November 19, 2009
Ledtkey McIntosh was serving as a missionary in Montana, trying to buy a simple fast-food lunch, when his day was rudely interrupted by a dirty, drunk person demanding something to eat. But the pastor's critical attitude toward his fellow Native American would be shattered that same day with a realization that, in place of judgment, people need God's love.
Addressing a complex New Testament topic from the Beatitudes, and tying it into his Native American heritage, McIntosh shared a deeply personal first-hand account of Jesus' admonition, "Judge not," with Oklahoma Baptist University students during a weekly chapel message Nov. 18. McIntosh, who serves as pastor of First Baptist Church, Okemah, was joined by worship leader Ellis Horsechief to lead the students in the annual Native American Heritage focus in chapel.
McIntosh's story was rooted in Chapter 18 of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's book, "The Cost of Discipleship." The book is the foundation of the year's chapel theme, "Costly Illumination: Counting Everything Loss in Light of the Surpassing Worth of Knowing Christ." The chapter raises the question of how Christians should relate to their non-Christian neighbors, based on Matthew 7:1-12.
"How easy it would have been for the disciples to adopt a superior attitude, to pass unqualified condemnation on the rest of the world, and to persuade themselves that this was the will of God!" Bonhoeffer writes. "The disciples are not to judge. If they do so, they will themselves be judged. ... Discipleship does not afford us a point of vantage from which to attack others."
Jesus is not saying his disciples should not make any assessment of other people, McIntosh said. Rather, McIntosh contended the passage refers to disciples who bear a critical, judgmental, fault-finding attitude.
"One of the reasons we are not to judge is because when we do, when we set ourselves up as judge, we usurp the authority of God," McIntosh said. "When I set myself up as judge, I'm actually judging that person's intention, judging that person's motives. It's as if I know his heart, and I know why he does that, and I condemn him for doing that. That's only something that God knows, and it's something that only God has the authority and the right to do."
Bonhoeffer contends that Christians not only have no right to judge other people, but also they have no right to force the Gospel on other people. He writes that every attempt to impose the Gospel by force is both futile and dangerous.
McIntosh related Bonhoeffer's message to the attempts of Europeans to convert Native Americans to their own religious traditions when they arrived in North America. The settlers tried to make the Native Americans conform to their way of life and, when they did not conform, they removed the Native Americans from the land.
Along with the rest of the Europeans' traditions, the Native Americans determined Christianity was a "white man's" religion, McIntosh said. The effects were lasting: To this day, he reported, 95 percent of the 5 million Native Americans in the United States and Canada do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
McIntosh said he personally learned Jesus' lesson not to judge on that day in Montana. At first, he thought the person who approached him for food was a man due to the rough voice, the poor hygiene, the reek of alcohol and the matted hair.
"Give him what he wants, and I'll pay for it," McIntosh said, only later realizing the person was a woman. He pulled a Gospel tract from his pocket and handed it to the person. "Here's something I want to give you. When you have time later, please read it."
The woman found McIntosh's table, and sat down across from him. She began loudly proclaiming, "I'm Cheyenne, and I'm proud!" drawing attention to the table. McIntosh redirected her attention to the tract, again asking her to read it later. She replied loudly that she was a Christian.
"Me, being as tactful and as kind as I am, I said, ‘No you're not,'" McIntosh said. "If you were a believer, you wouldn't be in the shape you're in."
She started crying, drawing more attention, and asked McIntosh if he would pray for her.
"Me, having the gift of mercy, said, ‘No,'" McIntosh said. "In the morning, when you wake up and sober up, you won't remember a thing I told you."
"Yes I will!" she responded. "I will remember I was hungry, and you bought me some food."
McIntosh gobbled his food, and when he rose to leave, the woman asked for a ride downtown. He said he didn't want to drive her, but he gave her a ride anyway. While they drove, she asked him, "Why doesn't God answer my prayers?" When he asked what she meant, she told her story: She found her daughter, who had committed suicide by hanging herself, in her closet. She tried to lift her up. She cut her down and attempted to resuscitate her, but she died. Her husband beat her and kicked her out of her home, forcing her to live on the streets. She had sons who committed suicide. Her grandson was beat to death on the streets. She said she asked God to take away the pain, to take away the hurt, but He didn't do it.
"I understand, that lady did not need my judgmental attitude," McIntosh said. "She did not need my critical attitude and condemnation. She did need to know the love of Jesus Christ.
"When we begin to pass judgment upon people, we need to remember we don't know the heart," he said. "We don't know the suffering. We don't know the hurt. But what we need to do, as best we know how, understanding our own heart and our own self, is offer them the love of Jesus Christ and his forgiveness. Ultimately forgiveness and judgment, as Bonhoeffer says, is in the hand of God."