There is a Log in My Eye

Matthew 7: 1

Do not judge.

I was reading a little book of quotes the other day. It is fun little book because it has quotes from people aged 5 to 95. This one jumped out at me, “I’ve learned that when you judge others, you are revealing your own fears and prejudices.”

One of the things that bothers me about the modern church is how judgmental and exclusionary we are. Sometimes it feels like the Christian church is a club where membership is limited to those few we deem acceptable. The rest of the folks are just going to hell. I really don’t like that about us. I hate the way some of the non-saved look at us, like just a bunch of holier than thou hypocrites. Just once I would like the church to lead the way of acceptance and tolerance and leave our judgments out of it.

This quote makes one think that it is our own damage that causes us to be judgmental. When I think of some of the most judgmental people I have known this thought gains traction. I remember one person who judged everyone and found none to be worthy. She was friendless and definitely broken but she cleaned up well on the outside. It was sad.

I don’t know where we get the idea that we are supposed to judge others or even allowed to. Jesus said of himself, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him,” (John 3: 17). If Jesus wasn’t judging, what makes us think we were appointed the role? Maybe he couldn’t handle it so God appointed us.

I guess what makes me saddest about this reality is that we judge and condemn others out of our own brokenness. The Church of our God is supposed to be a place where we can heal. I fear few of us spend enough quiet, quality time with the Father for that healing to take place.

Here is what I will take away from today’s Word of the Day, when I catch myself judging others, I will look inwardly to see the source of that criticism. Then I can take that to the Father and be healed. Criticism and judgments are pointers to our own stuff and we need to spend our time on getting our stuff right. We need to let the Father heal us. Maybe, if we let the Father touch us and improve our attitudes others will find it easier to join our club.

Judgment Rendered

Psalm 76: 8 – 9            GW

From heaven you announced a verdict. The earth was fearful and silent when you rose to judge, O God, when you rose to save every oppressed person on earth. Selah.

There is so much confusion surrounding God’s judgment. Well, today you can bask in the good news because when God arose to render His judgment, it was to save every person on earth. Selah!

If you say anything about God’s judgment, most people are as described in this verse, fearful. When God arose to give His judgment, the world held its breath. There was complete silence in fearful anticipation of His wrath. It seems generations of people have misunderstood God. He is always good. He is benevolent and kind. Therefore, when He stood to give His judgment it was so that He could save every person on earth. He was compelled by love and compassion, not anger.

We think God is angry because of our own guilt feelings. We transfer our feelings of unworthiness onto Him so that, in our eyes, the only logical response a Holy God can have is vengeance and wrathful indignation. That, however, is a human perspective born of brokenness and guilt. God’s perspective is completely different. He looks through the eyes of love. He is motivated towards actions which help us. We know we don’t deserve His goodness, so we don’t look for it. Further, we recharacterize His kindness into something which is coherent with our feelings about ourselves. None the less, God is good. He is nothing but good. He is only good and every act of His is good and for our well-being. That is why he pronounced judgment, so that He could be good to us, so that he could save us.

If you will always look at God through this lens, you will see Him clearly and come to know Him as He is.

No More Stumbling

Romans 14: 13

Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this—not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.

Paul has an interesting message for us today. He was dealing with a problem of people judging each other. The Christian church had both Jews and Gentiles and their customs and beliefs were very different. Even their diets were different. Paul opened up the chapter by writing, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgement on his opinion.” (V. 1). Interesting!

We have not been called to judge others, but we are very prone to it. We don’t like being judged either and we don’t usually make friends with those who judge us. So, why do we think people are going to want to become part of our Christian group when we begin with judgment? And here is a worse problem, will we have to account for those who did not receive salvation because we ran them off? That is a frightening thought.

We are told not to put an obstacle or stumbling block in another’s way. The implication is that we are barring people from reaching their place in Jesus and Paul said our judgments are largely responsible. We need to stop being the reasons people don’t want to meet Jesus. We must stop creating obstacles to salvation. Our ideas of people’s worthiness or what they should be are not furthering the Kingdom. We just haven’t been equipped with the knowledge or wisdom necessary to make those determinations. And why do we want to shoulder such a huge burden anyway?

Earlier in this same book Paul wrote, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8: 1). He was trying to introduce people to Christ and have each one accept and honor the other. He had quite a task on his hands as the early church sought to integrate people with very different lifestyles, cultures and values. Then again, it’s not so different from what we are dealing with today.

There is not a person on this earth that God doesn’t love. They (we) are all His kids and thus, all brothers. Even the ones who do not call Him Father are still His and He loves them despite any and all flaws. He sees His beautiful child, not a flawed person. People are fleeing from the Kingdom because of obstacles we have erected. Let us make a concerted effort to break down the walls of obstruction. And by the way, most of those walls are in our own minds. Let us no longer create separation and hurdles which are causing people to stumble. Instead, let us create an inviting, loving space where all people can enter and come to know God for the first time or to get to know Him better. He is love, let’s prove it.

Peter and Judas

Mark 14: 10

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them.

Have you ever wondered about the disciples’ reaction to Judas’ betrayal? Jesus was amazingly nonchalant about it but then, he knew it had to be. I wonder about the Sons of Thunder though. I cannot imagine them taking it well. What about Peter? He was not one to keep his feelings hidden. Remember that he drew his sword when the soldiers came to arrest Jesus. His intention was clear. He meant to fight for Jesus’ freedom. What do you suppose Peter said about Judas?

As I was reading recently that idea captured me. We can be snared by our own judgments of others. Truly, it is hard to live without judging people but that is exactly what Jesus told us to do (Luke 6: 7). Refraining from judging others is how we avoid being judged ourselves, but it must have been very hard for the other eleven disciples to contain their criticism of Judas. I imagine harsh words were spoken.

Jesus said to Peter, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me,” (Luke 22: 4). When that rooster crowed, Peter was grieved down to his bones. He, like Judas, failed Jesus. He must have felt like a traitor himself. Maybe he had been very critical of Judas. We probably wouldn’t be surprised. At the moment of his own betrayal of Jesus, did he cringe at the words he spoke about Judas? Did he regret his words? Did he, for a moment, see into Judas’ delusion?

Look at it the other way. Maybe Peter kept his criticism of Judas to himself. Then, in the moment of his failure, I can imagine that he would have been very happy that he kept his condemnation of Judas to himself.

The grace we extend others is the grace we get to draw upon when we fall flat on our faces, which, we all do. We don’t want to fail Jesus any more than Peter wanted to but in the hour of his trial, he just couldn’t help himself. His fear got the better of him as it could any of us. We don’t condemn Peter because we know we might have failed too. Judas’ is a tragic character who realized the great error in his thinking and his actions. He betrayed the Son of God and that realization destroyed him.

None of us will ever so graphically betray Jesus but we have our own ways of letting him down. When I think of Peter possibly criticizing Judas and then having his denial of Jesus recorded for all the world to read over and over again, it makes me shudder. I know I am no better. I am glad no one is putting the account of my discipleship in the Bible for everyone else to read, but I have to ask myself, “Am I any better a steward of God’s grace than Peter was? How many times have I failed Jesus dramatically?” Sometimes it is really hard to extend grace to people. Let’s be honest, there are some real jerks out there and some of them even call themselves Christians. The question becomes, am I treating them like Jesus treats people or am I judge, jury and executioner?

I hope walking in Peter’s shoes for a few moments will help you think through this difficult subject. I do not mean that you should cease to check people’s fruit. I am not saying you should pretend they are not acting in ways that Jesus does not sanction. I am just saying that we should pray for them A LOT and keep our judgments to ourselves. You don’t have to hang out with them, you definitely do not sanction their bad behaviors. That would be bad. We don’t have to be in denial about their bad acts, but we don’t have to make a sport of them either. Just don’t gossip about them. Don’t criticize them. Keep your mouth from sinning. Don’t put yourself in the position of condemning them because as you judge, you too will be judged. Let them answer for their sins, but keep your mouth from judgment so that you will not be in their shoes later.

Keep Your Rock

John 8: 3 – 11

And the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and having set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in adultery, in the very act. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women; what then do You say?” And they were saying this, testing Him, in order that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down, and with His finger wrote on the ground. But when they persisted in asking Him, He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” And again He stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And when they heard it, they began to go out one by one, beginning with the older ones, and He was left alone, and the woman, where she was, in the midst. And straightening up, Jesus said to her, “Woman, where are they? Did no on condemn you?” And she said, “No one, Lord” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go your way. From now on sin no more.”

The moral of this story may be “Take care at whom you throw rocks.” This woman (and presumably her partner) was caught in sin. They violated one of the Ten Commandments. Borrowing a bit from David Letterman, I like to call the Commandments God’s Top Ten List. So, there was no gray area here. They had broken the letter and the spirit of the law. But Jesus’ coming ushered in a new way of thinking about sin and grace.

Take care when you begin to throw rocks at others. Be careful about judging them for you may find all too quickly that Jesus is taking you to task over your judgment. He gave us one commandment and that is to love. I doubt you can stand in judgment and love at the same time. Besides which, none of us has been called to sit on the throne of judgment. That is God’s job alone. So even if someone is in such an obvious sin as adultery, mind your attitude. Pray for them (not about them). Ask God to save them and rescue them. Ask for his grace and mercy to cover them at the same time. Before you cast the first stone remember the times that God’s mercy has covered you because you weren’t perfect either. Pray people into grace rather than condemning them to hell or you may find yourself in the same shoes as these Pharisees; standing in opposition to Jesus.

And finally, if you are the one in sin, there is great grace and mercy for you but take note. Jesus’ last comment to the woman was to “sin no more.” He didn’t just turn a blind eye towards her behavior. Don’t use God’s grace and mercy as an excuse to keep on in sin. Don’t kid yourself. Get yourself right and thank God for his everlasting mercy.

Tender Mercy

1 Samuel 16: 7             (NCV)

God does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

I just watched the movie Saving Mr. Banks. It is about Walt Disney’s trials and efforts in acquiring the rights to make the movie Mary Poppins. By all indications, the author of the Mary Poppins books was difficult and even unreasonable. Disney was committed to turning the Mary Poppins book into a movie. It took him 20 years of cajoling, negotiating, and pleasing Mrs. P.L. Travers in order for him to finally do so.

I said Travers was unreasonable. For example, she told Disney she was “off” the color red, so she didn’t want to see any red in the movie. Disney was pretty astounded explaining that the movie is set in London where phone boxes and mailboxes, are all red. He figured out that she was testing him but when confronted she, nonetheless, stuck to her position. It was a test. She was looking for an excuse to deny him the movie rights. Disney, who was very influential by this time, agreed to bar the color red from the movie. He did not berate her, did not point out that she was being unreasonable.

The real climax of the movie is when Walt Disney flew to England to have a cup of tea and a conversation with Travers. He spoke to her heart without judging her and without criticism. He shared part of his own story showing Travers compassion rather than condemnation. He asked for her trust but more than that, he earned it by being trustworthy, insightful and kind.

This movie moved me for a number or reasons but predominantly because I so admire the way Disney interacted with Travers. I know me well enough to realize that I would have failed her tests, and the Lord’s, tragically. Travers wanted someone to believe in. She wanted Disney to be who he made himself out to be, but her heart didn’t believe anyone could be who she needed him to be. In fact, she set Disney up to fail. Though she wanted to believe, she set stumbling blocks in front of him for 20 years trying to get him to reveal his true colors. It turned out, though, that the fruit on his tree was consistent with the words of his mouth. He was true to the pledge he gave her.

It would have been the easiest thing in the world, normal even, to have been very critical of Travers. It would have been tempting to try to bully her into a more cooperative attitude. You might even think Disney justified in taking issue with her and calling her on her unreasonable demands. Instead, he looked beyond the outer symptoms pondering what it was within her that made the process so challenging for her. He looked from her perspective rather than becoming judgmental. In the end, not only was the movie Mary Poppins made as Disney imagined it, but it turned out to be a source of emotional healing for Travers who went on to write five more Mary Poppins stories. It is hard to imagine a more difficult person than Travers. In the end, though, she and Disney made a movie which has brought joy to generations of movie goers and blessed their own hearts to boot.

The moral of the story is pretty clear. People have a tendency to judge others based on actions and words and that seems fair. We are to be fruit inspectors. There is a line between judging someone’s fruit and judging them. If you are asked to invest financially in someone’s project, wisdom dictates that you inspect the fruit on their tree. That is not to say that we should succumb to the temptation to judge them. We can decline their project without rejecting them. Only God truly knows what is in a person’s heart. All too often we assume we know and then we judge people as unworthy. If we follow Walt Disney’s example, we can tenderly engage others without getting embroiled in the chaos and dysfunction. We can choose to believe that there is a good person beneath the outlandish demands and negative outbursts. This is hard to do, no doubt, but I think if you watch this movie you will find that you are drawn to the way Walt Disney worked with Travers. Ultimately, he helped her and though the movie Mary Poppins is, and was, a towering success, what he did for Travers was an even greater accomplishment.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Matthew 5: 44 – 45            NET

But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be like your Father in heaven, since he causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

You’ve heard that you are to love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you and that is a good focus of this passage, but I particularly like verse 45 for two reasons. First, it tells us the reason for the mandate to pray and love, which is that we might be like our Father. Secondly, it teaches us the difference between love and judgment, loudly revealing our Father as one who loves.

After we get saved and Jesus begins to clean us up, it is easy for us to want to separate ourselves from the unrighteousness people and actions we see in the world. Unfortunately, we begin to judge those people and we separate the world in to we and they. This, our Father does not do. He loves the whole world, so much, in fact, that he gave His only begotten son so that NONE should perish (John 3: 16). Speaking of John 3: 16, do you know what the very next verse says? “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” By the way, those were words spoken by Jesus. God sacrificed His only son so that through his sacrifice, the world might be saved, not condemned.

God sent His blessing into this world and it will work for whomever will work according to the way Yahweh engineered it. Sometimes, the unsaved are better believers than we are and thus, succeed to a greater extent than we. This ought not be, but it is. We are too busy fussing at each other and judging other Christians and the unsaved that we fill our churches, and our own souls with doubt and unbelief.

God put spiritual and physical laws into the earth. Gravity is a great example of one of these laws. Gravity works the same on the wicked as on the righteous, doesn’t it? God sends His rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He is constantly pouring out His best to anyone who will accept Him. He has also created laws which exist in the spirit realm. They too work for whoever applies them. He told us that whatever we believe, we can have (Mark 11: 23 – 24). He has told us to use our words to create our dreams and even that the power of life is in our tongues (Proverb 18: 21). Yet I find we are still running around spewing all kinds of garbage and unbelief from our mouths. Meanwhile, others are using God’s success system to great effect and they never give Him the credit. We are too worried about criticizing anyone who succeeds and making sure our pastors never have too nice a car to ever live in God’s overflow. We are afraid of being criticized ourselves. That is one of the reasons why so many Christians are so carnal. They look at the church and don’t want any part of it. They want Christ but they find the lifestyle of the heathen more attractive and they find more love outside the church than in it.

I don’t like it and I bet you don’t either. We’ve got to begin to take this gospel seriously. We need to buckle down and become students of the Word and believers. Then we need to do what the Word tells us. We need to commune with God and listen to His voice. We need to let the Holy Spirit guide us without getting all weird about it. Just quiet yourself down and listen to him.

None of us wants to be a part of this mealy mouth Christianity. None of us wants to see the unsaved surpassing God’s people using God’s own system. We are supposed to succeed and then give God the glory. And, we’ve got to stop judging one another and “those other guys.” Jesus said he didn’t come to judge the world so what makes us think we should. God sends the rain on both our crops, so He isn’t judging. He isn’t withholding His blessing. Our judgments are killing us while those we criticize are experiencing faith healing, financial prosperity and loving relationships. It is time we got over ourselves and seriously begin imitating our Father and learning His ways. Love is our mandate. Turn in your judge’s robe for a coat of compassion. Let love and acceptance color the way you think of all people, yes ALL, even those unsaved because God has not separated us into we and them. He is sending His truth to everyone who will listen. He is sending the nourishing rain to whomever will receive. Be blessed in the name and power of Jesus and live this gospel to the full. Receive God’s blessing and share that blessing with others. Let it overflow onto others, the good and the bad.