Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Sawdust & Two-by-Fours

This is part 5 of series of essays on what Jesus says about judging others. To start from the beginning, click here.

Getting the Specs out of Other's Eyes

If the word "judgment" is to be little on our lips and in our hearts, then what how do we proceed with helping others? I will be presenting several verses to answer this question and I think that you will agree that they maintain the thrust of mercy and kindness that the rest of this study has shown.

Since it just occurred to me that some may be thinking that I am working to present a theme of universal salvation with this emphasis on mercy and kindness, please remember that there is upcoming a section on not giving holy things to dogs and pearls to pigs. This study must emphasize the mercy and kindness of God in order to show how we should live our lives. We are people in trouble, which is why Jesus came and died. Salvation and mercy are open to all, but many have hard hearts and will not receive the offered mercy.

To get back on course, although we are not to judge, we are to have discernment:

On this topic we have much to say and it is difficult to explain, since you have become sluggish in hearing. For though you should in fact be teachers by this time, you need someone to teach you the beginning elements of God’s utterances. You have gone back to needing milk, not solid food. For everyone who lives on milk is inexperienced in the message of righteousness, because he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, whose perceptions are trained by practice to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:11-14, The Net Bible)

Milk is for those who do not heed the message of righteousness. They are saved, but they are not mature. They have not learned to read and apply the scriptures to their own lives. Solid food is for the mature. These have practiced and learned to live righteously. By the study of the scriptures, an examination of their lives, and by the power and enabling of the Holy Spirit, these believers have learned to discern good and evil. The primary application of this discernment is towards the individual, but the context also makes clear the need to become teachers: to help others do the same.

Hebrews also tells us:

But exhort one another each day, as long as it is called “Today,” that none of you may become hardened by sin’s deception. (Hebrews 3:13)

Instead of judging others' bad deeds, we are to exhort one another to fight against our sin and press on towards righteous living.

Paul chimes in with these words:

I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

Hebrews tells us to gain discernment and exhort one another. Paul adds preaching the Word, reproving and rebuking. We can see this in action with the following two passages:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. (Matthew 18:15)

Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. (Galatians 6:1)

Note the privacy in Jesus' words. We are to rebuke and reprove a brother or sister when we "are alone." Paul directs those "who are spiritual"--i.e. full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit--to restore those caught in some sin. Note the caution in Paul's words about that ever problematic beam in one's own eyes.

The following instruction emphasizes again the underlying principle of kindness and gentleness in this speck removing business:

But reject foolish and ignorant controversies, because you know they breed fights. And the Lord’s slave must not be a fighter but kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance and then knowledge of the truth and they will come to their senses and escape the devil’s trap where they are held captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:23-26) hard work and toil, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, many times without food, in cold and without enough clothing. Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxious concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not burn with indignation? (2 Corinthians 11:27-29)

The heart in the above verses continues the theme of patience, kindness, and mercy. It adds personal grief and concern over the sin of others. This is so different from the attitude in a judging heart. Our approach to others is to be kind, able to teach, gently correcting, and full of prayer.

Judging condemns and pushes others away. Reproving, rebuking, and exhorting draw close, seek change, weep at failure, rejoice with improvement, and is inline with the gospel.

Reproof will go to the person and say, "You did not tell the truth. You should strive to live a truthful life." It has collected and sifted facts. It has come to the individual. It is specific. It promotes a better path. It seeks the good of the other and promotes maturity and health.

Judgment is prone to believe the bad report. It goes to someone other than the guilty party and generalizes. It says, "He is a liar." It assumes the sinner is beyond hope. It fails to love.

Judgment leads to gossip and is a pleasing activity. Discernment, caring, reproof, and so forth is hard work, requires heart, and grieves at failure. But is is the way that we should follow.

Thursday: Protecting what is valuable

<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>


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