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Life of Christ (1996-1998)

On Judgment

Matthew 7:1-6, Luke 6:37-42

It is unfortunate that we are so often stuck on the chapter and verse divisions of the Scripture. They are not there in the original, of course, and this sometimes confuses us because we separate what should not be separated. Such an instance confronts us today. We need to ask, “Why did Jesus talk about not judging others at this point?” The question makes some sense:

·         In chapter 5, at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, we encountered a series of “blesseds.” From this, the Christian might conclude that God intends to richly bless His children.

·         In chapter 6, we encounter the concept that Christians are to be more righteous than “the Scribes and the Pharisees.” We might then conclude that we are indeed righteous.

·         Which leads us to the logical result: if we are so blessed, and so righteous, are we not in some way superior to all others? Certainly we must indeed be more privileged. And if we are blessed (and we all know that God does this for the righteous) and righteous, are we then not fit to be judges over the rest of the world? Indeed we are told that we shall be:

(1 Cor 6:2 NIV) Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?

 

(Recall from the context Paul is talking about settling disputes among ourselves without reference to the court system). The answer, of course, is no. We must realize the source, both of our blessing and our righteousness: Jesus Christ. if we are to do anything based upon the status of being a child of God, then we must do it in His Spirit. And as we have seen with the woman taken in adultery, Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might have eternal life.

In a very real sense, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer assures us, “love is the radical condemnation of sin.” It so condemns sin that it rejects sinful methods of condemning sin.

With that, me must seek the Scripture.

(Mat 7:1-5 NIV) "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. {2} For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. {3} "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? {4} 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? {5} 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.

 

(Luke 6:37-42 NIV) "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. {38} Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." {39} He also told them this parable: "Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? {40} A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. {41} "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? {42} How can you say to your brother, 'Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,' when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

 

Objective: Redemption, not Condemnation

We must never forget that our Lord came for our redemption, not our condemnation. As such we, the imitators of Christ, must also seek the redemption of those around us. It is a dangerous game.

The Perils of Judgment

There is a very important principle in all this: God uses your yardstick to measure you. We follow the same principle in our lives, to our benefit or sorrow:

·         When you deal with a grocer, you must, of course, pay the full rate. Do you prefer to deal with a grocer whose measurements are honest, or even generous, or one who skimps on everything? You measure the grocer by the grocers scale.

·         But in that process you announce yourself to be a sinner. For every time we make such a judgment, we proclaim a standard. God simply takes our standard and uses it to judge us.

(Rom 2:1 NIV) You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

So we see that God will use our judgments upon us. That is the first peril -- but not the last.

The next peril comes from the fact that we cannot see all ends. We really don’t know where things will lead, nor do we really know what’s going on in the heart of another:

(1 Cor 4:5 NIV) Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

More deadly still is the path of judgment. Where does judgment lead, if not to condemnation? (Can you really pass judgment on someone and not act upon it?) And condemnation, combined with our own perception of righteousness, leads to vengeance -- and vengeance belongs to God, not to us. If you think this is not a problem, thing again: how do you like a biased referee?

Sometimes we excuse ourselves by saying, “I’m not one to pass judgment on others, but ...” We would do well to remember the injunction given by James:

(James 4:11-12 NIV) Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. {12} There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?

You see, I hope, the point: in passing judgment you pass judgment on the law. We are in effect saying that God’s law of love is insufficient, and therefore we need to take a hand in it ourselves.

Why do we judge?

So, given that, why do we persist in this? There are at least three reasons:

Judgment as a cover for sin:

The heart is the starting place for all human affairs, and often we take the pain in our heart, due to our own sin, and use it as a basis for condemning others. It as if we say that by condemning others we feel like we are justifying ourselves. There is a very good example in the person of David, after his affair with Bathsheba:

(2 Sam 12:1-12 NIV) The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. {2} The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, {3} but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him. {4} "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him." {5} David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! {6} He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity." {7} Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. {8} I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. {9} Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. {10} Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' {11} "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. {12} You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.'"

(We see also in this God using the measuring stick provided.) We can readily imagine (my heart sheweth me the way of the ungodly) that David condemned this rich man as a cover for his own guilt. Note what David did not do: he did not say something like, “Well, we need to look into that,” or “Let’s not be too hasty.” He jumped to judgment, I think, to turn his guilt onto someone else. He felt guilty about what he had done; here was a target for the self condemnation he was feeling.

Unknowing Hypocrisy (Spiritual Blindness)

This form of self deception is well described as “the blind leading the blind.” Most of us just will not evaluate ourselves. If the guilt cannot be deflected onto others, we can simply ignore it. One very helpful way to do this is to focus that guilt outward -- but, of course, in a kind and caring manner. “Here, let me help you” sound so Christian. There is a reason we are told to examine ourselves at Communion.

Lack of Faith

Probably the greatest temptation for the experienced Christian is this one. You may be surprised to see it, so let me put it in its more familiar terms.

“I just don’t know what we’re going to do about Joe. It seems so hopeless. We’ve tried everything. I’m afraid he’s just a habitual drunkard, and there’s just no way to turn him around. How his wife puts up with him I’ll never know.”

This sounds very Christian. After all, we are looking after our brother here, right? The problem is easier seen if I rephrase it this way:

“Joe is such a habitual drunkard that even God can’t do anything with him. He’s going straight to hell for it, and not even God can stop him. His wife ought to walk out on him tonight.”

You see the difference? The second phrasing makes the blasphemy clearer (for that is what it is) -- it is denying the power of God to say that anyone is hopeless. We then conclude that worldly methods having failed, worldly remedies should be applied. Our problem? We are relying on our strength, not His, and He will give us no help in that.

The Principle of Lordship

So how do we avoid this problem? I submit the answer is given to us in Luke’s Gospel account: the student is not above the teacher. We need to begin by recognizing that we are not in charge (He is) and therefore judgment is not ours.

We are all his servants; Paul puts it this way:

(Rom 14:4 NIV) Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Note the points?

·         God is the judge of his servants, not us.

·         But He is also to make his servants a success.

In this same conception, the idea that He is Lord and we are his servants, we do have some responsibilities of judgment:

·         We are told to judge Jesus Himself! (See John 7:24, where Jesus tells this to the Pharisees). There is no sense being “open minded” about the ultimate righteousness.

·         We do have an obligation to judge our brothers -- to ascertain the weak and help them. There are two major points:

·         (Rom 14:13-15 NIV) Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way. {14} As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. {15} If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. You see the point? The fruit of our judgment is the restraint we put on ourselves on their behalf, not condemnation.

·         (Gal 6:1 NIV) Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Here we see the result -- restoration, but “gently.” And with a wary eye for our own temptation.

As stated at first, the object is redemption, not condemnation. James puts it this way:

(James 2:12-14 NIV) Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, {13} because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment! {14} What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?

That last verse is not usually quoted in this regard, but I think it has application. It is one thing to agree that we must “judge not.” It is another to show mercy and follow this command. But hear the word of the Lord:

(2 Cor 9:6 NIV) Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.

So it is with money, so it is with mercy. God will take your yardstick to measure you.

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