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Showing posts with label Judging. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Judging. Show all posts

Monday, March 15, 2021

Don't Judge Me


In this sermon series, we are comparing the prevailing wisdom of the world to the way of Christ. So far, this has meant contrasting what Jesus said to what the world says. But in today’s message, we see that sometimes people misuse what Jesus said.

One of my pet-peeves is when people misquote someone on social media. Do you know what I mean? For instance, look at this meme of Abraham Lincoln that says, “Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it.” Now this humorous meme illustrates a point about something that happens all the time. It’s just too easy to see a sentiment you like that’s been attributed to some famous person and you share it. And because some famous person said it, it must be true. Right? Not really.  

A more insidious form of false information is “fake news” where false information presented as “fact” is spread so widely people accept it as truth.  We are overwhelmed with so much information, who has the time to check every source and verify all the information we receive?  And so fake news is passed along and goes viral until everyone believes it's true.

Recently, I was guilty of sharing false information myself. I saw a supposed quote from CS Lewis’ book The Screw Tape Letters that was turned into a meme that seemed so fitting for our times.  Fortunately, a couple of my friends (gently) alerted me that (though the sentiment is good) this quote is not an authentic CS Lewis quote.  After checking, I verified that is not in CS Lewis’ book. 

Many people misuse Jesus’ words.  I will never forget being a young pastor of a small church in Griffin when a lady stopped by seeking assistance with her rent.  She told me a story of how she was down on her luck and needed some help.  Well, we were a small church with a very small budget.  We didn’t have the funds to help her, but my church treasurer worked at the local Salvation Army.  I told the lady my church couldn’t help her, but I had a contact at the Salvation Army who could probably help her.  I was in the process of calling my member to get her to help when the lady I was trying to help flew off the handle and stormed out the door shouting, “Jesus said do not judge!” 

Well, I wasn’t judging her.  I was trying to help her and probably could have if she hadn’t stormed out of my church in a rage while misquoting Jesus.  Jesus did say, “Do not judge,” but it doesn’t mean what this lady thought it meant and it doesn’t mean what most people in our world think either.  So let’s take a look at two things Jesus said. 

Matthew 7:1 & 12:33
7:1 – “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”

12:33 – “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.”

In Matthew 7:1, Jesus is preaching against being judgmental. Being judgmental is rushing to judgment without reason. It describes someone who forms a lot of harsh, critical opinions about many people. It describes the Pharisees of Jesus’ day who tried so hard to follow the Torah perfectly and criticized anyone who didn’t live up to their standards. Their judgements revealed their lack of love and compassion for people. They saw themselves as better than everyone else.  Jesus preached: Don’t be like that. Don’t be judgmental. If you spend all your time pointing out everyone else’s problems, you won’t take a good hard look at yourself and see all your own flaws for which you desperately need forgiveness and healing.

We live in a world that holds two values in the highest esteem—freedom and tolerance. First of all, we value freedom. I mean, this is America, right? We can live however we want. Furthermore, this is the 21st century. Most people don’t want to confine themselves to what they consider outdated moral constructs of the past. We are modern people who live modern lives. We don’t want anyone telling us the way we live is wrong.  That's the prevailing attitude of our times.

Second, we value tolerance, because there are so many difference people living different ways by different moral standards.  Who is to say who is really right and wrong?  So, we must learn tolerance. We say, "I’ll let you be you and you let me be me."  Ironically, the people who preach tolerance the most can be some of the most intolerant people you will find. They preach tolerance of their own behavior when it offends moral standards they consider outdated, but they want to “cancel” anyone who doesn’t live up to their own “new” moral expectations.  Tolerance, in our times, is a one way street.  

So, people take Jesus’ command not to be judgmental and make it, “Don’t judge me!” That’s not what Jesus meant. Jesus never expected people give up on thinking critically about what is right and wrong. Furthermore, he even taught that we should look at the way people live and make informed judgments about whether it is good or bad.  Since Christians live together in community, we are supposed to hold one another accountable.  This important work requires us to use good judgment and even tell one another when we see behavior that is unhealthy.

In Matthew 12:33, Jesus teaches, “A tree is identified by its fruit. If a tree is good, its fruit will be good. If a tree is bad, its fruit will be bad.” Now, Jesus is not really talking about fruit trees. He’s using an illustration. He’s saying, look at the results of a person’s life. Has their work produced good or bad results? Have they made the world a better place or is the fruit of their life all rotten?

I don't ever want to come to a place where we just accept as truth whatever "most" people say.  Let's always remember how to look deeper at the facts and evaluate and find the truth.

Use Good Judgment
Jesus expects you to use good judgment.  Don’t ever let someone bully you by throwing a misquote of Jesus up in your face.  Don’t ever feel guilty for using the brain God gave you to judge for yourself about a person or situation.  Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all you mind, and all your strength.  So use your mind.  And of course, you want to avoid a judgmental attitude where you think of yourself as better than someone else.  But you still need to make a good, informed decisions.

Don’t try to deny others the freedom to judge you either—especially when you know them to have your best interest at heart.  Isn’t it interesting, we usually want to throw around Jesus’ words “do not judge” when we ourselves are feeling judged?  Someone says something we perceive as judging us and we immediately want to retort back “Don’t judge me!”

Really?  Do you really want to deny others the permission to help you?  You know, sometimes people see things about you that you can’t see about yourself.  If you are a Christian, you have committed your life to follow Jesus—in community with other Christians who are there to help you and you are there to help them.  Part of the way we help each other is by seeing each other’s flaws and (not being judgmental, but) speaking the truth in love.  Are you open to letting someone else tell you a hard truth?  Are you able to prayerfully, carefully, and lovingly tell someone else the truth in a non-judgmental way?

Do you have the kind of close relationships with other Christians where sharing constructive criticism is even possible.  You know, you have to earn the right to share some things with people.  You don't just go up to a stranger on the street and start telling them all about their flaws.  You wouldn't want someone you don't know and trust to do that to you either.  So, you have to spend time getting to know people and tending the relationship ad building trust to the point that you can give and receive some deep accountability.  When you do, they may get mad at you for a day, but that will probably pass and they will receive what you share because of the relationship you have. And the same would be true if a true sister or brother in Christ came to you and told you something your didn't want to hear, but needed to hear.

Closing Meditation
As we close, I would like to lead you in a meditation to help you consider how you could let go of a judgmental attitude and be open to making the right kinds of judgments according to the Spirit of Christ.  So open your heart to God right now as you read.

Ask yourself, do you think you are better than someone else? What about the person who doesn't live the way you think they should live? What about the person who hurt you, betrayed you, or sinned against you?  Are you better than them?  Are you better than the younger generation (who just doesn't get it because they don't know how life works)? Do you think you are better than the older generation (who have lost touch with the modern world and still believe in outdated ideas)?  Are you better than someone else?  Who?

I invite you to repent of your feelings of superiority. You are no better than anyone else. We are all sinners in need of God’s grace. Take a moment to ask Jesus to forgive you and let go of your judgmental attitudes...

Now, ask God to help you have good judgment. Ask Him for wisdom to be a good judge of character—not as a way to feel superior, but—so you will know who to trust and who to avoid…

Now, ask God to give you humility so you may receive constructive that might help you grow as a person…

Finally, ask God to reveal any ways you may need to share constructive criticism with someone you love…

Closing Prayer
"Father God in Heaven, thank You for revealing Your truth for us today and for hearing our prayers.  Help us to follow the way of Christ that uses good judgment but avoids being judgmental.  Help us to have the kinds of deep personal relationships with others that enable us to hold and be held accountable and to grow to become more and more like Christ, Your perfect Son.  In His name we pray, amen."

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.