JESUS ON JUDGING
1. A Christian university hosted a seminar on the intersection between faith and academics where the issues of our time are concerned.
a. One of the speakers, a professor from a large state university and a well-known author, calmly but straightforwardly made the case that there are objective rights and wrongs that are known.
b. A young woman, a student in one of the graduate programs at the university, as her instructor required, submitted her response: “I was so offended by the arrogance that I could not listen....I grew up in a Christian home and I was taught there and in school not to judge....”
c. A significant majority her fellow-students offered similar comments.
2. What Jesus said about judging may be, at one and the same time, the most necessary, and the most fashionable, and the most misapplied of all his teachings.
a. Necessary, because of our human tendency to be critical.
b. Fashionable, because our age fancies the view that no choice, behavior, or belief is to have fault found with it or deemed improper.
c. And misapplied, because the Lord’s words are made to serve the current philosophy rather than used to follow him.
3. Our text will enable us to hear the balance in the teaching of Jesus. If we trace the theme of judging through it, we can get hold of the truth we need.
1. The Problem: judging is where, either way, the camel called worldliness gets his nose into the tent of godliness.
a. One the one hand, a judgmental spirit will surely lead to works of the flesh that are destructive to a person and all his relationships.
i. The spirit I’m talking about is suspicious, critical, and self-righteous: it majors on shortcomings of others while ignoring transgressions in self.
ii. Where it lives, there is no being at home, no warmth, no acceptance; the fault-finding spirit tends toward “enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy...” (Gal. 5:20, 21).
iii. There is no wonder that such a spirit is forbidden throughout the New Testament (Rom. 14:4, 10; James 4:11, 12).
b. On the other hand, the perceived threat of judgmental actions may serve as an excuse for, or as a means of accommodating, the spirit of the age.
i. A few years ago in an influential book, Robert Bellah concluded that the most fundamental belief in American culture is that moral truth is relative to what the individual thinks (Keller, The Reason for God, 72).
ii. More recently, respected British scholar N. T. Wright has observed that the American religious outlook consists of a “quest for the divine” in which “discovering who I really am” is the primary imperative, and “my own experience” is the final source of authority, and “being true to who I am” is the ultimate obligation (The Gospel of Judas, 128-129).
iii. If not judging could take the form of moral indifference it would fit this environment like a hand in a glove, but this is also a spirit which the New Testament will not allow (John 7:24; 1 Cor. 11:31; 1 Thes. 5:21).
2. The Intention: what Jesus calls for is a magnanimous spirit, the kind of mind that can be noble and generous and responsible at the same time.
a. What he teaches about judging goes to seeking the positive well-being of others, not merely to avoidance of an ugly attitude.
i. His learners have a forgiving spirit (v.37)–tenderhearted, kind, and willing to send faults away.
ii. The mind-set of his followers is giving (v.38)–freely and overwhelmingly going beyond what might reasonably be expected or required.
iii. It is because living his way leads a person to be merciful (v. 36)–thus sharing the nature of the Father, as children in a family do.
b. How does that kind of nature come to replace the one which is harsh, gainsaying, faultfinding, bitter, and condemning? By an ever-increasing awareness of the facts that are woven through what Jesus said on judging.
i. “I stand among the judged and I am choosing the measure” (v. 38).
ii. “There are some things I am not in a position to decide” (v. 39).
iii. “The teacher from whom I am learning is giving and forgiving” (v. 40).
iv. “I have things that I have to struggle with myself” (v. 41).
v. “What I see will reveal something about my own heart” (v. 45).
3. The Outcome: where this teaching on judging is practiced, the result not moral indifference or spiritual paralysis; it produces individuals who are prepared to face the great tasks of life with a healthy spirit.
a. When we hear Jesus on judging, we can help our fellows deal with faults.
i. The answer to hypocrisy is to intend to get into a place where we can help: “...then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (v. 42).
ii. This is said to individuals who seek to learn Christ (v. 20), not to individuals who want to say to others, “You can’t judge me!”
iii. Galatians 6:1, 2
b. When we hear Jesus on judging, we are able to distinguish the good from the bad.
i. The Lord implied that this is true with both the fruit and the source from which it comes: “...for each tree is known by its own fruit...for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (v. 44, 45).
ii. We do not determine the destiny of persons, but we must be able recognize the difference between what is right or wrong, good or bad, and we have to be able to see it in our own behavior and in that of others.
iii. This work isn’t the censure of a judge; it is the wisdom of discernment. In his book Love Within Limits, Lewis Smedes described it like this:
“Some people always seem to notice things that other people miss;
they catch little touches that are terribly important but seldom obvious to
people who never look beneath the surface. They see subtle shifts in body
language, hear delicate messages in other people’s tones of voice, catch
quiet hints that less sensitive people never notice. They have discernment.
“Discernment is the ability to see between things. It is the power
to see what is really happening, to see what is really important and what is
not important. Discernment is insight–the power to see inside of things. It
is the strange and subtle ability to see beneath the surface, to sense the
personal factors of any situation, and to grasp what spiritual issues are
really at stake. When we are directly involved, discernment is insight into the mixture of motive moving our own hearts. Working its way through real life, love needs the gift of discernment to focus its drive toward others in helping service.
“Discernment is an answer to prayer.”
c. When we hear Jesus on judging, we must determine whether what the Lord said is being done.
i. He gives us an unforgettable illustration of reality in verses 46-49: the thing that reveals whether houses are being built on a foundation of rock or on the ground without a foundation is whether what is heard from the Lord is done.
ii. 2 Corinthians 12:14
iii. 1 John 4:1, 6
1. What Jesus teaches on judging tells us that we cannot be judges because we are not the Father but that we must be brothers – and it takes mercy, humility, generosity, and understanding to be that.
2. Perhaps the key is in this instruction: “...first take the log out of your own eye, and then...” (v. 42). How may this be done?
3. It will involve at least these things: 1)face up to what is there; 2)turn your will away from it to the Lord; 3)seek cleansing from him according to his promises; 4)take him at his word and let go of it; and 5)turn your attention to graciously serving for him.