Matthew 7:1-5).
I apply the Golden Rule to this, and by reversing it, I think we get to the heart of the matter. We like to judge: we look out our kitchen windows and notice how blue or not blue others are, and in doing so, we feel superior. The focus shifts from our inadequacies to those of others and for a moment, we can feel our blue is best. So, while we do the judging, we want JUSTICE.
Now, by reversing it, we are the ones being judged. We are well aware of our inadequacies and someone pointing them out to us is not a surprise to us. We are very aware of the specks in our eyes. They itch and burn and keep us from clear vision about ourselves. So, when we are being judged, we want MERCY. We want people to understand us and our needs and hope that they can find some leniency in their hearts. In other words, we hope that they find some compassion for us and our raggedy blue.
But, if the standard is not me by which I judge, but Jesus, suddenly all of our blues need time to reach their fullest beauty. We are humbled by Jesus' brilliant blue, and so my blue is not better than my brother's or sister's.
We are all a work in progress: Paul could confidently say about his fellow believers that he was "confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6). So, next time someone less than blue shows up (or maybe it's you that less than blue!) remember: we are all under the skillful training of Christ and it takes time. It's little wonder that patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit: we so need it for ourselves and others!