I had spent the afternoon with my friends and was rushing home to watch my favorite cartoon on television. My father was home early from work this Saturday afternoon and was reading the newspaper when he looked up. “Did you call your grandpa and wish him a happy birthday?”
Birthday! Ugh, I forgot. “Uh…no Dad, I was just going to do that.” The lecture was about to begin.
“You know, your grandmother was divorced and she was raising me and your two aunties by herself. It was almost unheard of for a Japanese woman in Hawaii to be divorced but she needed to escape from her husband who was beating her. She supported all of us as a barber and we lived upstairs from the shop.” I politely nodded. I was only nine years old but was already familiar with this story, but what he told me next was new.
“When your grandfather met your grandmother, he was widower with two young boys, your Uncle Bob and Uncle David. They began dating and all the kids played together since we were about the same age. Then the war began. He wanted to enlist but he had no one to care for me and my two sisters. They agreed to marry and grandpa adopted me and my two sisters. Your grandmother told him, ‘I don’t need a fancy wedding ring. Just promise me you will put all of our kids through college.’ When he returned from the war, he kept his promise and put all five of us through college. He paid for my dental school as well.”
My father looked away from me and buried himself in his newspaper. “You should be thankful for what your grandfather did for our family. You wouldn’t be here if it was not for him.”
He was absolutely correct. I only knew my grandfather when he was much older and retired. He spent his remaining years as a womanizer and drinking beer. Until that conversation with my father, I did not have much respect for him. Was it fair of me to judge his life based upon some past indiscretions or my limited relationship with him? He kept a life changing promise to his family, a promise that reverberated through generations to even positively impact my life. Am I in a position to weigh and judge the cosmic implications of this one decision over his other failures?
There are many saints in the Bible who committed egregious sins. I am often astounded that God still honors and recognizes their noble actions even in spite of their failures. Yet, this is a testimony to how God’s grace and mercy are far greater and more profound than my misguided attempts to judge another’s life. Do I have such a magnanimous view of my own virtue that I am willing to overlook my own grievous sins or that of others?
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7:1-5 (NASB)
God knows the true intentions of our heart and only He is qualified to judge our actions. God’s words remind me that I should not focus upon the failings of others but look in the mirror and first address my numerous sins. Once I did that, I was able to honor my grandfather with a proper thankful attitude.
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.