Friday, March 14, 2008

Matthew 7:1-5

KNU International English Church

Pastor Josh Broward

March 16, 2008

[[We will start by watching a series of short commercials by Ameriquest Mortgage Company. Each commercial ends with this line: “Don’t judge too quickly. We won’t.” You can view some of these commercials at YouTube by following this link. ]]

Read Matthew 7:1-5.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning wrote the famous lines, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach…”

Maybe we can change the wording a bit today: “How do I judge thee? Let me count the ways. I judge thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach.” We are so judgmental! I hardly know where to begin.

This week, I asked Sarah, “How do I preach against being judgmental without being judgmental?” In classic Sarah style, she said, “Very carefully.”

First, I need to say this very clearly. I am guilty. I judge others harshly far too often in far too many ways. I am a perfectionist. I tend to expect perfection from myself and from others. Since none of us are perfect, I find lots to criticize. In fact, part of my psychological difficulty is that I tend to judge others harshly to help me feel better about myself.

I am guilty, and if any of you feel offended because of what I say today, please remember that I offended myself first! I myself need more of God’s grace, especially on this issue.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the text from Matthew 7.

Verse 1 is the most famous, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged,” or in the old King James Version, “Judge not, lest ye be judged!” Your voice just has to get deeper when you say that verse. This whole passage has lots of connections with Jesus’ other teachings. “God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5:7). “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (Matthew 6:12). “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14-15). The list could go on and on. This is a big deal for Jesus.

Verse 2 increases the intensity through repetition. This isn’t really clear when we translate it into English, but in Greek it’s pretty striking. The Greek root word for “judge” is kri, and the Greek word for “measure is” metr – as in “meter.”

With the krimati krinete krithesesthe

judgment you judge you will be judged.

With the metro metreite metrethesetai

measure you measure it will be measured to you

Jesus is saying, “Hey folks, you’re going to get it just like you give it. God is going to measure other people with the same stick you use to measure others. Be hard on them, and God will be hard on you. If you judge others harshly, they and God will judge harshly right back at you.”

Verses 3-5 are actually pretty funny. Jesus has quite a sense of humor. It might help us understand this if we look at a few pictures.[1]

Step 1: We notice that our friend has a problem, “a speck” in his eye, maybe a speck of sawdust – a tiny piece of wood.

Step 2: We offer to help, “Here let me help you get this speck out of your eye.” So far it all sounds reasonable enough.

But then comes Step 3: Jesus says that we actually have a huge log (or plank or beam) in our own eye. This is where it gets funny. Can you imagine walking around with a huge log sticking out of your eye? And, then we have the nerve to try to help someone else with a speck of sawdust! “Excuse me buddy,” wham! – we hit them in the head with our plank. “Well that was uncomfortable, but at least you won’t move now while I’m working on your eye!”

Some of the commentators point out here that the sawdust and the plank are made of the same thing: wood. So often when we criticize others, we have the same problems in ourselves, only in larger measure. “Quit judging me! You are so judgmental!” “You know that Sally girl? Ooh, she’s such a gossip! I can’t stand gossip.”

Jesus pushes us to Step 4. Stop pretending. Take the log out of your own eye first. Deal with your own issues first. Face up to your own sin and bad attitudes first. Before we do this, we have no right to say anything about whether someone else is right or wrong. Our vision is impaired. We are blind. We can’t see clearly about what is right and wrong in others until we sort out what is right and wrong in us. One pastor I listened to this week said, “Look at yourself first. You may not like what you see!”[2]

The point here is humility and honesty. We are only ready to help others when we are being honest with ourselves about our own sinfulness and weakness. Only from a point of humility, can we move on to Step 5: helping someone deal with a problem in her life.

There is a key point here that is often overlooked. Step 5 is helping someone deal with a problem. Step 5 is not talking to person A about person B’s problem. Step 5 is not throwing out an insulting criticism. Step 5 is not cutting off a friendship. Step 5 is going to someone humbly and having an open, caring conversation – with the goal of helping that person. If you are talking to someone about a problem someone else has, there is a very good chance that you are in the wrong. If you’re so concerned about the other person, do Step 4 (check your own heart) and then do Step 5 (talk directly with the other person).

Now it’s time to get specific. How are we likely to judge others? This is the point in the sermon when you are likely to get mad at me. In fact, there is a very good chance that I will be mad at me when I’m done with this.

How are we likely to judge others? How are we likely to condemn others and to be ungracious to others? Here are some of the most common ways.

1. We tend to judge others wrongly when they judge us. As soon as someone starts criticizing us, we get on the defensive. We defend by counter-attacking. We immediately notice 100 things that are wrong about the other person: “How can he say that when he’s this and he’s that?!”

Arthur Boer wrote a book with a great title: Never Call Them Jerks. The way we respond to criticism says more about us than the actual complaint. If we join in the judging game, we’re just as wrong as they are.

2. We tend to judge others wrongly when they have a different perspective. We Westerners have a real problem with this in Korea. How many times have you heard someone complain about something in Korea by saying that the Korean way is stupid or random or crazy? When we say things like that, we are judging wrongly. If we’ll take the time to listen and ask questions, we’ll usually find that the discomfort we feel comes from a differing perspective on the world. Neither perspective is wrong. It’s just different.

We also run into a similar problem here in our church. Our church is a beautiful and painful mixture of people from many different perspectives. We have young and old, conservative and liberal, modern and post-modern. We are naturally going to disagree about a whole lot of things. That’s OK. But if we increase that disagreement to judgmentalism, we will destroy our community.

We have people here who think absolute truth is the most important thing ever, and we have people here who think absolute truth is a foolish and impossible ideal, and we have everything in between. We can get into a lot of trouble if we start judging each other on these issues. And this judging can go both ways. Sometimes the liberal folk can feel like the victims even while they judge “those narrow-minded, bigoted, fundamentalists.”

We have got to learn to live with each other and love each other. We can’t write people off or send them to hell in our minds because they disagree with us – even if the issue seems very important to us. We need to find the grace to embrace our diversity as God brings us together through Christ.

3. We tend to judge others wrongly when they lack something. She is out of fashion. He dresses too casually. Her personality is a little rough. He doesn’t have very good social skills. His mind doesn’t work quite as quickly or as logically as ours. She doesn’t have a very good job. We can look at what people lack and decide that they are worth less because of what they lack. We naturally tend to distance ourselves from these people. We don’t want to hang around them. We might even make jokes about them. This is wrong. This is judging.

We all have “issues” we haven’t dealt with. We are all lacking something. We need to embrace each other, and we especially need to work hard to embrace those who don’t seem to fit in. This is a core part of being a loving community.

4. We tend to judge others wrongly when they have debatable ethical positions. In our epistle lesson, Paul says we should accept each other “without passing judgment on disputable matters” (Romans 14:1). There are many disputable matters. In Paul’s time, one of the big issues was what kind of food was OK to eat. Over the last 50 years, some big issues have been what kind of clothes are OK, what kind of entertainment is OK, and what kind of drink is OK. These are debatable issues, and we should not condemn or judge others because they debate the issue differently from us.

Let me speak to another big issue: homosexuality. You might think this is not a “disputable matter.” Wake up! This is probably the most disputed and debated issue of our time! It is definitely “disputable” or “debatable.”

So what do our texts today say about this issue? A paraphrase from The Message might help us here: “It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt?” So often, our disagreements about homosexuality turn into contempt and judgmentalism. We’ve got to stop this.

No matter what we believe about this issue, or other issues like this, we’ve got to love each other as people. I feel so sick when I see how many people are driven away from God because of the judgmental attitudes of Christians. Way too many Christians go out of their way to reject “the gay lifestyle” and gay people. If you know someone who is gay, you need to go out of your way to show them love. This is the way of Christ. Love your neighbor as yourself.

My prayer is that we will be a church where everyone is welcome and feels welcome –conservative or liberal, fundamentalist or post-modern, straight or gay. My prayer is that we will be a community that invites all people to be renewed by God’s love so that we will love God, ourselves and others. My prayer is that everything we do will draw people to God and God’s people, not push them away from God and God’s people.

When we start talking about homosexuality, or any other hot topic issue, we need to be humble. We need to remember that people smarter - and maybe even holier - than us have honest and heart-felt opinions that are different from ours. Whatever we believe, we just might be wrong. Whatever we believe, we can still kneel together before God who is our final Judge.

Let me wrap up here. “Do not judge” does not mean don’t think. It doesn’t mean don’t evaluate whether something is right or wrong or good or bad. It doesn’t mean don’t criticize anything at any time. Jesus does a lot of thinking and evaluating and criticizing in the right context.

“Do not judge” means that we judge issues critically, but we judge people mercifully and humbly. Remember the limitations of your knowledge. You don’t know everything there is to know, and you don’t know that person’s history or current circumstances. And remember that you are a sinner, too. You just might have a plank in your own eye. I just might have a plank in my own eye.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.”

God, have mercy on us all.

God, show mercy through us all.

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