We have heard a lot about the New Testament injunction not to judge. What does it mean to judge? Usually by judging we mean condemnation. In other words, coming to someone and telling them they are wrong because of their actions, and even punishing them. Jesus said he did not come into the world to judge the world but rather to call people to repentance and to offer salvation by grace.
But judging your neighbor is often expressed in more subtle ways. We judge people in our hearts. Jesus determined that we should cleanse our heart from all thought or intention to sin. For example, getting angry with your brother is like murder, and looking at a woman with sexual desire counts as adultery. Judging too is a matter of the heart; it is enough to think badly of them.
Another subtle expression of judging my neighbor is when I say negative things about him. We may be in the habit of saying highly charged things in a spirit of criticism and contempt. If we say something not in a spirit of love, we hurt others and sin against them. It is not easy to control our tongue! The words that come out of the mouth start in the heart. How often during the day we think badly of some person or group or organization, and then we say negative things about them to a third party. I am very sorry to say that I catch myself saying negative things even about believing individuals or organizations. How sad that we hurt precisely those who are close to us, like friends or family or members of our congregation.
We need to guard our mouth and keep ourselves from expressing anger, mockery, or contempt. Along with that, we must check ourselves and stop thinking evil of others. Instead, let us think good of them. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, let our heart dwell on pleasant things, on what is pure and worthy of praise. Changing the way we think will also change the way we act.
And what is the reward? God promises his peace. Jesus said that he who lives by the sword will die by the sword. If we live by words of belittlement and condemnation, we are liable to receive in exchange argument and rejection. Let us choose the higher way!
- 4 MAY -