Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Do Not Judge

Do Not Judge
Matthew 7:1-6

            There is an episode of The Simpsons where Maude Flanders, the now deceased wife of Ned Flanders, yells out of a bus window, “Hi, Marge! I’m going to church camp to learn how to be more judgmental.” What do you think about that? The entire Flanders family is a hyperbole of what the writers would consider to be an extreme Christian. The joke was designed to make fun of Christians, but it also pointed to a belief that Christians are judgmental. I don’t believe I’m judgmental. Do you believe that you are judgmental? This is a very hard trait to identify in yourself. It is like a sense of humor. Everyone believes they have a sense of humor—even people who clearly do not. Most people, even the most judgmental, don’t believe that they are.
            Christians are criticized for being judgmental because we have the audacity to tell other people that they are not good enough to go to heaven. That by its very nature is judging another person’s actions and thoughts. It also is an open door for the other person to look at you and say “Who do you think you are telling me I’m not good enough? I saw what you did the other night.” And then you better have a good response. Are you going to A) Try to live a perfect life and go crazy in the process; B) Pretend to live a perfect life when you are in public and be a hypocrite; or C) Admit that you aren’t perfect and that is precisely why you need Jesus?
            Think about it. Christianity is the only religion where its followers can’t go to heaven by their own efforts. In fact, their efforts get in the way because it clouds their view of the truth. Let’s create some examples: the captain of the cheerleading squad has been raised in the church her whole life, reads her Bible, sings in the choir, and volunteers at the Pregnancy Resource Center. She doesn’t have a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Will she go to heaven when she dies? No. Is she a good person who does good things? Of course. Isaiah 64:5-7 says, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Do you know what “filthy rags” means? It’s one of the most descriptive things in the entire Bible. It literally means used Tampons. Let’s look at another example: A man who has never darkened a church door, has been in and out of prison since he was a teenager, and knows he has made mistake after mistake in his life. He doesn’t own a Bible, volunteer anywhere, and is fact on his way back for another stint in prison, this time for a long time. Will he go to heaven when he dies? No. Is he a good person? Not really, but this person, if presented with the gospel, will have no trouble believing he can’t make it on his own merit.
            In both cases we could come off looking judgmental. Like we are fault finders and sin sniffers just looking for ways to show that we—looking good, smelling good, church going Christians—are better than them. But that’s not what we’re about. At least that’s not what we’re supposed to be about. Are there judgmental Christians? Sure, but there are also judgmental atheist, and Buddhists, and Muslims, and Seiks. In fact, if someone calls you judgmental, they have themselves made a judgment on you. Weird, huh? So what does the Bible say about judging others and how are we supposed to apply that in our lives?
            Our passage this week in our continuing series on the Sermon on the Mount comes from Matthew 7:1-6, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 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? 5 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. 6 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.”
            The first four words in the NLT says, “Do not judge others.” When you see a sign that says, “Do Not Enter” what does it mean? How about, “No Eating and Drinking”? How about “No Smoking”? All of these are pretty clear, but in this passage it says “Do not judge others,” but it then goes on to give us two instances of how we should judge others (the recognition of a speck in our friend’s eye; and the difference between holy and unholy people). So was Jesus wrong? Did He misspeak? Or is there something else that we may have to learn?
            The deeper issue involved in judging others, except in the profession of being a judge, is pride. Where judging others becomes a sin it is because we look down on other people and their issues in an attempt to build ourselves up. “Look at that person smoking. They’re killing themselves. What an awful habit. I would never do that.” We also tend to judge others by their actions and then judge ourselves by our intentions. “Susie didn’t read her Bible today. I wonder if she is really saved. She should be reading her Bible everyday.” But when you don’t read your Bible, “You know I’ve had a really long day today and my eyes are kind of blurry. I’ll just read some in the morning.”
Pastor Ray Pritchard suggested that we often hypocritically rename our sins in order to build ourselves up. When you don’t tell the truth, you are a liar. When I don’t tell the truth, I’m just stretching the truth. When you break the rules you are a cheater. When I break the rules, I’m just bending them a little. Here are some others:
You lose your temper; I have righteous anger.
You're a jerk; I'm having a bad day.
You have a critical spirit; I bluntly tell the truth.
You gossip; I share prayer requests.
You curse and swear; I let off steam.
You're pushy; I'm intensely goal-oriented.
You're greedy; I'm simply taking care of business.
You're a hypochondriac; but I'm really sick.
You stink; I merely have an "earthy aroma"
        In this passage Jesus is not condemning all forms of judgment, only that which is done in a mean-spirited, overly critical, and prideful manner. In fact, Matthew 7:24 says, "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." He wants us to judge because that is how we make righteous decisions. If I said, “Hey everybody, let’s load up in the church van and Hannah is going to drive us to Sonic for ice cream!” How many of you would get in the van? Probably not many of you and certainly all of you should not get in the van. Why? Because we have judged her not capable of getting us there safely. It is not because we don’t like her. It’s because she’s in the 6th grade and her feet wouldn’t touch the pedals. And then you should judge me for my decision making ability in choosing her to drive.
This was not meant to be a complete study of judging in the Bible. We could talk for many weeks specifically on judging, or on how we are to deal with the plank in our own eye before dealing with the speck in our neighbor’s. Or even what exactly it means to cast your pearls before swine. But I do want to mention one more topic, and that is being a fruit inspector. Jesus said in Matthew 7:20, “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” We will dive deeper into this topic in a few weeks, but for now it will be enough to say that Jesus wants us to inspect the fruit of anyone who may be trying to teach or influence you. But Jesus also warned us that the manner in which we judge others that will be the manner that we will be judged.
            So how do we apply this? Look at Pastor Brian. Look at me. Look at your Sunday school teachers. Are there signs in their lives that they believe what they are teaching? Is there evidence that what they are teaching as truth is actually false? Do they teach one thing and do another? Pastor Brian believes it is important to witness to people on a regular basis? Has he done this? I believe it is important to read and study your Bibles? Has my Bible been read and are there notes and highlighted sections in it? Osama Bin Laden claimed to be leading a holy war on infidels, or those who were unfaithful to Allah. But when he was found he used one of his twenty some wives as a human shield. And do you know what they found in his compound? Loads of pornography. Not exactly what you would expect from such a holy man, leading a holy war. Where’s the fruit? If they are good trees they will produce good fruit. If they are bad trees they will be like the fig tree in Mark 11. It was not producing fruit so Jesus cursed it. The next day it was all shriveled up.
            Now conversely. Where’s your fruit? If you are going out to tell your friends about Jesus, you better believe they are checking you out for fruit and you better have some.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A review of "Life, In Spite of Me"

 "Life, In Spite of Me" is one of the rare books that made me really glad I had read the book. Authored by Kristen Jane Anderson with Tricia Goyer, the book was a page turner from the beginning to end. If I had found a large enough chunk of time, I could have read the book cover to cover easily.
   The book chronicles the true story of a three to four year period of Kristen's life where everything was falling apart. She had lost two friends from school to automobile accidents, one friend to suicide, a grandparent to illness, and was raped by someone she thought she could trust, all within a two year period. Battling undiagnosed depression, Kristen's school grades, and home life slid further and further downhill. It was at this time that she decided to commit suicide. Living through the ordeal, Kristen learned to trust the God she knew of but never knew personally, and began to accept His will for her life.
   The book comes complete with thoughts at the end of a few of the chapters that Kristen wished someone had told her when she was going through her struggles. There is also a resource section for those struggling with depression, as well as warning signs for a potential suicide. The book would be an easy read for upper middle school and high schoolers, but the best part of the book is that the Good News of Jesus Christ is very clearly portrayed throughout it.
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Review of "Love at Last Sight: 30 Days to Grow and Deepen Your Closest Relationships"

 Love at Last Sight is co-written by Kerry and Chris Shook which is a second to their "One Month to Live" book. It is written as a 30 day devotional. The reader is to read a chapter a day and then complete the challenges laid out for them. The good news for the reader feeling pressured by having to read a chapter a day is that each chapter is only 5-7 pages long.
   The third page of the book lays out a bold claim, "But if you apply what you read over the next thirty days, your key relationships will grow and deepen." I found that statement to be not only bold, but arrogant. Are we to believe that they are holding the key to lasting relationships that have been elusive for 6,000 years? If only Cain and Abel would have read this book. Beyond that point, I have to say that I have enjoyed doing the thirty day journey into growing and deepening my closest relationships even though I found the book to be lacking in some areas. Here are those areas.
   I did read a chapter of the book everyday, which is a first for me to be that diligent, as well as journaled my thoughts. Unfortunately, by around day six, I had given up on "officially" trying the daily challenges. And by around day 15 I just skipped reading that part of the chapter. I found the challenges to be obscure, obtuse, overly simplified, or overly difficult. It ranged from being so simple I didn't even have to think about it or so difficult I knew I wouldn't even try it.
   Secondly, Day 17 was almost a chapter long summary of Chapman's The Five Love Languages yet he went uncited as a source. I was quite disturbed by that.
   Finally, I thought some of the anecdotes, jokes, and stories were tired, over played, and occassionaly out of place. I've occasionally listened to sermons and wondered what the point of the illustration was, but routinely, when I set out to journal about the day's chapter (immediately after reading it) I had to review the chapter to see what it was about. It's problematic when the illustrations are clouding your point and not supporting it.
   I don't want to overly negative. There were stories and points that really hit home and were definitely worth reading. I have read many relationship books in my life. This book ranks near the top, but there was not enough new material to consider it a great book. If you have not read any relationship book, or you are a novice I would recommend this book, but that is about it. 
I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.