“It’s the one thing that keeps me from God.”
This noble man named Fernando was sitting before me. He was your regular guy with a job, he had known God, but like many of the stories I’d gotten to know, He fell away because of the church’s judgment and his own shame at what he was doing. My friend who had been praying with me left for the drama she had to perform, but I kept pressing, knowing that true freedom would come if he expressed what it was out loud.
“What is it?” I asked.
“When I get money, I walk into the brothels.”
The statement hit me like a ton of bricks and in that moment, I was faced with a choice: to walk away and drop the conversation, or stay. My feet wouldn’t move, so I chose to stay and talk with him. He told me how bad he felt, how much remorse he had for going in and spending his money on getting his “fix.” I asked him if he really wanted to find freedom from it and he told me that he did. I sensed that it was genuine, so we prayed with him.
I asked God to give me a download for this man and in an instant, God told me the truth that Fernando is, in fact, a noble man. God didn’t see Fernando as less because he had walked away and chose sin, God loves Fernando because of who he is. Fernando is a man filled with joy and with care for others. We prayed that God would give him a fresh conviction every time the desire to walk in the brothels comes and for freedom from the chains that keep him walking into the dark places. We prayed that he would see the women working in the brothels as they are: priceless and beautiful creations of God.
When we finished praying, the true joy that overflowed from Fernando’s body was the kind that spurred him to jump up and pray a blessing over the translator and I. He was beaming, and I have faith that Fernando walked away and made the choice in his heart to be open to God’s conviction and redeeming love.
You see, Fernando was the very thing I was angry at a few days prior. Doing ministry on the street across from two brothels, I watched as man after man walked in the doors and upstairs to where three floors of room after room filled with women working stood. On both ends, I felt the deep pain of the Father’s heart, but that particular night, I felt more than pain. I felt a very human anger at the men who would allow this to happen. I was angry that Brazil had made this a legalized way of getting money, and I was especially angry at the men walking inside, making judgement that many probably had no conviction to stop.
I was so distracted by my human anger and judgment that I was unable to recognize the fact that it made me so angry because in a very candid way, I was looking at my own struggle with sin in the mirror and judging this kind of sin as worse than the sin I forge everyday in my own thought-life or the sin that goes on behind closed doors. Because the sin that goes by unseen is better than the stuff that’s seen and forthright, yeah?
The next morning, God and I had a really frank discussion about it and he pinpointed the place of judgement in my own heart that He’s been trying to highlight since he asked me the question” Will you love them anyway?”
You see, it’s easy to see the speck of wood in other people’s eyes, but before we take the speck from other’s eyes, we need to take the actual plank in our own eyes out and see how bad our own sin is. It’s easy to judge a person who’s shoes we’ve never walked in, but God see’s their struggles just the same as ours and he doesn’t judge anyone better than the next if their sin is more outright than our own.
All sin is unjust.
For example, if a drug addict, sex addict, prostitute, preacher, drunk, and I were all standing before God at the same time, He wouldn’t look at us based on our sin or what we have done. He definitely wouldn’t judge us differently because the sin we struggle with is unrelated to the other. It finally occurred to me in one moment that God doesn’t see me as any better because I’m the one preaching the word or praying for people in the streets. Sin is sin and none is ranked higher than the rest, it is all putrid and disgusting in God’s eyes.
And that was when God spoke to me saying that my own judgment of others had to finally go. I am called — everyday — to humble myself before God and see others with His eyes no matter where I am. I must forgive people that I have personally held against in my own heart and mind.