“Judge Not” — Those Fearsome Words

On Friday “Morning Story and Dilbert” reblogged an article from “Walking the talk.” The theme was about not judging others and the writer makes some good points. You can find this article at http://francesgabriel75.wordpress.com/2013/05/30/judgement-and-walking-in-anothers-shoes/

“Judge not that ye be not judged.” Matthew 7:1
This oft-quoted verse is the tip of a profound subject: how do we relate to others when they do things we disapprove of? Various angles came to mind as I read the post, now I want to spread out some of my thoughts here to see what you think.  Maybe you’ll be inspired to share your thinking, too. (I’ve had so many musings on this topic, I’m dividing them into two posts!)

PART ONE

GUILT: The Word We Love To Hate

A burglar always has one ear listening for the sound of a footstep behind him, one eye watching for the flash of blue uniform.

When I do something I know is wrong, I start to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit. That’s His job here in this world. With my Spirit-pricked conscience already nagging, I’m super-sensitive to any comment or gesture indicating disapproval. Like my ancestors, Adam & Eve, I’m defensive and ready to cast the blame on something or someone else.

If I get a whiff of censure from someone I may slap back with, “You have no business judging me.” You’ll find it hard to avoid this accusation if you really don’t approve. But it’s hard to watch someone heading for the brink of disaster and not yell, “Look out! Don’t go there.”

A Christian can never condone something God forbids. We know God loves sinners; we can feel sympathy for the position they are in; we want to offer hope; we want to point folks to the One Who can pardon them. But we can’t offer them the acquittal they often long for.

One mother I read about “rented” her two-year old to perverts to pay for her drug habit. She felt horribly guilty for what she was doing – and well she should! She allowed her  daughter to be tormented rather than facing the pain of coming clean herself. I can’t wipe her guilt away with a “God loves you anyway.” Yes, He does, but at some point a “This is wrong. Stop!” must be said.

My sister told me how her ex-husband would come home drunk and beat her. The next morning when he’d sobered up he’d feel so bad about what he’d done, he’d sit there and cry. God could indeed forgive him; Jesus could accept him. But this wasn’t enough to make her stay with him when he made no effort to stop drinking. When he started choking her until she passed out, she finally fled for her life.

Most of us lament the consequences of our actions at times, but not necessarily the act itself. If put in the same circumstances, we may well do the same thing again. Then if someone gives us a frown of disapproval we’re quick to say, “You’re judging me! You just don’t understand.” (Which makes you, not me, responsible for the guilt I’m feeling.)

Humanism, the religion of our present age, is trying hard to reverse the order of things. There is no God, they say, and there’s no such thing as sin. There are only feelings, good and bad. If you feel good about yourself, you’ll do good things. If you feel bad about yourself, you’ll do bad things. So, rather than our sin causing us to feel guilty, they are telling us that guilt causes us to do wrong. Thus if you make me feel guilty for what I’ve done, then it’s your fault if I feel bad and consequently make bad choices.

So we should rather say, “It’s not really your fault. You just couldn’t help yourself.” (Which may be true at times, but what decisions have I made in the past that brought me to this point of helplessness and what keeps me there?)

Jesus will never give us this line. Humanism is a false gospel; Jesus is Truth. He’s big on accepting responsibility. He doesn’t condemn without warning, but makes us an offer:
“Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me and you shall find rest unto your souls.” See Matthew 12:28-30

Feeling bad about myself or what I’ve done isn’t enough, but neither is feeling good about myself when I’ve done wrong. Guilt is not a question of whether you’re judging me or not; it’s a question of standing before an Almighty God with all my transgressions laid open for Him to see.

His forgiveness is not about how I feel, either; it’s about facing my wrongs, accepting responsibility, committing to change, then living my commitment. It’s about taking up my cross and following Christ. And his yoke is a power source; when we slip it on, it gives us the strength power to say NO, to resist temptations that formerly swept us away.

I’m sure if the saints would admit they really aren’t so saintly by nature and sinners would admit they have sinned, judging one another wouldn’t be a big issue. But only Jesus can free us from the guilt of sin.

Part B tomorrow: Jesus meets a wicked woman.

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6 thoughts on ““Judge Not” — Those Fearsome Words

  1. Thanks, Christine – that verse is used a lot these days and for the reasons you include. As you also include, it needs to be God’s Word doing the judging – if He says it’s wrong, it’s just wrong.

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    • Thanks for commenting. Though we want to be kind, remembering we’re made of the same stuff, just as capable of sin, people who know they’re doing wrong will often feel guilty around Christians no matter what we do or don’t do. That’s one angle.

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  2. ‘But it’s hard to watch someone heading for the brink of disaster and not yell, “Look out! Don’t go there.”’

    Fair enough – but we need to watch our motives for yelling – there are Godly motives and some that are less so. Pragmatically, it is also better for an ex-alcoholic to tell someone that they should not be drinking – they’ve been there. And there’s no point in telling someone until they get to the point that they can receive it. I feel for your sister – in that situation the only way seems to be to do as she did.

    Your reply to the above comment also says that ‘people who know they’re doing wrong will often feel guilty’ – yes they probably will. But people who have repented don’t need to keep carrying that guilt around with them, Jesus has taken it (thank God!) So we don’t need to keep ramming it back down on their shoulders – something that the church can be all too good at doing.

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    • Hello and thanks for visiting! As I said, there are many angles to this subject; I thought of another this morning. (Post #3?)

      And you mention one. “Motives for yelling.” Of course there should only be a positive motive for alerting folks — but, oh, can we be wicked sometimes! If I yell it can call attention to me. (I may LIKE that! Shy folks may say nothing for this reason.) As was said in one book, “Her prayer request list was a sizzler.” I’ve had times when I did this: announced to others that I know better than to fall into THAT sin. I thank God that He’s so patient with me.

      Point Two: I’ve heard long-winded sermons preached–the whole nine yards–because there were unbelievers present and they needed to hear the Gospel. If I left feeling OD’d by religion, what must those others feel like? As you say, there is a point where people can receive it, but bit by bit. I like turkey, but don’t try stuffing the whole bird into me.

      Your last sentence disturbs me. This may be the fault of some individuals, but can we make it a blanket statement about “the church.” This kind of harassment is a sin and I hope the church as a whole isn’t “all too good at it.”

      I guess I haven’t seen this behaviour, so I never thought of that angle. In our church when people have repented and been forgiven, their sin was never mentioned to them again. One day I heard via a non-Christian neighbour about a brother’s past fling — no one in our church had ever mentioned it to us — and when I asked another sister if it was true, she replied “A heart of Christian love will forget that.” I loved her attitude. May it ever be the song of the Church!

      Should someone fall into something again (i.e. drinking) it’s apt to be said “They’ve had a weakness in this area; this isn’t the first time.” But when someone repents the slate is clean. That’s what the Bible teaches.
      “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Galatians 6:1
      “So that contrariwise ye ought rather to forgive him, and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow.”
      II Corinthians 2:7

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  3. Thanks – I guess I didn’t ‘hear’ some of that grace in your original post (can be hard to read overtones in someone’s writing.) My original post was precisely that it is God’s role to convict someone of what they have done wrong and our job to come alongside and point to God’s love and forgiveness, not to condemn. Partly that was based on my own experiences growing up in a particular church (which I have met the like of in various other places and at various other times) so my point was not that the whole church is guilty of ramming sins down people’s throats (something that has turned some of my family members away from God entirely, more’s the pity) but that it is something that the church CAN be bad at – from my experience, particularly in the past, it can do precisely this. Thank God I now go to a church that offers more of your fellow church member’s attitude.

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    • I was actually hoping folks would read YOUR post, too, which would give more balance to mine. 🙂
      I’ve hopped from one thought to another in stating what came to my mind as I read what you wrote. I started with one very long post, then divided it up in two, so maybe Part B will round things off more. But it’s a vast subject and I could go on and on… 🙂
      Very inspiring books have been written about forgiveness, such as What’s So Amazing About Grace by Philip Yancey. But as a whole our society leans toward the thought of “No Sin — just different strokes for different folks.”

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