I recently attended a discussion group for the book “Unbroken,” the amazing story of Louis Zamperini — an Olympic runner and World War II prisoner who endured horrific torture during the war, and his own mental agony after the war. Near the end of the book, he has a profound experience of God’s love and forgiveness, is able to forgive his tormentors and is freed from his mental and spiritual anguish. During the discussion, one person expressed a bit of jealously over Zamperini’s experience of God. “I wish that would happen to me,” she said. “I pray and pray for God to visit me and make me happy, but it doesn’t happen.”In today’s readings, we encounter people who are jealous of others’ experience of God. In the first reading, a group blessed with the gift of prophecy is outraged when some outside their group claim to receive the same gift. “My lord, stop them,” they say to Joshua, their leader. It’s one thing to long for another’s spiritual experience; that’s perfectly understandable. It’s another thing to criticize someone claiming to have the same spiritual experience as you’ve had.Joshua refuses. “Would that all people of the Lord were prophets,” he replies. In today’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples are upset when they find “someone casting out demons in your name.” “Do not prevent him,” Jesus answers. “For whoever is not against us is for us.”It’s one thing to long for another’s spiritual experience; that’s perfectly understandable. It’s another thing to criticize someone claiming to have the same spiritual experience as you’ve had. In the latter case, it’s clear that trying to police the legitimacy of someone else’s spirituality is not a good idea. Jesus goes on to warn his followers against this kind of behavior — appointing one’s self as the arbiter of true faith. “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin,” he says, “it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.” These are strong words and indicate just how strongly Jesus feels about our tendency to judge others’ faith. When I read of Louis Zamperini’s life and his liberation from fear and hatred so that he could forgive those who tortured him for years, I longed for such an attitude in my life and in our culture. We live in an environment where hate is almost a badge of honor, at least in the public square. If you don’t hate someone, or aren’t outraged at what someone else has said or done, you’re not relevant. Surely if a soldier can forgive his captors, people of different beliefs and views can conduct their debates with courtesy and respect.It’s not our business to evaluate others. Joshua and Jesus both make that clear. We are called to celebrate when anyone claims their spiritual gifts, lest we cause them to stumble.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].