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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Ask Pastor Chris 3 - Questions About Judging

            Ask Pastor Chris has been a fun and interesting message series fro me to preach. I have enjoyed receiving questions and talking with people about them over the last month. You can find some of the answers on my blog— Today I will address a few questions dealing with accountability, discernment, and being judgmental. This will be my last official message in this series, but you can always ask questions. I like to know your questions as it helps me know what to preach and teach about. Plus, I may write about some of the other questions on my blog, in our church newsletter, or in the bulletin. 

Matthew 7:1-61 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.

“Don’t waste what is holy on people who are unholy. Don’t throw your pearls to pigs! They will trample the pearls, then turn and attack you.

Understanding the Texts
            Boy, that Jesus has a way with words! Doesn’t he? “Why worry about the speck of dust in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own eye?”  Jesus warns us not to judge others. Or does he?  He does say you will be judged by the same measure you judge others. Which seems to mean, “Don’t judge, at all.” However, that also means you can judge, just that God will judge you by the same standard.  Jesus also says you can help your friend remove the spec his eye, but only after you remove the log from your own. So there is still the possibility of dealing with your friend’s problem.
            Jesus also goes on to say don’t waste what is holy on unholy people.  Jesus says “Don’t throw your pearls to pigs.” Well how do you know they are pigs unless you judge them to be pigs? Isn’t that judging?  I think about his advice whenever I am faced with a drunk person who wants me to give them advice or who wants to discuss deep topics like religion or philosophy.  Have you ever tried to give advice to a drunk person?  It's pointless.  Even if you can get them to understand, they'll likely to forget what you said once they sober up!   

Judging Believers vs. Judging Non-believers
            The Apostle Paul had something interesting to say to the Corinthian church about judging people. Listen to what he said in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 – “12 It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning. 13 God will judge those on the outside; but as the Scriptures say, “You must remove the evil person from among you.”
            Are Christians supposed to have a double standard? Well, actually, yes!  Christians should hold each other to higher standards than people who do not believe in Christ. The problem within the church often is we expect non-Christians to live up to Christian standards. So we like to complain about the moral depravity of the people around us who don’t live the way Jesus says we should. Well, if they don’t believe in Jesus, why should we expect them to live the way Jesus teaches?
            Paul says we should focus on holding believers accountable and leave the judgment of unbelievers to God.  Christians need to hold one another accountable. It is a basic need of spiritual growth. A Christian friend recently asked me to hold him accountable for his foul language. He is a Christian and also a leader who people look up to. Yet, he has always struggled with using vulgar language. He recognized this and decided to make a change. He also recognized change would come easier if he had a Christian brother holding him accountable. He asked me and I have and he is getting better.
            Who is holding you accountable? Do you have a Christian brother or sister that needs you to hold them accountable?

Judgment vs. Being Judmental
           We need to recognize there is a big difference between what Jesus said about exercising judgment and being judgmental. People today love to quote Jesus and say, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” Usually, they says this when they or someone they care about is feeling judged or self-conscious. A lady once came to my churches seeking money early in my ministry.  We were a small church and had no funds to help pay her $500 rent as she requested.  I told her this and started to explain how the Salvation Army in town could help her, but I didn't get the chance.  She stormed out of my office yelling "Well, the Bible says judge not lest ye be judged."  I was certainly not judging her; I was trying to help her.  Unfortunately, she was too self-conscious of her situation or had been rejected too many times and angry and stormed out misjudging my intentions.
            Jesus never meant we aren’t supposed to have good judgment. Quite the contrary, he taught we should be careful to judge people correctly—especially in a world full of liars, hypocrites, deceivers, and false teachers. In Matthew 7:15-17, Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit.” Jesus taught how to make good judgments about people.  And he said this in the same passage where he warned us to be careful about judging people.  So we need discernment. Don’t let people guilt you into abandoning good judgment by their misguided admonition: “Judge not, lest ye be judged!”  
            Jesus warned us not to be judgmental. Having a judgmental attitude is different from exercising good judgment. Being judgmental is “having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.” It is the self-righteous, holier-than-thou attitude we sometimes have when we think we are better than someone else.  It can be as unintentional as judging a book by a cover. A friend of mine related how he sometimes wrongly pre-judged his soldiers when he was an infantry officer in the Vietnam War. He said, “The most unassuming guys turned out to be the best warriors, the most determined fighters and did their work without complaining.”
            You may not be a soldier, but you might misjudge your employees or co-workers or potential friends based on your preconceived notions. You might miss out on a very good relationship because you “judged a book by its cover” without really finding out who a person is.
            Another type of judging is when we think we are better than someone else. In a sick way, it makes you feel better about yourself when look down on someone else. However, you are only lying to yourself when you do this. The fact is, you are not better than anyone else. Thinking you are is unhealthy, mean, and simply evil. Furthermore, it is ludicrous. It is like pointing at someone derisively because they have a hole in their pants while you are walking around naked! This kind of judgmentalism blinds us to our own faults, while tearing down other people that God deeply loves and wants us to love.
            There is another kind of judgmentalism that is so ridiculous and yet so prevalent we almost all
do it. I call it “National Enquirer Judgmentalism.” Here, we are judge people we’ve probably never even met and know nothing about.  It is the politician or celebrity we gossip and speculate about. I’m not talking about trying to make an educated decision about who to vote for. I’m talking about the way we “entertain” ourselves with so-called “news” speculating about the politics, motives, and lifestyles of famous people.  We even make judgments about the character of more ordinary people who make the news. A police officer in Missouri allegedly shoots an unarmed black man and suddenly everyone has an opinion. You don’t know the officer or the black man or the community or anything at all about the situation (except what the “news” is telling you) and suddenly you are an expert with an opinion. Or maybe a woman allegedly poisons her husband in California and suddenly it’s a national gossip story and everyone’s talking about if she did it and why.  What business do we have passing judgment on these things?  Does it make any real difference to our lives here in Dalton, GA?  Is it up to us to make a judgment? Don’t we have enough to worry about already?  Perhaps we would all be better off not to stand in judgment of people we’ve never met, about things that don’t concern us, in places we’ve never been.

How Do We Stop Being Judgmental?
            Here now, Jesus’ warning judging starts to make sense: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” But how do you stop being judgmental? Here are four tips that can help you stop judging others.
            First be aware you have a problem.  Here are some clues you might be judgmental:
  • Do you put most people you meet in some category? (Young, old, religious, heathen, rough, liberal, conservative, etc.)  Labeling people is a good indication you have a judgmental attitude.
  • Do you make judgments about people based on their appearance?  ("That guys got a lot of tattoos; he must be a rough character."  "She's too quiet.  She must be shy or stuck up."  "He's dressed up in a nice suit.  He must be rich."  "She's too fat.  She must be lazy.")  It's not a good idea to judge people on their appearance before you have a chance to get to know them.  And it's an indication you are being judgmental.
  • Do you gossip about others?  Judgmental people often derive pleasure from gossiping about others.
  • Do you form opinions based on what others say about someone?  This is another way we are judgmental.
  • Do you have contempt for people who disagree with you?  This is something we struggle with greatly in our divisive world.  "Those liberals/conservatives/republicans/democrats are idiots!"  If this is you, you are being judgmental.
  • Do you have a negative or distrustful outlook of people in general?  This is a common characteristic of judgmental people.
            Second, love yourself and don’t compare yourself to others. One of the biggest causes of being judgmental is our need to feel good about ourselves.  We put other people down--either to others or in our own mind--and it makes us feel superior.  This isn't much different from what a kindergarten bully does on the playground when they beat up or belittle a weaker person in order to make themselves feel better.  We don't need to compare ourselves to anyone else.  We are not better than anyone else, but no one else is better than us either.  We are all unique, special, people with great value and each of us is loved by God.  Find your worth in God's love and don't seek to bolster yourself by judging others.
            Third, try to understand and empathize.  Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It's so much easier to judge people who are “not like us.” That’s why it’s easier to gossip about and judge celebrities, politicians, and athletes. We don’t see them as regular people like us. However, when we see someone as our brother or sister, we get less pleasure from putting them down. Try to understand people and feel what they feel and you will be less likely to judge them unnecessarily.
            Fourth, stop gossiping.  Gossip is a way we derive pleasure from our judgmentalism.  Don't indulge in the pleasure reward and you will have less reason to judge people.  It just wont be as fun.

            We all have our struggles.  Maybe some of you struggle with being judgmental.  Ask God to help you get rid of your judgmental attitude.  Recognize you have a problem.   Love yourself and stop comparing yourself to others.  Ask God to help you empathize more and judge less.  And stop gossiping.
            Perhaps you need someone to hold you accountable.  Tell someone you trust you are trying to be less judgmental and ask them to pray for you, encourage you, and hold you accountable (just like my friend asked me to hold him accountable for his language).
            Maybe as you're reading this, you realize you need to use better judgment.  God gave you a brain and intuition.  He wants you to use it.  Pray for discernment.  Get advice from trusted people.  And make a proper judgment about someone or some situation in your life.  Seek to make better judgments about your family, your job, or an important decision you need to make.  Don’t be afraid.  Ask God to help you and He will be your guide.

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