Sunday, April 18, 2010

To Live is Christ — discerning receptivity

The Greek word for judging also means to discern or decide, yet it seems that these words are not exact equivalents. Judging seems harsher than discernment or making decisions, at least when I apply it to myself. That is, when I do something foolish and berate myself for weeks over it, that is judging. When I am angry with myself and dwell on my sin with constant criticism and am frustrated with who I am and what I do, that is judgment.

On the other hand, when I do something foolish and realize that it was foolish, that is discernment. It is also discernment to realize the sin that is at the root of my behavior. After that, I’ve decisions to make, such as going to God with confession and repentance so that I might be forgiven and cleansed.

So if someone else does something foolish, God tells me to treat them the same way I’d want myself treated. That is, use some discernment to recognize their error, but instead of laying a guilt trip on the other person, encourage their restoration through good decisions about confession and receiving God’s grace. 

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces. (Matthew 7:1–6)
Before reading this passage again this morning, I thought about the reasons God does not want me to have a unforgiving and critical spirit of judging. Isn’t it most obvious that I’ve done the same things or worse? Who has any right to call the kettle black? Who is so pure that everyone else is a bigger sinner? Not me. God even says that if I break just one of His laws, I am guilty of all.

This is what the speck and the plank are all about. To properly ‘judge’ anyone, I need to deal with my own sin and continually remember that I am prone to the same temptations and failures. This is not about “me teaching you” but about “we are in this battle against sin together.”

Jesus commands ‘no critical condemnation’ because it bites back. It also indicates that I am likely guilty of the same thing, which makes me a hypocrite. I see that, but today I notice verse six. What is that about, the one that says not to give what is holy to dogs or cast my pearls before swine?

Dogs and pigs were the most derogatory terms in a Jewish vocabulary. They were used for “Gentiles” but not restricted to any individuals or groups. Jesus may have used these terms to a largely Jewish audience so they would realize that offering godly correction to others might result in resistance or hostility. People who lack the capacity to appreciate the intrinsic worth and value of the truth about sin and the good news of God’s grace often respond with vicious scorn and hardened contempt.

While God says not to pre-judge who will or will not listen to correction or even the gospel message itself, He also says I should never try to force it on someone who shows no inclination to listen.

I needed to know this a few months ago when I shared Christ with another person. She had always seemed very “nice” and yet I was shocked at her attitude when I told her what Jesus had done in my life. She was almost vicious and lashed out at me personally. When I asked another Christian what to do next, she said, “Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”

This isn’t at all about a demeaning attitude toward those who reject the gospel. Jesus says to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us (Matthew 5:44). Rather, it is about having a high regard for the sacredness of godliness and truth. Why give it to someone who will mock and curse God, the truth, or even the messenger? Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.”

While I wish I could “fix” any bad attitudes that I discern in others, correcting those who will not receive instruction is futile. I have enough trouble with my own bad attitudes, and need to remember that being wise means being willing to first receive correction myself.

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