I love this mug! It makes me laugh at myself and reminds me that I am NOT “the measure of all things”. I remember learning in college (a long time ago!) that there was a philosopher, a contemporary of Plato (Protagorus – but who remembers that name?) who said, “Man is the measure of all things”. At the time I heard of it, I dismissed it. Then, as now, it was understood to mean that man is the highest creature, and it implied that there is no objective, absolute truth, but that man is the one who determines what is true. I dismissed it then because I know God and that He, not man, is the “measure of all things”. He sets the standard and He defines what is absolutely true.
But I have often thought of the phrase since then, because I have noticed that many people live as if they are the measure of all things. For example, “I would never think that, feel that, do that, … therefore you shouldn’t either.” Or, “I always, …therefore you should…” Some people live their whole lives this way, but we all have a little of this in us. In fact, it goes back to the Garden of Eden doesn’t it? When we live this way, we tend to judge others by ourselves.
I especially notice this when someone jumps on a “bandwagon”. I have been on a LOT of bandwagons in my life. I have often felt guilty when I didn’t jump on one with my friends. Here are the kinds of “bandwagons” I see in our culture now. For example, do you think Paleo is the healthiest way to eat and secretly judge those that don’t “get it”? Or maybe you think everyone should boycott Disney or Starbucks because the values of the company or its owners are very different from yours. Maybe you can’t fathom how anyone who doesn’t share your particular political perspective could possibly be a Christian. Don’t get me wrong. It is fine to choose to eat the Paleo diet or boycott companies whose values differ from yours or to have firmly held political convictions. These can all be the result of honest attempts to live out our faith and to live our lives in such a way that we don’t offend our conscience, what we understand to be right and wrong. The problem is, we get so enthused about what we are learning or doing, we judge those who are not doing it too.
The reality is, we are just trying to make sense of things we believe to be true, and live our lives accordingly. And we are all in different places – in our circumstances, in our maturity, and in our walk with Christ. Some things I used to believe tenaciously, I don’t feel strongly about anymore. I realized they were chasing after wind. Other things, I cling to even more deeply because I have tried and tested them and found them to be trustworthy and true. We learn and we grow.
We all need grace on the journey. When we differ with others, grace tries to understand the other person’s perspective. Grace allows time to grow and mature. Grace is willing to assume the best and forgive the worst. Grace listens and cares. Grace does not pass judgment. By grace, we can choose not to take offense when someone disagrees with us, and we can choose not to offend when we think we are right and they just don’t “get it”.
This isn’t a 21st century problem. The New Testament Christians had similar struggles as they were learning to live out their faith:
One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Romans 14:2-4 (NIV)
What grace have you received today? What grace have you extended to others?