Have you ever written something and then realized that you were horribly wrong? Thank goodness, I didn’t press SEND. I have done that in the past, but on the occasion that is on my mind now, I let the essay simmer. As the day progressed, I got thoughts about things that I had left out of the essay. By the time I went to bed, it was clear that God was talking to me and saying that I was dead wrong.
You see, I was ranting in the essay about people who say, “Do not judge.” One human cannot tell another human those three words to their face without being judgmental themselves. That is lunacy and being hypocritical. But, the admonishment of Jesus to not judge is something that we should all take to heart. In Matthew 7:1, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” That is easier said than done.
The important thing to understand is how you know that someone else has done something wrong, something worth being ‘judged’? If it is gossip, then you are guilty of gossiping before you ever hear about the wrong doing. Even if you see a married man bring a woman to church that is not his wife and show a public display of affection toward her, you need to remember that you are guilty of sin also. God corrected my thinking over the course of a day. I realized that my heart wasn’t in alignment with God when I wrote the essay.
On the other hand, if sound Biblical teaching does not correct overt sin within the church, it can lead to problems. If the man in the paragraph above was a ruling elder and nothing was ever said, you could end up having a split in the church. Yet, a layperson confronting the sinner could lead to the same thing, but maybe an initial reaction of getting a bloody nose. Church discipline should be left to the professionals.
When you are admonished not to judge, what are the common phrases? 1) Do not stoop to their level. 2) Stay above the fray. 3) Do not mud rake. 4) Stay on the high ground.
Consider each of these expressions. Who is judging? In each expression, the person who ‘does not judge’ places himself on a higher plane than that of the other person. There are three levels here in the mind of the person who is ‘not judging’, at a minimum. The ‘do not judge’ person is at the highest level. The judging person is at a lower level. And the sinner is so far below that he is in the muck and mire of the bottom of all levels, amongst the mud that shouldn’t be raked. The ‘do not judge’ person has arrogantly judged all those in his/her presence by placing himself/herself above everyone else. That is the opposite of what Jesus was saying.
Jesus said more than ‘do not judge’. The very next verses include admonishment to remove the log from your own eye before you help your neighbor remove the sawdust from his eye. Jesus does not say to not help your neighbor. Jesus does not say to condone sin. Jesus is actually telling us to love our neighbor by helping him or her through a problem. The problem is that we will have to spend a lot of our time working out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12) to be bothered with helping someone else. We cannot say ‘do not judge’ without being guilty of judging the judging person. We are guilty of pride for ‘not judging’. We are still judging. And we are proud that we are not doing the sin. But we should encourage our friend in his time of need, as long as the friend recognizes the need. Many do not.
We cannot tell others to not judge. Yet, Jesus can tell us to not judge, for one day He will be our advocate before the ultimate Judge.
When we realize a lukewarm attitude toward sin in a church, we first need to get on our knees with regard to our own sins, and then we need to show a proper example for others. Don’t judge. If you don’t think you have any skills that could help the wayward person, you are wrong. You can refrain from gossip and you can pray. And most of all, you can love your neighbor. When talking to the neighbor, don’t say or do anything that condones the inappropriate behavior. Have you ever laughed at a dirty joke or a story laced with vulgar profanity? Yet, you can show your love for that person in word and deed while distancing yourself from behavior that offends you as a Christian. In time, the neighbor will ask you why you are different. That’s your chance to tell them how God is directing you in your life without telling them that they are wrong in their behavior. Even if they never ask, they’ve noticed. It takes the Holy Spirit working within them to broach the subject out loud. It then takes the Holy Spirit within you to have the right words to say when the time comes. If we are judging the other person, our thoughts will get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. If we were writing instead of speaking, we can write it down in the morning, and then God will let us know how wrong we were for the rest of the day. In writing, as long as we don’t press SEND we can always tear up the paper and start again. Once we say the wrong words to our neighbor, we may never have another opportunity.
In this second attempt to write on this topic, I pray that I have been writing with the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Another all-day session with God telling me that I’m wrong again will be hard. We each need to work out our own salvation as Paul said, but Paul never said it would be easy.