Tuesday, May 03, 2005

JUDGE NOT

JUDGE NOT by Keith Giles

A while back I received an email from someone that caused me to take a hard look at my own self-righteousness.

This person had a moral failure that involved adultery, split up a best friend’s marriage, and totally destroyed people who were close to me.

At the time, I had traversed this minefield by putting on a loving face to all parties, regardless of their fault or sense of remorse. I had done my best to be loving and forgiving, as I suspected Jesus would have been.

However, over time my relationship with this person faded away, mostly because I began to feel uncomfortable around this person and the ongoing sin in their life.

Fast-forward about five years. Now I was receiving casual email from this person as if nothing had ever happened. I felt myself judging this person’s actions and even their heart as the emotions came flooding back again.

As I sat and contemplated how to react to this, I believe the Holy Spirit revealed something to me. I was reminded of what it was like when I first came to California from Texas. I had no friends. I knew absolutely no one. My co-workers were nice, but at the end of the day they all went home to their families and I went home to an empty apartment to sleep on a sleeping bag on the carpet all alone.

This same person who I was now judging had been the only person to invite me over for dinner with their family. In fact, not only did they feed me and hang out with me, they actually loved me. I became part of their family.

Perhaps that was why this person’s betrayal felt so painful to me. I don’t know.

What I do know is that this person had once been the only person to show me the love of Christ at one of the most lonely and desperate times of my life. Yet, here I was standing in judgment of their sin.

Is this the place God wants me to be? Didn’t Jesus call us to forgive? When confronted with the woman caught in the act of adultery, didn’t Jesus offer her grace and mercy?

After that, I started to think about all the really terrible sins that I had committed in my life. Sure, none of them involved adultery or fornication, but there were plenty of instances where the sin was very ugly, and very real. How grateful I was that God had not only forgiven me of those things completely, but that He had somehow forgotten them in the sea of forgetfulness.

"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

Still, I am guilty, I think, of judging others in many other, less obvious ways.

For example, if I were asked by my unbelieving neighbor how I was feeling, I might tell him I was doing ok, even if I knew that my prayer life was kinda dry at the moment and I was struggling over a few temptations in my life. I would hold back from sharing those “Spiritual” things with him because I have judged that he is “Unsaved” and therefore “Unspiritual”.

If my good Christian friend were to ask me the same question, I would probably share with him about my struggles with prayer time or temptation. Why? Because I have judged that he is “Saved” and therefore that he is “Spiritual”.

But who am I to judge who is “Saved” or “Unsaved”? According to Scripture, there is but one Judge of Men, and here’s a hint…it ain’t me or you.
It’s God Almighty.

When we judge people as being “Saved” or “Unsaved” and we then proceed to treat them differently according to that judgment, I believe we’re subverting the Gospel itself.

Just for a second imagine what would happen in the above example if I were to talk to my “Unsaved” neighbor openly about my spiritual struggles in an equally natural way as I would with my “Saved” brother? Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to introduce Jesus into that conversation? How could that be a bad thing?

Not only are we not supposed to judge others, we’re pretty bad at it.

Let’s say I had one neighbor on my left who frequently got arrested for various crimes every other week? Suppose that guy hung around with other criminals? What if he were finally arrested and sentenced to death for his crimes?

I’d probably conclude that guy was a “sinner” and that he got what he deserved for living such an ungodly life.

Now let’s say I had another neighbor on my right who went to church every time the doors were opened. He was a leader in the church and the community recognized him as an honest, godly man?

I’d probably conclude that he was “saved” and that he would certainly make it to heaven before I did.

Now, according to Scripture I’d be dead wrong.

The neighbor on my left corresponds to the thief on the cross. That “sinner” who lived a life of total rebellion and was executed for his crimes actually had the unbelievable good fortune to be put to death on the same day as the very Son of the Living God and was forgiven and welcomed into the Kingdom of Heaven with open arms.

The “good” neighbor on my right corresponds with the “Rich Young Ruler” who approached Jesus asking what he must do to inherit Eternal Life. Jesus gave him one thing to do, “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor and follow me,” and the guy turned around and walked away from Jesus. As far as we know, he never made it into the Kingdom.

Either way, the point is that we are not the judge of the eternal destiny of men and women. Even if someone declares that they love Jesus with all their heart, we do not “know” for certain either way, and that’s totally ok.

I think what I’m getting at is that we’re not called to treat people one way if we deem them to be “Saved” and to treat people another way if we conclude that they are “Lost”.

Instead, why don’t we love everyone just the same, no matter what they’ve done or how they appear on the outside.

"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. – Luke 6:30-35

By Keith Giles

2 comments:

kastrukoff said...

Good article.

By this person inviting you over it opened up an area for your acceptance. Yes, he screwed up big.. more than his life as well.. but it all comes down to the whole, very good (sometimes cheesy), WWJD. One of the many examples, Zechariah. No one wanted to be old Zechies friend or marale booster, yet, Jesus went over and wined and dined with this rejection of society.

I know.. you've probabley already dealt with this.. but love your friend, and if he is showing remorse and regret for what he did, give him another chance to enjoy your friendship. If he doesn't show it, still forgive and love, but you don't have to be best friends. Hope all goes good for you two.

StrangeLand Bass said...

Great article Keith.

What a quandry - eh? How we deal with others sin - is it something we see in ourselves - how do I want to be dealt with?

Excellent questions.

Thanks for making me think.