Archive for April, 2019
“Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matthew 7:6).
A retainer is that which holds something in place. For example, an orthodontic device that holds one’s teeth in place. Hopefully, the gospel of God’s grace is a retainer that holds our heart and tongue in place. In the context of not judging others (7:1-5), Jesus now emphasizes that this is one of the things that separates and makes us stand out from the unbelieving world. In a world that has stereotyped Christ followers as self-righteous, critical and judgmental, we cannot afford to throw away that which makes us unique. Fill your world with grace and mercy.
“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:4)?
Hopefully, maturity teaches us that our outwardly critical eye needs to become an inward, self-evaluative eye; that my judgment of others is but an external expression of my own internal shortcomings. This is best remedied by intentionally immersing oneself into the broken humanity populating our world. Little that the church is intended to do can be accomplished inside her walls. Sanctuary religion tends to create the very problem of self-righteousness Jesus is addressing. Immersion, participation, and engagement with the world outside our hallowed edifices is the quickest route to minimizing a judgmental and critical spirit.
“The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, He will be quiet in His love, He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy” (Zephaniah 3:17).
At great cost, our Heavenly Father has fought for us as a passionate and fierce warrior and won. While evil would seek to haunt you, Satan cannot have you. The resurrected Christ brought a victory so complete and pervasive that the celebration of God is overflowing in excess and redundancy—exulting with joy and rejoicing with shouts of joy. His love is quiet because His actions have said it all.
“The good hand of his God was upon him” (Ezra 7:9).
When my oldest was nearly three-years-old, she ran ahead of me to push open the large glass double-doors of the church office. They wouldn’t budge. By the time I got to her she was huffing and puffing, but still pushing. Without her knowing it, I placed my hand on the door above her and gently pushed. As the door began to open, I could tell by the look of pride on her face that she was completely unaware that it was actually my hand that had opened the door. I wonder how often we have taken credit for some accomplishment when it was, in fact, the unseen hand of God moving the doors of the obstacles before us.
“Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye” (Matthew 7:3).
The word translated as “look” indicates but a fleeting glance out the corner of one’s eye. It’s a needed reminder that our judgment of others is always superficial. We never know the full story of why someone behaves and acts out as they do. While being born a certain way, or social conditioning never justifies any behavior, surely, at the very least, we can be compassionate and sympathetic to the very real struggles that individuals are battling each day. As I deal with my own fragmented life, I pray that I am becoming more sensitive, merciful, and gracious toward others.
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).
Any standard we might utilize in judging another person is limited and self-serving. It raises the question of whether I want to be judged by my own standard of earthly assessment, what meets the eye, or God’s merciful perspective. We are at our best as the church of the Lord Jesus Christ when we default to grace in our dealings with others; being sympathetic as co-strugglers in the life of faith, and leaving the work of judgment to the Father who sees and knows all things. Such compassion leaves open the door of possibilities in the life of another person, instead of holding them hostage to my own redundant limitations.
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
The most intriguing thing about the human tendency of judging others is that those juicy morsels of gossip and criticism say more about the one offering them than it does their intended target. When reflecting upon those occasions when you participated in such activity, you will likely find that you were not at a good place spiritually. The subconscious intent is to diminish someone for the purpose of making yourself look better or superior. The irony, however, is that passing judgment on another, we invite it upon ourselves.
“Do not judge…” (Matthew 7:1).
The particular verb and grammar utilized by Matthew in recording Jesus’ words is clear and emphatic. The present tense reveals this as something to be avoided now, tomorrow, and forever. The active voice indicates it to be a behavior determined by the individual; each one deciding whether to be obedient to this teaching or ignore it. Finally, the imperative mood points to a non-negotiable command for the followers of Christ. We must never allow the grace that brought us into the Kingdom of God to become a platform for the self-righteous judgment of others. How tragic that the church of God’s redemptive mercies often becomes a place of condemnation.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions” (Proverbs 10:12).
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) reports that 1,020 hate groups now operate in the United States; a seven percent increase over last year. The political reasons for this are not as important as the church having a proper response—to be more loving. If all the professing Christians, representing the memberships of the more than 350,000 churches across this country, would recuse themselves from the fear-mongering and the rhetoric of hate, just imagine the influence the body of Christ could have in transforming the narrative of enmity and alienation dominating mainstream news outlets and social media.
“Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the Gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else” (Philippians 1:12-13).
When difficulties arise, our view often becomes myopic and narrow in scope; focusing on the misery of our present circumstances. While imprisoned, and facing the possibility of a death sentence, Paul’s perspective was that his circumstances were making possible the furtherance of the gospel. This “greater progress” came from a word originally associated with a group of woodcutters, who travelled ahead of a military unit cutting a road through what appeared to be an impenetrable forest. Your response to the sufferings of life may well be cutting a path through the hearts of people that you never imagined being reached with the gospel.