Sunday, November 10, 2013


Note: Did you study “the household”?  If not, stop and read the post before this one first (Family Business,11/03/2013). 

Don’t judge so that you won’t be judged.
For in the way you judge - you’ll be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
… and behold, the log is in your own eye?
 You hypocrite!
First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
Matthew 7.1-5

Don’t you hate getting something in your eye?  I've gotten junk in my eye many times, and I hate it.  When I was about 9, I got a speck of iron in my eye that rusted and had to be drilled out by an ophthalmologist.  Yikes.  Fortunately (believe-it-or-not) it’s a lot more comfortable to have your eye drilled than your teeth! 

There are some things about my experience I’ll never forget.  It didn't hurt me at all.  The speck in my eye didn't hurt, and neither did the drilling.  But I could tell my mother was freaked out, and trying to hide it so I wouldn't freak, too.  The thought of a man drilling in her son’s eye was only slightly less horrible to her than that I might go blind.  So … SHE was more concerned than I! 

I had some friends at church with two beautiful adult daughters.  One daughter had a fine family, and the other was a homeless junkie.  They had been a typical middle-class family.  The father was an outstanding engineer, and the mom was a kind, stay-at-home, “June Cleaver” type mom.  I don’t know what happened to cause their younger daughter to rebel, but once she started down the road of drugs and promiscuity, she got past the point of no return.  It was like watching someone stuck in quicksand – but she wouldn't take help, and one day she died in the street. 

Her mom (like mine) was horrified with what happened to her child.  And the junkie daughter (like me) wasn't so concerned.  She was happy (at first) to live foolishly, so she wouldn't let her mom “take her to the doctor” to have her issue resolved.  And the truth is that her addictions and problems surely hurt those around her more than they hurt her. 

But also at our church were those who whispered about the girl and talked behind her back.  I heard her called all sorts of bad things.  People looked down their noses at her, and to some extent even her parents.  Gossip and judgmentalism like this are common in churches, as are their sister: hypocrisy. 

This is what Jesus was talking about: 
He was talking about the snobbish, judgmental attitude that some of us have toward our brothers and sisters who are struggling with some sin.  These people are the older brother in the prodigal son story (Luke 15), and the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.  These people say they are forgiving, but their actions speak louder than their words. 

This is NOT what Jesus was talking about:
He wasn't saying that we should let people go about with debris in their eyes!  How could a loving mother, brother or sister allow another family member to be in danger?  How can we not want to stop him or reach out to help her?  Make no mistake: we are our brother’s keeper (Genesis 4.9)!  We are supposed to care for our brothers and sisters, even to keep them from trouble, and even when they don’t want our help. 
“If anyone doesn't obey our instruction in this letter, take special note of that person and don’t associate with him, so he’ll be put to shame.  Yet don’t regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”
     (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)“Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him”
     (Luke 17:3)
There are many other scriptures like this. 

So is Jesus contradicting himself?

No!  Remember the context.  Jesus is speaking to Jewish disciples.  These people were aware of the “religious” Jews of their day who gossiped, criticized and condemned (just like “Christians” today) others.  This was the reputation of the Pharisees, a religious group within Judaism.  They were the “good” people.  And, like in our “church” above, they were those who gossiped and disregarded the junkie girl and her mother. 

When Jesus said for us not to judge our brothers, his intention was that we not condemn them or look down our noses at them as if they’re especially “bad,” and therefore unworthy of our help. 

When I discuss our groups, I’ll use two different terms: disciples and Christians.  The way I use it … I consider us disciples to be those who are truly devoted to Jesus.  We are family, brothers and sisters, and devoted to helping each other be good kids.  “Christians” (the way I use it, at least) refers to the larger Christian community.  These are “good” religious folks who go to church and don’t cuss or drink or sin … and don’t associate with those of us who do. 

I do this because it’s just like Jesus’ audience.  There was the larger religious community of Jews, and within them were Jesus’ followers.  In the SOM he was speaking to his own disciples, and here he was telling them not to judge like the hypocritical “religious” folks. 

The Rules

I hate rules, but sometimes they make things simple, so in this case I’m going to list for you “the rules” of judging others (or not) from the New Testament here:

  1. Leave outsiders alone

The first rule of judging is that we are responsible to and for our brothers and sisters only.  What those outside of Jesus do is not our business.  If people in the world want to lie, cheat, live wildly sexual lives, have same-sex marriages, or whatever they do … that’s between them and their lord.  Most of them worship their one true god: themselves.  They do what they think is right (or not), and it's not our place to judge them.    

We have a different Lord: God.  We do what God says, whether we like it or not.  And God helps us to obey Him!  We (who have been baptized into Jesus’ death) have received His Holy Spirit, Who helps us with our weaknesses (Romans 8.26).  Since outsiders don’t follow our Lord, and don’t have this help, how can they possibly be expected to act like us?  They can’t. And the fact is, many of us struggle enough as it is. 

We MUST STOP trying to control the behavior of outsiders!  This is what Paul wrote: 
“For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Don’t you judge those who are within the church”?
    (1 Corinthians 5:12) 

 2.  Keep our own house clean

Paul wrote that it is our job to “judge” those within the church.  Jesus said we should “rebuke” a brother if he sins.  But remember the stories above.  We judge and rebuke our brothers and sisters to help them, not to condemn or criticize.  Sometimes they’ll take it the wrong way, but we still must do it.  Like the junkie girl above who rejected her mother’s attempts to help, sometimes even our own family will reject us.  So be it.  But we are obligated to try to help those who call themselves “Christian.”

We are our brother’s keepers!  Consider this:
All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed. Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal.
   (Hebrews 12:11-16)
The writer is encouraging us to strengthen one another, and yet we see to it that “no root of bitterness” rises up.  We help each other by accountability and encouragement.  Like fat people weekly stepping on a scale, there’s some judgment … but other fatties don’t look down their nose at the person who didn't lose this week.  Rather, they offer encouragement (within their group).  Outsiders may call some people drunks, but within AA, they help each other.  Certainly there’s a form of judgment within any 12-step group, but it’s not for putting someone down … but rather to see how they are progressing! 

But beware of something I've learned the hard way: most people at church don’t want to be better.  They want to be justified. 
They don’t want to improve; they want to be told they’re wonderful just like they are. 
They don’t want to grow stronger; they just want an easier life. 
They don’t want to learn; they want their ignorance validated. 

If you rebuke those people, get ready for them to tell you: “Judge not!”  They don’t know the context, and they don’t want to know it.  This is the reason the religious people killed Jesus.  He came to help, to convict, to teach, to improve … they didn't want to admit they needed help, growth or improvement; and they certainly didn't want to be convicted. 

3.  Judge Not

The simple lesson here is that we should not look down on others.  This is easy for those of us who are (or have been) “bad” sinners.  I’ve committed sexual sins and taken drugs and done all those sorts of worldly things.  And the people who also do those things (or have done them) are usually not very judgmental.  We know we suck, so we don’t look down our noses much – except at religious hypocrites!  Religious people look down on us for being “bad,” and we look down on them for being judgmental.  Shame on us! 

We who are tempted to tell someone not to judge … watch out! 

I write that because most of the more judgmental, hypocritical people won’t ever even read this blog, and even if they do, they won’t change.  They “know the difference between right and wrong,” and they will never find a way to help those of us who don’t have their discipline or money or blessings or talents or looks.  But we who are sinners, we who are ugly, or dopers or drunks or sluts, or adulterers … we also are tempted to look down on the religious people.  Let’s help each other to not become just like them.

4.  Clean up

Jesus said, “You hypocrite!  First take the log out of your own eye….”  That’s because there’s value in looking at ourselves - first. 

If you've ever struggled to overcome sin, or depression or even judgmentalism, you know how hard it is!  Once you discover how hard sin is to defeat (and how much help we need from God) it makes humility much more natural.  I’m not gay, but I've struggled with sexual sins, so I can imagine how hard life must be for a gay person.  I've struggled with laziness, lying, smoking, drinking and lots of things … including several things that are just scary.  Overcoming those shortcomings has been very hard, it never ends, and now I can relate to other “losers” like me who will struggle for the rest of our lives. 

Struggle leads to humility, humility breeds compassion

Not only is it humbling to “clean up,” but it’s instructive.  Overcoming struggles teaches us how to overcome.  I quit smoking several times before I finally found one way that was effective for me.  Since then, I've found others who struggle with it, and I know that some things work for some people, and other things work for others.  My job is to be patient and encourage them to … KEEP SEARCHING until they find the thing that works for them! 

And if you die searching … then at least you will die with me cheering you on.  For it’s not the success that makes us forgiven in the eyes of God, it’s His grace!  His grace alone is what saves us!  So … He honors the fact that we will spend the rest of our lives trying to be the kinds of sons and daughters He wants us to be. 
Just as a father has compassion on his children, So Yahweh has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.     (Psalm 103:13-14)
He already knows we’re weak and stupid and lazy.  He already knows how powerful Satan is.  He already knows how badly we will mess up - and He has already forgiven us.  Now … back to work.   

We are saved by grace – not success

If you struggle with something, consider keeping a notebook or log of some kind.  Then, go to it when you see someone else struggling, and use what you learned to be humble and encouraging.  That’s how others can benefit from our weakness. 

Others can learn from our mistakes

The risk of love

Jesus was a name-caller.  People these days say we’re “not supposed to call names,” but Jesus did it.  Here, he looked at his audience and said, “You hypocrite”!  The question is … why? 

You can decide for yourself, but here’s my opinion: 
Sometimes people don’t realize how bad they are until confronted harshly. 

Religious people are like this.  As I type this on a Sunday morning, millions of these hypocrites are cleaning up and putting on their “Sunday best” to get ready for church, where they will pretend to be something they’re not (good) and meanwhile be judgmental of those who are “sinners.” 

How will anyone get their attention?  
Their preacher or pastor won’t – because he knows they pay him to say things they want to hear, and they do NOT pay him to call them hypocrites (or any other names)!  He may know they’re hypocrites, and even be aware of his own hypocrisy, but he needs his paycheck, and he needs his popularity, so he will try to find another way, or he will just be quiet. 

Jesus loved me enough to call me a hypocrite.  
He knew I might ignore him.  He knew he’d never get rich, or popular or accepted by his own people.  Even his own brothers despised him.  But Jesus loved me so much - he took the risk. 

If one of you sees your brother sinning, will you take such a risk? 

If so, then you’ll find a way to talk directly to a person you know is a sinner and offer him or her help.  If not, you’ll go on gossiping about the person behind his or her back, but not fellowship with them or let your kids do so.  You’ll be judgmental and tell yourself you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones from this “sinner,” and you’ll be safe.  I told a brother once that he needed to spend more time with sinners, helping them, and his answer was, “But I don’t like sinners!”  I love his honesty.  Truth is, sinners are scary to religious folks, just as religious folks are intimidating to us sinners.  But we really could help each other … if we only loved enough to try. 

The great tragedy: some people can’t be helped

Jesus knew it, so did all the other prophets and even Paul:
“I’m telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen….”
     (Romans 9:1-3)
If you call someone a hypocrite and she responds by calling you ‘mean’ or ‘bully’ and won’t listen … if you’re gentle and they won’t change … if you bring God’s word and they won’t listen … then at some point you have to give up and move on.  Paul was known as the “Apostle to the Gentiles,” because his own people (Jews) wouldn't listen to him.  He was kind, and he was harsh, and neither was effective. 

Jesus told his followers that if they went to a village and weren't received, to shake off the dust of the village and move on.
“And whatever city or village you enter, inquire who is worthy in it, and stay at his house until you leave. As you enter the house, give it your greeting. If the house is worthy, give it your ‘peace.’ But if it’s not worthy, take back your ‘peace.’ Whoever does not receive you, nor heed your words, as you go out of that house or that city, shake the dust off your feet.”  
     (Matthew 10:11-14)
I had a friend and brother who struggled with sin.  He came to me and confessed and asked for help.  Another brother and I were working with him, and after only a short while he “fell off the wagon.”  We asked him about it, and he simply quit.  He said he couldn't do it, and would stop trying.  So … we no longer had anything to do with him.  He had a family who would suffer and struggle a great deal because of his issues, and today none of them has anything to do with me or the other brother who tried to help.  They don’t know the whole story, only his side of things, and so they think I’m a horrible person.  It hurts, but it’s what Jesus said to do.  And Paul wrote the same thing to a church … here are excerpts:
    “It’s actually reported that there is immorality among you….  You have become arrogant and haven’t mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled … I've decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.    Your boasting isn't good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened.
    I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.  Remove the wicked man from among yourselves.”(Excerpts from 1 Corinthians 5)
Paul is teaching them an idea that was already taught by Jesus: if a brother sins, rebuke him in private.  If he repents, forgive him.  If not, then take someone with you and rebuke him.  If he still doesn't repent, have nothing to do with him.  Why?  Because sin is contagious!

When Paul wrote about “leaven” … it was like our idea of a contagious disease.  I want to help a person who is sick, but I don’t want her to cough on me.  If she won’t receive help, then I’m not going to expose myself to her illness.  Sin is like that.  When we excuse it or justify it or quit trying to fight it, we become contagious.  Soon others who are tempted like us will share rationalizations and we’ll be downright “forgiving” and “understanding.”  And when that happens, the whole group is poisoned. 

A church group is like a Navy warship.  If one gunner fails to hit targets, the whole ship can be sunk.  So, we train the gunner.  Then we test him, and retest him.  If he gets lazy, we “remind” him to get back to work.  If he refuses, we replace him.  Not because we hate him, but because the fate of the ship hangs in the balance. 

Like any smart enemy, Satan will exploit our weaknesses.  Even in some cases, he has learned to help us confuse forgiveness and tolerance.  We can forgive a new gunner and help him learn.  We can forgive a sinner and help him grow.  But if he refuses to learn, to grow, to repent … then we must shake him off and move on for the sake of the boat. 


I suppose I've over-complicated this, but I really want to be thorough and help you know what Jesus meant.  He despised hypocrisy, but he understood weakness.  And so he knew that there’s a difference between a loving rebuke and a hypocritical bit of judgment.  We know that difference, too, if we’re honest. 

Will you learn to love enough to rebuke, protect, and also not be judgmental?  It takes time and work.  This doesn't come naturally to anyone.  

So … if you’re willing to learn, let the process begin. 
And if you're doing this with a three column-group, hopefully you'll id your own struggles and grow. 

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