JUDGE NOT PART 6

INTRODUCTION

As we saw in my earlier post from John 7:24, there are times when it isn’t wrong for us to judge one another (JUDGE NOT PART 2). Having said this, the prohibition against judging in Matthew 7:1 tells us that there are times when it is indeed wrong for us to judge people. Let’s look at a fourth instance when judging is inappropriate and is an act of disobedience to God.

IT’S WRONG FOR US TO BE UNMERCIFUL WHEN WE JUDGE

There are a lot of things wrong with a critical, judgmental person. (1) He’s hypocritical and self-righteous as we saw in the previous posts. (2) He’s partial and preferential. He’s unfair and unjust because he judges people by one standard but doesn’t judge himself by the same standard. (3) He’s critical in the sense that he’s focused solely on what’s wrong with people. And (4) a critical, judgmental person is a really harsh, unmerciful person. He’s got no mercy. No compassion. No understanding. No sympathy. No second chances. No chances to get it right. No forgiveness. No love or prayers for people who have problems.

A critic and a judge live by law: “you did this, you deserve this.” That’s all good and fine on the day of judgment or in a time of incurable hardening and unrepentance. But THE LORD DOESN’T LIVE EACH DAY IN JUDGMENT MODE. If He did, none of us would live another day. The Psalmist says it well in Psalm 130:3, If thou, O Lord, should mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand? The idea here is, if all the Lord ever did was make a record of our sins—gathering all the evidence needed to condemn us—who could ever live? If God lived this way there is no life after sin and judgment!

But the Psalmist goes on and gives us the hope of life: But with You there is forgiveness, that You may be feared, Psalm 130:4. The Judge could live every day in judgment mode if He wanted to. But He doesn’t! He made us! He loves us! Do you think He wants to kill and damn us? You’ve got God figured out wrong if you think so. Christ and Calvary are the proof of that and they are a resounding testimony of God’s love and desire to forgive and save, not record, remember, and damn. THE JUDGE LIVES EACH DAY IN FORGIVENESS MODE. He offers forgiveness and pardon so that we can live. God is not willing that any should be damned, but that all should come to repentance, forgiveness, and life (2 Peter 3:9). This is the heart of God and it’s the very heart that’s lacking in every critic. That’s every critic without exception.

A CRITICAL, JUDGMENTAL PERSON HAS A COLD, UNCARING, UNMERCIFUL, UNFORGIVING HEART. HE OR SHE IS INTERESTED IN KILLING PEOPLE INSTEAD OF MINISTERING LIFE AND HOPE TO THEM.

In Luke 6:36-37 Jesus links judgment with mercy and forgiveness. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.  (37)  Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.

A judge is given to the punishment of wrong: he condemns the people who are guilty and ministers death to them. But Jesus doesn’t want us to be like this. He wants us to be merciful and forgiving.

Now this is very instructive and enlightening. We are an imperfect people. We’ve got problems. We’ve got things that are wrong with us. We make mistakes. Critics use our imperfections against us to condemn and contemn us; to discourage and dishearten us; to make us miserable and mad.

But Jesus commands us to be merciful and forgiving! JESUS KNOWS THERE ARE THINGS WRONG WITH US. HE COULD CONDEMN AND BAD-MOUTH US. BUT INSTEAD OF MINISTERING DEATH, JESUS FORGIVES. HE’S SET THE EXAMPLE FOR US TO FOLLOW AND HE PLAINLY COMMANDS US TO BE MERCIFUL AND FORGIVING.

To me, the best example of a person who doesn’t have any heart or mercy is the parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 18:23-35. You know the story. A servant owes his master a big sum of money. The master threatens to sell the slave’s family and possessions to recoup his loss. But the slave begs for mercy and patience. And the master ends up not following through on his threat because he’s got a merciful heart. This same slave, now forgiven, went out and found a fellow slave who owed him a tiny bit of money. The fellow slave begs for mercy and patience. But the forgiven slave refuses to show mercy and throws his fellow indebted slave into debtor’s prison.

Do you get the point of the parable? Jesus was real merciful with us as sinners. He forgave us and saved us. He wants us to be like Him, follow His lead, and be forgiving and merciful with people who have wronged us. And if we’re not, we’ll end up where the unmerciful, forgiven-but-unforgiving servant ended up: tormented.

Friends, IF YOU LIVE WITHOUT MERCY YOU’LL DIE WITHOUT MERCY. IF YOU’RE HARD AND UNFORGIVING TOWARDS PEOPLE GOD WILL BE HARD AND UNFORGIVING TOWARDS YOU! For he shall have judgment without mercy that  have shown no mercy, James 2:13.

A critic forgets how God has been so merciful, forgiving, patient and kind towards him. HE’S ALLOWED HATE TO FILL HIS HEART. AND HATRED ALWAYS LEADS TO DEATH. IT MINISTERS DEATH. 1 John 3:15 warns us that whosoever hates his brother is a murderer. A critic is harsh and hard on people because he’s got no heart for people. He may never admit it, but the truth is he hates the person he’s critical of.

A critic will likely never admit to wanting to kill a person. She won’t take a knife or gun in hand and kill the person she’s critical about. But HAVING A CRITICAL MINDSET AND TONGUE IS ALL THE SAME AS WIELDING THE INSTRUMENTS OF MURDER AND DEATH! God doesn’t see any difference between a critical mind and a gun, between a critical tongue and a knife, because they both produce the same result—death, if not of the body, then certainly of the spirit. The depression, discouragement, anger, feelings of resentment, rejection, unworthiness, and more; all the feelings and emotions that come with being criticized and condemned kill the soul. They sap the life out of a person. IN GOD’S EYES THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A CRITIC AND A MURDERER. Now I’m really getting ahead of myself. More on this in my next blog.

Coming Up On My Next Post, Part 7. The final post in this series looks at God’s attitude towards a critic. And, as you would expect, He’s got some rather harsh words to say to the harsh. If you’re a judge drop by for your trial and sentencing before the Judge. You’ll get a taste of your poison and we’ll see how you like it.  

A MAN OF WAR TEACHES US ABOUT PEACE

You’re probably well familiar with the Roman centurion who came to Jesus asking Him to heal his beloved slave (Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:11-10). When we think about this centurion we’re prone to think about his faith, his understanding of authority, and Jesus’ miraculous power to heal the most impossible of sicknesses and diseases. If you haven’t read the story recently I’d encourage you to read it right now. It’ll help you understand what I’m about to tell you.

As I was preparing to teach a lesson on the Roman Centurion the Lord arrested my attention and pointed out a different picture of the centurion that I had not seen before. To my pleasant surprise, tucked away in a passage of Scripture where faith is everywhere apparent, a man of war had a lot to teach me about living peaceably with people who are very hard to get along with. Let me share with you what the Lord showed me.

THE PALESTINE OF YESTERYEAR

Take a trip with me back in time. Place yourself in the sandals of this Roman centurion. You’re currently stationed in Spain, France, Britain, or Rome itself. Your tour of duty is just about up and you’re expecting your next deployment order to come anytime soon. It comes as expected. Your next deployment will be to Palestine.

Of all the places in the Roman Empire, Palestine is the most difficult. The Jews are unrelentingly fanatical about their religion and their God. For them there is no compromise, no toleration, or moderation. They will fight and die for their beliefs, And, indeed, they have. Freedom fighters are aplenty and the entire region is a seedbed, or rather, a hotbed, of revolt and rebellion. The land is drenched in blood, both Jewish and Roman. If blood were water, the Palestine desert would be an oasis.

You are going to a land where you are not wanted or welcome. You are their enemy. You are a candidate for assassination. The unseen enemy is everywhere, dressed every bit as a civilian, and you don’t know who’s armed and hostile. Yes, with Rome’s might behind you, you can crush the Jews’ doomed revolts. But how do you crush a fanaticism and a spirit that will not die? How do you intend to live and survive in an environment of hatred and death?

BEING DIFFERENT

The Roman army—both its soldiers and its officers—are militant. They are a world power. Their numbers and their armament cannot be matched. They are, for all practical purposes, invincible. They will triumph in the end.

Knowing this, the army cares nothing about religion and people. They are concerned only to do the will of Caesar and enforce the rule of Roman law. There is no pity or compassion;  no deference, no backing down, no bowing down to the will of a conquered people or nation.

But this particular Roman centurion is different. (1) He loves his slave and treats him as his son (Matthew 8:6 where servant could be translated son). Slaves are not “people” to the Romans. They are things. Like iPods, cars, and cell phones are today. They are possessions. They weren’t treated like human beings. But this centurion is different. His slave is dying (Luke 7:2). And the centurion cares enough about him to seek Jesus out and ask Him to spare his beloved slave’s life. He’s a decent human being with a care and regard for people that didn’t exist all that much in Roman society. The guy’s got heart. He isn’t cold, uncaring, or ruthless.

The Romans hated the Jews as much as the Jews hated them. The Jews not only resorted to violence against the Roman presence in Palestine, but they also made full use of the power of petition or appeal. They would go to the highest Roman authorities in the land—the Army Tribune in town, the Roman Governor in Caesarea and Syria, the Roman Senate, and even the Emperor in Rome—if they had any gripes against Rome’s ruling representatives in Palestine.  

This, you will remember, is what finally forced a reluctant Pilate to succumb to the people’s wishes and have Christ crucified: the Jews were threatening to go to Caesar and accuse Pilate of treason for letting a rival King go scot free (John 19:12-13).

Not too infrequently, Caesar would remove these representatives from office in Palestine as a gesture of peace and good-will to the Jews. So the Roman rulers in Palestine knew their jobs were on the line and they despised the Jews for the political threat that they were.

But this centurion is different. (2) He loves the Jews (Luke 7:5). He finds a way to make peace with the local Jewish rulers in Capernaum. He extends some kind of olive branch to them and wins their acceptance and respect. He puts his money where his mouth is and spends a portion of his own personal wealth to build the Capernaumites a synagogue. Think of how much money it would take to build any kind of building today and you’ll get a fair idea of how much money this centurion dished out for the Jews. He was enabling their worship of a God that Rome didn’t believe or worship! Instead of being a traditional Roman and mocking the religious beliefs, convictions, and practices of the Jews, this centurion respects Jewish religion to such an extent as to spend a small fortune to build them a synagogue. And a synagogue wasn’t just a house of worship. It was a school. A community center. So the centurion’s goodwill gesture was a benefit to the people of the local community. The centurion wasn’t just winning the hearts of the Jewish leaders: he was winning the hearts of the Jewish people in the community.

The thing that’s so astounding about this is, ordinarily, the Jews wouldn’t have anything to do with Roman money. Rome kept them subjected. Taxed. Humiliated. A lot of Jews wouldn’t have accepted Roman money. But these Capernaumites received this Roman centurion into their midst, made peace with him, allowed him to build them a synagogue, and allied themselves with him to a point where they were willing to petition Jesus on his behalf. Somehow, the enemy centurion  found a way to change the enemy Jews and make them his friends.

Roman rulers and officers, as you would expect, are mightily proud. Jews were nothing to them and they used every opportunity to make the locals feel like dirt. They like to rubbed their power in their face and remind them they were a subjected people. Losers. Powerless against the might of the Worldwide Roman Empire.

But this centurion’s different.  (3) He’s humble—at least in the presence of his superiors or greatness (Luke 7:6-7). Jesus is a Rabbi. He’s no army man. He wields no political power. He’s vastly popular with the people. But He’s got no army! There no earthly reason why Rome would fear a fellow without an army. But the centurion knows something diffent about this Rabbi because he lives and works in the same city where this Rabbi lives and works. The Rabbi has power of a different sort. At His command, demons go. Diseases are healed. The sick are restored. The centurion recognizes authority when he sees it and he stands in enough respect for the Jewish Rabbi to place unbridled, undiminished faith and hope in Him to heal a dying slave. The centurion’s humble enough that he considers himself unworthy to have such a guest—a Jewish guest—in his home.

So what am I saying? I’m saying this Roman centurion was different. He was unlike most Roman rulers and officers. He was a decent human being. He had a heart. He was loving. Compassionate. Caring. Respectful. Considerate. Humble. Peaceable. Generous. An Ambassador of Goodwill. In a land of war and enmity, hatred and death, the centurion found a way to make peace and win the hearts of his enemies.

THE PALESTINE THAT IS AMERICA TODAY

That was back then in Jesus’ time. Now let’s fast forward to our time and the  real world in which we live today. Like the centurion, we live in a world that hates, despises, and persecutes us. We’re the enemy. We’re unwanted and unloved because of the Jesus we follow and the Bible we believe. Take a public, vocal stand on abortion, homosexuality, same-sex marriage, prayer and Bibles in our schools, praying to Jesus in the public square, the Ten Commandments, need I say more?, and you will know the hatred and slander of those who oppose our Savior and our God.

Come into the workplace and, like the centurion, you step into an office or a factory where people hate your guts. They just don’t like you and they use every opportunity and tactic to let you know that. Take a wider step into the community and it’s like everybody’s against you. They’re not nice or respectful to you. They’re not decent by any means. Some would even kill you if they could.

Like the centurion, you’re faced with a quandary and a dilemma. How do you make peace with the enemy? How do you reach out to those who don’t like you  and who don’t want you to be around them? How do you get the enemy  to accept you or at least be nice to you? How do you be peaceable in an unpeaceable world?

The centurion was not like most of the Romans of his day. He was different. He was a man and a breed apart. TO WIN THE HEARTS OF PEOPLE—maybe not everyone, but at least the locals where you’re at, the Capernaumites of your office, factory, family, or community; YOU’VE GOT TO BE A DIFFERENT SORT OF CHRISTIAN.

Your enemies know Christians to be heathens like them. Unscrupulous. Unethical. Thieves. Crooks. Gossipers. Back biters. Hypocrites. Liars. Drunks. Fornicators. Pornos. Gamblers. Carnal. Selfish. Ad infinitum.  Thanks to the unchurched, untaught, uncrucified Christians-so-called, Christians have a black eye in the world and people just don’t have a whole lot of respect for Christians.

YOU’VE GOT TO PROVE TO THEM YOU’RE DIFFERENT. YOU’VE GOT TO SHOW THEM YOU’RE DIFFERENT. LET THE LIFE, LIGHT, AND LOVE OF CHRIST SHINE THROUGH YOU. IN TIME THEY’LL SEE THAT YOU’RE A DIFFERENT KIND OF CHRISTIAN THAN THE CHRISTIANS THEY’RE USED TO  SEEING. In time they’ll come to admire and respect you. YOU’LL CHANGE THEM WHEN YOU CHANGE YOURSELF. OR CHANGE THEIR PERSPECTIVE OF WHAT A TRUE CHRISTIAN’S REALLY LIKE.

To get the centurion’s results you’ve got to be like the centurion. Be a decent human being. Quit being selfish or self-centered. Quit thinking about yourself all the time. Have  a heart for people. Be loving. Compassionate. Caring. Respectful. Considerate. Humble. Peaceable. Don’t treat people like dirt. Don’t make sinners feel like dirt. Don’t rub it in their face. Show them the love of Christ. Show them there’s hope of a new life in Christ. Be an Ambassador of Goodwill. Go out of your way for people. Put your money where your heart and mouth are. Be generous and kind. Give. Help. Bless. Watch your mouth, your temper, and your thoughts. Overcome evil with good. Pray for them. Ask God for wisdom and He will show you how to tear down walls and build bridges. In Jesus’ words in the sermon on the mount, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you (Matthew 5:44). And in Romans 12:21, Overcome evil with good.

You’re not going to win everyone. We live in a hostile world and there’ll always be people who aren’t going to like you. But, like the centurion, if you persist in goodness and look for ways to win the hearts of people, God will give you grace and favor and you will win the hearts of those whom God intends for you to touch and change through His Spirit, power, and love working in and through you. God bless you and make you a modern day centurion, a man of peace, in the unpeaceable Palestine that is America today.