I can be too quick to judge. I see a person and am prone to making assumptions.
Much of it comes from decades of working in downtown. I have seen people injecting at bus stops. I have watched folks try to act like a regular person would, then suddenly switch to angry and threatening. The averting eyes, the gaunt figures, the overall vibe of sketchiness; the warning signs quickly jump out at me.
Admittedly, it helps to create a safer environment. Within seconds, I can decide to treat said person with a greater degree of caution. On the downside, I tend to emphasize the threat that they might pose over the fact that they, just like me, are a human being.
Such was the case when I went shopping this afternoon. I had just fueled up my car and wanted to do the same with my belly. I parked my car and started to walk to the sandwich shop. After I glanced at the car next to me, I made the effort to go back to my car, lock the doors, and then return to the sandwich shop.
The car next to me was showing the early signs of being sketchy. There was the large crack in the front windshield. It had gone far beyond the small hole and lightning bolt stages and was now into full-blown spider-web territory. The car itself was a ‘90’s, four-door sedan that has long been retired by most. Clearest among the warning signs was someone in the back seat of the car, pointing a large needle at their arm. As I said; I have seen a few injections in my time.
We will call the person, “Dodge”. Dodge had his car parked in a grocery store lot. Not near the front in an, “I’m clearly shopping” sort of way. No, Dodge was parked at the far end. Those spots that staff might use if they wanted to clear up spots for customers. The spots that bus riders park their cars in and hope they will not get towed. Or, as I was keen to suspect, a spot where no one would notice or pay any attention if you were up to something or wanted to be left alone for a few hours.
I exited the shop at about the same time that Dodge was getting into the front seat of their car. Dodge had on an unusual hat with a comically large brim. A hat that spoke of an off-center personality. A hat that said, “I belong to a bygone era”. Dodge started up their maroon car and drove off.
For some reason, I decided to exit the same way that Dodge had. I wanted to see where they would go.
I think I wanted to prove myself right. Perhaps Dodge would drive up to a small store with a glowing neon sign that read, “Drugs R Here”. Maybe I would see Dodge get pulled over for the visual impairment that was their windshield. I am sure part of it was curiosity, though I am afraid some of it was also an act of judgement. I could not fix Dodge’s life, but I could go home content in the fact that I was right.
I watched from two cars behind as Dodge drove into the nearby park and ride. The parking lot is so large that if one parked in the back corner, they could go for hours without being noticed. I more or less decided that I had been right about Dodge. However, what if I was wrong?
One of my favorite people in The Bible is the criminal from Luke 23:39-43. I went through five different Bibles. (The by-product of having Christian grandparents is being gifted a Bible. Or three.) This version called him a robber or a thief, that called him a rebel; the consensus seemed to be that he was a criminal.
He shows up earlier in Matthew 27. Specifically, verse 44 claims, “In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.” The notes in one of The Bible versions claims that one of the robbers taunted Jesus, then changed his tune.
There he is, defending Jesus in Luke. One robber turns to Jesus and taunts, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” The other criminal, our hero, if you will, jumps in. “You should fear God! You are getting the same punishment as he is. We are punished justly; we should die. But this man has done nothing wrong!” Turning to Jesus, he says, “Jesus remember me when you come into your kingdom!” Jesus, still being graceful as he is slowly dying, grants his request. “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
We will get back to Dodge, but let us talk about the robbers. The Picture Bible shows the jeering robber as being on Jesus’ left and the repentant/ our hero-robber being on Jesus’ right. (Granted, The Picture Bible also portrays citizens of Jerusalem, Babylon, Persia, and the rest as being white. Yeah, I know. They were clearly going for more of an “interpretation” than “factual”.) So, just for fun, let us call the jeerer Lefty and the hero Righty.
First off, I want to know what sort of crime Lefty and Righty committed. Righty claims that what they did deserves crucifixion. Were they more than just robbers? I am not a fan of having my phone stolen, but I am hardly about to murder someone over it. Was Righty prone to exaggeration? Or was he simply taking the argument up a notch to shut up Lefty? Some claim that they were rebels that would violently ambush people. There are suggestions that Romans used crucifixion to remove threats to their empire. We will never know specifics, but I guess the cross really is for everyone.
Secondly, you have to admire Righty’s faith. It is what makes him one of my favorites. The disciples followed Jesus because of the miracles he performed and the lessons he taught. Righty took it all on pure faith. My guess is that he had never met Jesus or heard him speak; he probably heard of him through word of mouth. (Or maybe he was picking pockets of the thousands that gathered to hear Jesus speak. I will never know.)
Regardless, all indications were that Jesus was defeated. You know how a team may start off a season strong but as they start to lose, more and more fans fall away? By the season’s end, when all hopes of a championship are gone, only the most hardcore fans are left and they can easily buy tickets at the last minute.
Righty puts even the most earnest sports fan to shame. You cannot get more defeated than Jesus was. His followers had deserted him and run off to hide. He had been found guilty by the governing body. There was no pardon from the commissioner coming. He was whipped, beaten, and slowly dying. This was not the time to take up Jesus’ cause. The mission was over. Death was a’knockin’.
Yet he cannot deny what he knows is true. He yells at Lefty the tormentor. He gives his allegiance to a visibly defeated king. This is the ultimate champion of the underdog. He admits that he was not perfect, that he screwed up, and that he should get what is coming to him. While he is at it, he asks for grace and mercy.
My kind of guy.
Let us return to Dodge. It could very well be that everything I assumed is completely wrong. Perhaps here is a person, injecting themself with insulin in the backseat of a car so that their daughter will not have to see any weakness. Perhaps Dodge was going to the park and ride to take a bus because they did not want to operate a vehicle that was unsafe. Maybe Dodge is trying to start a hat trend.
Or I could be right about Dodge. Dodge could be mixed up in some unwise behavior and breaking a law or two. Dodge’s behavior could be, well, dodgy.
If Dodge is the Jesus of our story, then they are misunderstood by me. I think I know how the story will end. I craft my theories and adhere to them. Like the Pharisees, I believe what I see. I create a villain, assume I know what is going on, and am ready to punish them. I am quick to judge Dodge and quick to crucify them.
If Dodge is the Righty of our story, then Dodge could use some love. Some kindness. Some mercy. This week should be a reminder to us that it is never too late. The end has not yet been written. People can still improve. (Even judgmental ones like me.) Spring is coming and resurrection might just be a few days away. Happy Easter to everyone.
All that is needed is for a person to realize they should do better and act on that. It worked out for Righty. If I feel the need to meddle in those affairs, I could spend my energy praying that we all find more peace.
Once again, I have to relearn the same lesson. My mission is not to judge Dodge. It is to dodge judging.