Although well over twenty years have passed I remember the incident like it was yesterday. At the time I was my grandfather’s translator, and having already traveled with him for the better part of four years, I knew the pain he went through whenever he had a gout attack. At least I thought I knew the pain he went through until I myself started having gout attacks. It was only when I started experiencing the excruciating pain for myself that my compassion for my grandfather grew all the more, and I realized just how much of himself he sacrificed in his obedience towards God.
For those of you that have never had a gout attack it has been described as having hot razor blades between your joints, and although this description sounds exaggerated I assure you it is not. It is a painful, painful malady, one that I would not wish on my worst enemy, and my grandfather had suffered from it for so long that it had also caused him chronic arthritis. Since gout attacks usually occur in the joints of the feet and the knuckles of the hand, and are as unpredictable as earthquakes, whenever an attack comes on, the act of walking or standing can be likened to being stabbed repeatedly.
The evening before my grandfather was scheduled to speak at a church in Nebraska, we were in a local motel, getting ready to go to sleep when suddenly I saw him wince in pain. I knew what was coming, there was no way of stopping it, and by the next morning my grandfather was teary eyed from the pain of putting on his socks. I half carried him to the car, he leaned on me heavily as we walked up the church aisle, we found a pew closer to the front, and we sat down. The service began, the worship team did their thing, and when it was all over the pastor introduced my grandfather, and with one hand on my shoulder he gingerly made his way to the pulpit.
It was after the service, after he had poured out his heart, and preached a message of repentance that a lady in her thirties came up to my grandfather as he was sitting down, and with one hand on her hip, reeking of self-righteousness said, ‘I just wanted to tell you that I couldn’t receive any of what you said because while the worship team was singing and ‘entering in’ you just sat there.’
Although I repented later, it was the first time in my life that I wanted to do violence to another human being. I myself had stood the entire service, but it was not me she was talking to, it was my grandfather, who was on the verge of passing out from the pain he was going through. I didn’t even bother translating what she had said to my grandfather, I simply shook my head and thought ‘God have mercy on you.’
So what’s the point of this trip down memory lane? The point is a simple one, it is something every mother or father has repeated at least once, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover.’ It is so easy to rush to judgment, it is so easy to conclude certain things about individuals at first glance, especially if we have a critical spirit, but as is often the case our first impression isn’t always ‘spot on’ and what we end up doing is unjustly judging those around us.
Throughout my years of ministry I have run across such individuals from time to time, the ones who feel as though they are interim judges, swinging the gavel of their perceived authority so much so that they suffer from chronic tennis elbow. Each time I run across such people I am reminded of that experience twenty years ago, and I see the same spirit, the same absence of grace, the same lack of love, and my heart breaks.
When we see a brother or a sister suffer we can either react like Job’s friends berating them, concluding in our hearts that they have hidden sin, or we can extend grace, weeping with those who weep and mourning with those who mourn.
God has not abdicated His throne, He is not asleep at the wheel, and it is He who will judge all men in righteousness and holiness. Do not rush to judgment, no good can come of it, because God and God alone knows the truth in its entirety, He alone judges the hearts of men, and He alone has the authority to pass sentence.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.