All around us are broken, hurting people whom God has put in our lives so we can help restore them. It's easy to criticize them for not making better decisions, but you don't know where you would be if you had walked in their shoes. The longer I live the less judgmental I am. I recognize everyone didn't have parents who guided them, family that supported them, teachers who poured into them, and the many opportunities and resources I've had. Life is not a level playing field. When you're tempted to judge, remind yourself that God has freely given you His mercy that you might freely give it to others. Don't be stingy with your mercy. God is counting on us to lift the fallen, restore the broken, and heal the hurting. Love heals, love restores, love lifts up.
In John 11, Jesus' friend Lazarus had been dead for four days when Jesus came to his tomb and called out in a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" Instantly Lazarus was raised from the dead. The problem was that Lazarus was wrapped with grave clothes. Jesus told them, "Unwrap him and let him go." Even though Lazarus was alive, even though God had done something amazing on the inside, somebody had to take off the messy, decaying, smelly grave clothes or he would never have experienced the fullness of what God had done. Every layer they unwrapped, the stench got worse. They had to be incredibly dedicated and loving to endure all that.
There are people around us who are wearing grave clothes. God has done something on the inside, He's breathed life into them and given them purpose, but on the outside they're still bound. They have addictions and bad habits, struggle with anger and perhaps are loose in their morals. They're messy. It's tempting to think, "When they clean themselves up and it's not so stinky, I'll help them." How can they get free if nobody is willing to get dirty and remove their grave clothes?
Don't judge by appearances. Lazarus was free on the inside but bound on the outside. Just because somebody still "smells" and has issues, addictions, and makes compromises doesn't mean they're not clean on the inside. Underneath the mess there's a free person, a clean person, a forgiven person, an exceptional person, a victorious person. They're just waiting for someone who won't be put off by the outside and will help remove the grave clothes. How do you do that? By speaking faith into them—not telling them what they are but by telling them what they can become. Love them, take time to care, go out of your way to be their friend. Why don't you be the one to push them up, to see the best in them, to help them get free? You can be a grave clothes remover.