In September of this year a Dear Abby column ran that really shook me up. Apparently, in an earlier column a woman had written in saying that she was 60-70 pounds overweight but comfortable in her own skin. Abby was alarmed and had suggested she consult with a doctor because being overweight is unhealthy.
The September column was from Linda in Columbus, Ohio, angry at Abby. It read in part, “Even if she is unhealthy, if she weighed two or three times what she does now, even if she lies around all day in that bikini eating potato chips and ice cream sundaes, she still deserves respect as a human being. She deserves advice without judgment.” Abby wrote that thousands of readers were similarly upset but that she stood by her reply.
The question raised is vital and I take my stand with Abby. Absolutely all people deserve respect. Every man or woman is created in the image of God and is in one sense our brother or our sister.
But what about the idea that people should give advice without judgment? It is certainly what many today desire. But then how would any one heal or seek to improve their lives if we didn’t recognize one behavior as better than another?
Consider sports, for example. What would happen to baseball if we didn’t recognize hitting a home run as better than striking out? Would football produce tremendous athletes if throwing an interception was considered just as good as throwing a touchdown? And, yes, let me be the first to say that the quest for excellence can be overdone and there are those who push children or other adults too hard for their own good. But even noting that is making a judgment call!
Abby’s advice was given with kindness and concern. She did not call the lady names or make fun of her. She did not suggest she was better than the lady. But being 60-70 pounds over weight can have harmful consequences. It is unhealthy. Abby warned the lady to rethink her stance.
Wanting to live in a world where no one criticizes your behavior is nothing new. One of the earliest stories in the Bible is about two brothers. When one of the brothers, Cain, doesn’t do right, God lets him know and Cain is angry. God’s response is found in Genesis 4 and is instructive.
God doesn’t say I’m sorry I made you feel bad. He doesn’t say I’m sorry I judged what you did. He does say I don’t play favorites. If you do what is right you will be accepted, just as much as when your brother does right.
When we do wrong God will forgive us. But he will not call wrong right in order to make us feel better. He expects us to change and heal and grow precisely because he loves us as a Father does his children.
Not all behaviors are good. May God help us to choose the right and reject the wrong.
Rick Cupp is minister of the Kenai Fellowship. Sunday Bible classes are at 10 a.m., coffee at 10:45 a.m. and Sunday Worship at 11 a.m. Wednesday meal is at 6:15 p.m., worship at 7 p.m.