“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.”
Matt 7:1-5 (NIV)
Recently, some of us with Advancing Vibrant Communities (AVC) participated in an annual retreat for pastors and ministry leaders. We get away every January to pray together for our city and deepen relationships with one another. This sparks all kinds of ideas, partnerships, understanding and friendship. It helps us to drop competitive defenses and return with a renewed sense that we are all working for the same thing, to see God’s Kingdom manifest in our city.
Modesto is an easy target for criticism. Our city has many challenges. And there is only so much individual agencies, organizations and congregations can do to change that. I’ve been wondering whether this charge from Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount could apply to us as we look at our city. It’s so easy to look at our community and see blemishes and throw our hands in the air and say “Somebody has to do something!”
Our retreat facilitator, Steve Capper, said something to our group that has stuck with me. “City transformation only happens through people who are being transformed.”
Could it be that part of the problem in my community is me? I want to blame “society” or “culture” or the ever looming “economy.” But these things are big and, on the grand scale, out of my control.
Am I daily bringing my life to Jesus? Am I letting him deal with my prejudices? Am I sitting in judgement over neighbors? Am I willing to make time to get to know them?
We can’t truly understand those struggling with addiction until we come to terms with our own compulsions, desires for comfort and poor choices. We can’t complain about all the unruly kids in our neighborhoods or the threat of gangs until we’re willing to find time to mentor a child. Are we sitting with our community? Are we at the table with a desire to understand?
We can’t change a city until we change. Are we reflecting Christ and his Kingdom of love?
We can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a movement of individuals, families, congregations, organizations and neighborhoods who are being changed. But it all starts right there in our own heart.
Are we being transformed?
Chris Whitler, AVC board and Director of Volunteer Development