Along our walk of faith we find and learn Christian clichés – those pesky little phrases that emerge from the colloquial pond as tried and true nuggets of wisdom supposedly drawn from timeless biblical truth, but in the end, turn out to be more rooted in human imagination than in divine understanding.
Three such impostors making the top of the chart are these – “We should not judge others”, “God loves the sinner but hates the sin”, and “the Lord will not give you more than you can handle.” These sayings are repeated often in an attempt to spread wisdom and comfort in life through advice and conservation; however, are they really accurate? Do these comments have their root in God or man?
We will take a look at each statement over the next few weeks and examine it biblically to see if it stands or falls. First, let’s look at: We should not judge others.
“Judge not lest you be judged” is probably the most abused statement by both believers and unbelievers alike being thrown around in debates and arguments more frequently than a well-worked pizza crust. It is found in the gospel of Matthew – “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1 Certainly, on the surface this looks rather compelling. However, context is the text in which God breathed out His Word and so we must capture the essence of the passage by expanding our view to the next verses. Here’s what happens when we do:
“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 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? 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? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:1-5
When the entire context is considered, the actual thrust of this warning passage turns out to be speaking directly to those who are hypocritical in their judgments. Take the log out of your own eyes first and then you will be able to see clearly. The command here is a call to self-examination of sin, not a call to cease judging others. Keep in mind also that judging here is about discernment not condemnation. God alone condemns.
Other passages help us to see our rightful role in judging, such as John 7:24, where Christ, in dealing with supposed Sabbath law violations said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Paul spoke about our need to judge small legal matters and disputes in 1 Corinthians 6:3 ” Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life?”
All throughout Scripture we see both the need to discern correctly and to the need to avoid hypocrisy. Learn to judge through having the same mind of Christ and exercise humility through patience and peace.
Relationships are the hardest thing we ever do in this life, that’s why we do our best to both control and avoid them. If we could live alone, for the most part, we would have an easy go of it, but instead we have others to deal with for they surround us constantly. As the great Dr. Seuss may have put it in his famous lyrical rhythm – People here, people there, people with me every where. People high, people low, people every where I go.
And so we find that mastering good communication skills as community and family members is as essential as a carpenter learning to master his hammer and saw. Not being able to utilize right and effective relationship tools invariably leads to much trouble. This week I’d like to bring a few of these tools to you that are tremendously helpful. They are based upon a few biblical principles and involve the way in which we handle conflict.
Many of us pride ourselves on what we think is an almost perfect recall. When it comes to what someone has said to us and what we believe they have said, we find that most of us have no problem relying upon our own internal witness. However, this is quite dangerous for we are never neutral and unbiased; there is always the stain of past history on our hearts distorting even if only so slightly our perception of what we hear. The Old Testament recognizes this truth when it says, “The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him.” (Proverbs 18:17) And to make matters worse the prophet Jeremiah has this insight –“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9) We should always be suspicious of ourselves particularly when we are in conflict.
So the first principle for us to learn and cultivate is an active humility. We must learn to accept that we are fallible listeners and consequently must be slow to judge and learn to discern rightly before we jump into accusation and assertions. As Christ Himself said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
We should first seek clarification and understanding through probing questions and multiple witnesses before setting out stakes firmly in unmovable ground. Back again to antiquity the Lord spoke through Moses saying, “A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.” (Deut. 19:15)
If we combine these truths regarding humility along with other admonitions of thinking of others more highly than ourselves (Phil. 2:4) and not assuming that we know someone else’s motives; we have started well. Hearing correctly is the first step and seeking to understand rather than merely reacting to what we think we heard is a godly tool.
Next post we’ll go further into probing good and right communication during conflicts.