“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
- Matthew 7:1-5
I was talking to my Sunday school class, a few years ago, and I talked about someone that I know who professes to be an atheist. I spoke about how I would love to talk that that person about Jesus, but they will only allow that conversation on their terms, where they can ridicule everything that I just said. They think that they can make me an atheist by negating what I say. In other words, they would not listen to anything I said, except to find bullet points to attack. I know. I have tried.
I was trying to illustrate in the class that for someone to be saved, the Holy Spirit must do the legwork beforehand and get the person to the point where they will listen and try to understand. I am not an apologist. I do not have all the facts straight in my mind to refute the various arguments that atheists use, but I am trying to learn. But there is a distinct difference in bringing someone to an intellectual point of conceiving of a presence of God to bringing someone a spiritual awakening of the presence of God and the need for God in someone’s life.
The frustrating thing was in the Sunday school class. I was berated and condemned for judging the other person. What?!
We are all called to spread the Gospel, but far too many people read the Scripture above and claim that they might offend people if they did that, so they will not participate in the Great Commission. Sorry, Jesus didn’t say, “By your leave…” as some people used to say. It is not an option.
And it is really odd in how I was condemned in Sunday school that day. One person spit the words out, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” How do we go from normal speech to King James Version speech when looking down our noses at others? “Lest” and “Ye” are not spoken, until you quote Matthew 7:1. Why is that? Just asking. I have no answer.
And, if you aren’t already screaming at the computer screen (or whatever screen you have), how can you quote Matthew 7:1 in a judgmental tone of voice without standing in judgment yourself? The majority of the class that day was standing in judgment of me, but they held Matthew 7:1 as their standard against me.
Then on another occasion, a friend and I were talking, and he said something that rubbed an old wound. I mentioned that a few people who were ruling elders in the church, that I had attended at the time, might be saved, but probably were not. Again, the KJV speech shoved down my throat, but as a friend, he did it gently.
But then I explained. Without giving names, I mentioned that one elder had claimed that he believed in God, but he did not believe in this ‘Jesus character.’ (His words. I wouldn’t say it that way.) Another two or three told me in confidence that if they died that night, they probably wouldn’t make it to Heaven, but they were going to go on a few more mission trips to tip the scales in their favor. I was not judging these ‘good’ men. I was duly noting what they themselves said, and that they needed Jesus in their lives. When they die, I’ll gladly let God decide about them on Judgment Day. God doesn’t pay me enough for that.
As for the atheist, how can you say that an atheist is just a confused believer? He admits that he doesn’t believe. I am not judging. I am taking that person at their word.
Now the conversation that I would love to have is to tell a stocky friend, “What you say if I said you were going to Hell?” Of course, he would explode. Then I might say, “I was just kidding. I don’t know of anyone who walks the walk better than you, but have I really judged you? At Judgment Day, is God going to take my single thumbs down statement and overrule the fact that your name is in the Book of Life? No. You will be saved, and I just wasted a few soundwaves. But, if I said that you could lose a few pounds. Now that is judging. You could turn around and tell me that I could lose half my weight an still live as a very skinny person. I have logs of weight to lose compared to your few chips of sawdust. Now, does Matthew 7:1 become clearer?”
But the post title is “Ill Conceived Notions.” When people use this Scripture as an excuse to not share the Gospel, it is the symptom of something much deeper.
Someone with the heart of an evangelist will see everyone that they meet as a potential person to witness to. It is kind of the reverse of the American justice principle of “innocent until proven guilty,” and for the following reasons. We have all sinned. We are all sinners. All of us need salvation. All of us need a relationship with Jesus. We are already guilty. We can only become innocent by the washing of the blood of the Lamb.
The person with the heart of an evangelist studies the other person. They get to know that person. If the bells don’t start ringing that the other person is a born-again Christian, they try to steer the conversation to a point where they can talk about Jesus. In some cases, this might be a single encounter, but in other cases, it might take developing a friendship first.
But the ‘non-judger’ has judged and determined the other person to not be worth the effort. I am not saying that the non-judger is not saved. We are all sinners, and one sin that is common among all Christians is not doing everything that God told us to do.
And that concept of “doing” that I just mentioned will be the theme of tomorrow’s “Ill Conceived Notions.”
A final note: After writing this, but before posting, I went to a meeting. Two street evangelists said every word in this post (other than the personal stories – which they had plenty of). It came down to praying that God would allow them to witness what God was going to do that day in a powerful way. Then, everyone that they met that day would result in a questioning prayer, “Is it him / her?” Not hoping, but knowing that God was going to introduce them to someone who needs Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.