Judging Others (Part I)…
Luke 6:37-42 (Please click HERE).
-Tough passage; one I would honestly rather not teach on—but this is the blessing of teaching through books of the Bible—you have to face topics that you’d rather not! Very hot topic in the American culture these days, many deeply held opinions outside AND inside Jesus’ Church.
-My hope, as always, is that the Holy Spirit will help us to understand/believe/accept HIS definition of the phrase “do not judge” as well as HIS ways/methods of living out, on HIS power, that Biblical definition.
What Jesus Is Saying Here—Unholy Judgment:
- Thinking we are better/more loved/more righteous than others who commit certain sins (Luke 18:9-14–please click HERE).
- Choosing not to show love to/associate with others who commit certain sins (Luke 15:1-7–please click HERE).
- The Pharisee in Luke 18 clearly would talk ABOUT the tax collector, and maybe would talk AT the tax collector about his badness, but the Pharisee wouldn’t be caught dead talking WITH the tax collector, getting to know him, hearing his story, looking for ways to pray for him and bless him and love him and gently point him to God’s mercy and healing and transformation.
- What is the purpose of Jesus’ welcoming sinners & eating with them in Luke 15? The hope that they eventually will REPENT! (choose to agree that they are sinners, receive Jesus’ forgiveness, and learn how to not sin any more!). Jesus did hang out with sinners, but not just for the sake of hanging out, and not for the sake of encouraging/condoning their sin—He tolerated their sinfulness in the sense that He still loved them, but He didn’t celebrate it/condone it. He associated with them so that they could, over time, see how much Jesus loves them and hopefully respond to His love with repentance, with faith, with asking HIM for forgiveness.
- That is the same reason WE are to associate with non-Christians!!! But many of us don’t want to be Pharisees and so we go to the other extreme—we don’t hang out with people so that Christ can shine on them, we don’t look for God’s opportunities to share Jesus with them, we don’t prayerfully/gently introduce them to Jesus, we just hang out with them as anonymous/camouflaged Christians so that they can see how un-judgmental we are! It’s a deceptive kind of reverse-Phariseeism—I’ll hang out with you so you can see how unlike other Christians I am. And so motive truly matters, our goals for hanging out with people matter.]
- But we are to be careful as we associate with non-Christians or Christians who are sinning in clear ways. In many cases, we’re just as likely to fall off the wagon as anyone else! We’re likely, when hanging out with certain people in certain environments—when lovingly pursuing the wandering sheep—of saying, “Wow. The grass really is greener over here away from the Shepherd and His flock! I’ll stay and get some of this GRASS on the edge of this cliff!” (1 Corinthians 15:33; Proverbs 13:20; Galatians 6:1-2–please click HERE).
- In hanging out with sinners–Jesus’ clear mission of using His words and actions to introduce them to God the Father’s love & forgiveness–Jesus acted as a thermostat—not being controlled/influenced by the spiritual temperature around Him but influencing it for the better. Jesus is warm-blooded in that sense—His temp stays where it should be regardless of the temp around Him! Many of us, however, are often thermometers or cold-blooded—the more we hang out with certain people in certain environments, the more we become like them, the more we reflect those environments, the more we adopt their beliefs/lifestyles, like a chameleon whose colors change to match their surroundings. And so we must be careful…
3. Not realizing/admitting that we either commit those same sins OR forgetting that we commit other sins, and to commit one sin is to commit them all (James 2:10–please click HERE). Without realizing it, one of the reasons many of us love to focus on the sins/specks of others is because it causes us to not have to focus on our own sins/planks.
Two Un-holy Extremes In Judging Others
- The First Is Probably the Easiest For Most of Us to Agree With: Walking around looking for and pointing out the sins of others, like a spiritual skeet shooter/duck hunter—BANG BANG BANG all day! (or like a doctor walking around the food court at the mall and walking up to people telling them how they are killing themselves slowly by eating the food! The doctor is probably right, and probably has scientific evidence to back up his/her words, but most of the people in the food court will not receive such truth well. If they didn’t taste so amazing, we’d probably throw our cheese fries at them!).
- But the Second Is Also Un-Holy And Is Much More Subtle: Sometimes the subtle diseases are the most devastating. Walking around and thinking that nothing is sin, that everything is ok because, well, “who am I to judge?” (like a doctor going up to people in the food court and telling them that the fast food IS healthy, is what’s best for them, and that they should eat it more often, and here’s a gift card so you can come back and eat more tomorrow!)
- Sin is real! The world isn’t full of mistakers—it’s full of sinners, you and me, in rebellion against God! Jesus didn’t die for our mistakes, He died for our sins!
- The world is spiritually polluted! Spiritually, the grass isn’t greener anywhere—it’s dry and brown everywhere without Jesus! And it’s our sin—yours and mine—that’s causing this pollution!
- I’ve read that Mexico City has the most smog/pollution of any city on earth. So on one hand, it would be wrong to go around and slash the tires of all the cars there so as to lower the pollution; but it would also be wrong to think there is no pollution and to take deep breaths all day or to encourage people to run marathons there!
- Notice that Jesus didn’t say that specks are good, or that we should do nothing about the specks in our brothers & sisters eyes. The American/world culture says—there are no specks, or, celebrate the specks! He didn’t say either of those things! He did, however, change
A. our timing (take your plank out first–Luke 6:42),
B. our methods (gentle and being led by the Holy Spirit–Galatians 6:1)
C. and our intention (to restore/heal people–Galatians 6:1–not to prove how healthy/right you are!).
Good Judgment In Daily Life
When we go to the doctor for a check-up, we are implicitly giving the doctor permission to judge us in terms of our physical health, but also in terms of any lifestyle choices we make that might negatively affect our physical health. So we do want to be judged, in certain ways and by certain people (just as Jesus talked about the student being trained by Him the Teacher). It is wise to give trained men & women permission on a regular basis to examine & judge us in terms of our physical health—this helps us to be healthy! Preventative medicine is the key!!!
The same is true spiritually—as we talked about two weeks ago out of 1 Peter 5:6 (“humbling ourselves under God’s mighty hand”), we need to daily give God permission to examine & judge us & forgive us & transform us OF OUR PLANKS—our sinful attitudes, thoughts, beliefs, actions, plans, responses, etc. and then permission to do whatever surgery, chemo, radiation, etc. is necessary to deal with the unhealth that He finds!
We should also give at least one other person (other than your husband/wife if you are married), who is a maturing Christian, permission to pray for you, to know you deeply, and to speak Truth into your life should they notice anything in your words/attitudes/behavior that might be harming you or others. Is this dangerous to give another sinful/imperfect human this kind of access to you? YES! But it is necessary to mature in Christ.
Surgery is dangerous—some people do die in surgery!
But not getting the surgery done when it is absolutely necessary is dangerous as well—not allowing the surgeon to have access to our bodies carries consequences (usually negative!) in itself.
Well I’d Just Rather LIVE with My Planks/Specks: How would it feel to have a speck of sawdust in one of your eyes for a day or for the rest of your earthly life?
Contacts: many of us have experienced the horrific burning of putting in a contact that feels like it was coated in shards of glass or soaked in bleach all night! We can’t do anything until we get that lens out!
I’ve seen football players—6’5”/325lb of muscle—taken out of the game because of something in their eyes. What the other team’s giant players couldn’t do—knock them out of the game—a speck the size of a salt crystal could do!
Specks are HORRIFIC! Specks are SERIOUS and do need to be dealt with! And I’ve never heard of even the best opthomologists doing eye surgery on themselves! They would submit themselves to the care & skill of another eye surgeon—so we need to as well with the specks we have in our own eyes, submit to God, the Bible, and wisely make ourselves vulnerable to at least one other maturing Christian…
One of the issues with this, however, is that many (if not MOST!) Christians believe they are uniquely qualified to do such spiritual surgery—we think we are unusually gifted by God to walk around pointing out the specks in the eyes of others! So again, humility is key…
So What Do We Do If We Notice Others’ Specks?
- Go and talk to God FOR them about their speck before you go and talk TO them about their speck. Deep down we often think, “Well if I notice “x” then I need to say something about “x”!” Maybe—but maybe we need to say something to GOD and not the person, or maybe we need to talk to God BEFORE we talk to the person.
- Ask Him if you are seeing accurately or if you are merely seeing your own “floaters” in your eyes! (“Why is everyone wearing blue today?—because the lenses of your glasses are tinted blue!”)
- Ask Him to reveal their speck to them—He will do it perfectly with just the right combination of timing, gentleness, and firmness. God INVITES us to partner with Him in HIS work in the world; He doesn’t NEED us to partner with Him, and He certainly hasn’t put us in charge.
- Ask God to reveal to you any planks you might have in your own eyes. Our hearts can be quite crafty/cunning—sometimes our own sinfulness wants to focus on pointing out others’ flaws so that we don’t have to take the time to focus on our own!
- Ask God to plant, grow, and nurture in you a deep love/compassion for that person. If you don’t have a close friendship with that person or if you haven’t lately shown your love for them in concrete/sacrificial ways, you are probably not the person to point out their speck.
- Grieve over their speck—specks are painful and the Bible is clear that when one part of the Body of Christ suffers, we ALL suffer (1 Corinthians 12:24-26–please click HERE).
- Wait & Serve. As you are praying for that person about their speck, wait for them to come to you and give you permission to speak Truth into their lives. Look for ways to build trust with them by doing practical/sacrificial acts of love in their lives (build some bridge before you drive your bulldozers to the other side!). A doctor works hard to earn a medical degree and develop patients’ trust to physically judge (for the sake of healing!) other people—we need to work hard as well developing the trust of others to spiritually diagnose and remove their specks.
- DO NOT talk about the person’s speck with others. AT ALL. Not even as a prayer request (unless you have that person’s permission). In doing so you are stringing neon lights around the planks in your own eyes.
- “Did you SEE what she was wearing? MMmmm—MMM!”
- “Do you KNOW what he was doing last weekend?—tsk tsk tsk!”
- A great general rule of life to live by—if someone isn’t present in the conversation, don’t talk about them. If you have GOOD things to say about them, you should call them and tell them to encourage them! If you have bad things to say, you should keep it to yourself, pray for them with God alone, and only if the Holy Spirit leads go and talk to the person privately. I think many of us would be shocked at how many less words we would say in a given week if we only talked about people who are present with us in that moment.
Ask Yourself: When is the last time you allowed God & at least one other person to inspect YOU for planks?
- Maybe the sawdust we are seeing in everyone else is from our own personal 2 x 4s.
- If a truck driver hasn’t had their CDL license renewed in many many years, they are probably not qualified to teach others how to drive until they get their own techniques re-critiqued by an instructor (regardless of how good of a driver they THINK they are!).
- Similarly, if we aren’t regularly submitting ourselves to God, the Bible, and at least one other trusted/maturing Christian, then we almost certainly have planks and thus are not qualified to be diagnosing/removing others’ specks.
But Some Will Say…
I have discernment in pointing out other people’s specks—it’s a gift from God and I need to use it!!!
Maybe, maybe not…But sometimes all hammers see are nails to pound, and so we need to be very careful…Demolition experts—knocking down & imploding buildings on purpose in urban environments—take WEEKS of care meticulously planning where, when, and how much explosives to use.
In a spiritual sense, we need to do the same. Many of us see others speeding without Jesus toward the cliff of eternity and we try to get their attention (Because we LOVE THEM!) by running them off the road into a ditch or by slashing their tires! Our hearts/intentions may be in the right place but perhaps our methods/timing are not; what about a note on their windshield or a face-to-face conversation when their car is parked or idling at a redlight, about the upcoming cliff?
Are we anonymously dropping long-range bombs of Jesus’ love/Truth,
or are we personally/face-to-face handing out invitations of Jesus’ love/Truth, hopefully with a freshly baked pie? 🙂
One More Thing Regarding Sharing God’s Truth Over the Internet
If a doctor realizes you have cancer, they don’t tell you in an email! They don’t post it on your Facebook wall! They tell you, as gently as possible, IN PERSON!
And so we need to be very careful about sharing God’s love & Truth over the internet; if we don’t have an established friendship with someone, sharing God’s Truth over the internet is unlikely to be received well and will almost certainly come across as being the unholy judgment that Jesus warns us against. In-person communication is much better, almost always!
Making spiritually Truthful comments about a person’s FB post/status or about a cultural event on the internet, though our comments may be accurate, will often be misinterpreted thru the medium of Facebook/text messaging,/the internet, etc. So if you follow the steps above and really feel like God wants you to speak His Truth into a person’s life, ask them out to coffee and share it with them face-to-face; this doesn’t guarantee that it will go well, but it definitely is better then communicating via Facebook, where love is often lost in translation…
Please stay tuned for Part II on the topic of judging others (please click HERE), where we will discuss what the American culture often means when it says that phrase…