Tag Archives: judging others

Recognizing Bad Fruit Isn’t Judging

So many times when victims of coercive control and abuse try to tell people about what their partners are doing, they are told they shouldn’t judge. Yet, in the same chapter that starts with “Do not judge,” Jesus spent a lot of time talking about false disciples and wolves in sheep’s clothing (7:15-23).

When we judge we are assessing* others based on our opinions and preferences. However, recognizing bad fruit doesn’t require judgment. It’s obvious. The fruit is either good or bad. I’d say when someone curses you again and again or spits in your face and utters hateful words, that is bad fruit. If someone oppresses you, or restricts your freedom to even think or act independently, that’s bad fruit– and God hates it.

Reading further in chapter 7, you will see that many will stand before Him on that final day professing to know Him and He will cast them out, because their actions did not match their profession. It’s a serious thing to claim His name and then treat people with contempt, or to ignore their needs (“I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat Mt. 25:42).

While we are saved by grace through faith alone, that experience should change us, and it should become evident in our actions. Micah 6:8 tells us what God requires of us– “to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.” Those who abuse do the exact opposite. They may get away for it temporarily, but one day they will be called to account, and required to answer the only One worthy to judge. “For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:30-31.

As survivors that should not make us happy (Pr. 24:17), but we should leave justice to God and release our offenders to Him. If we harbor bitterness and anger we may find ourselves becoming like them. So until He comes, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you,” (Lk. 6:28) and leave the judgment to Him. 💗 Joy

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.” Jame 3:9-12

* The original word used here can also mean to condemn Greek based on our assessment more than facts.

Selective Blindness

“Do not be angry, my lord,” Aaron answered. “You know how prone these people are to evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.’ So I told them, ‘Whoever has any gold jewelry, take it off.’ Then they gave me the gold, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf!” (Ex. 32:32-34)

 I can’t help but laugh when I read this account of Aaron’s role in the golden calf incident. Not only did he resort to the typical blaming of others, he acted as if the calf that he so skillfully formed just popped out of the fire without his input. I’ve seen this sort of reaction time and again in my life. People act shocked and surprised that sin basically took over, and indicate they had no control or say in the matter. I am sure that on more than one occasion, I have done the same thing. The funny thing is that when is comes to other people, it’s a completely different story. It’s so much easier to see their faults. Aaron’s statement, “You know how prone these people are to evil,” shows that he recognized the evil that lurks in the hearts of men, yet when it came to his own, it was completely accidental. I call this selective blindness. We find it easy to judge others, but completely evade our own culpability. The sad thing is that feigned blindness does not prevent very real consequences. In this case, the result was deadly for thousands.

It is our human nature to try to cover up our own iniquity, and to blame others. The problem with that approach is that it doesn’t change the outcome. There are consequences to straying from God’s path, and trying to deny, cover up or blame others simply adds insult to injury. I think about the difference between the first 2 kings of Israel. When Saul sinned, and the prophet confronted him, his reaction was similar to Aaron’s. The result was that God removed his Holy Spirit from him, he was eventually killed in battle, and the kingdom was taken from his family. When David sinned, his actions were much worse, but when the prophet confronted him, he was quick to repent. Even though there were still consequences for his sin, his genuine repentance redeemed the situation. God called David a man after his own heart, and I believe that is because he refused to cover up or choose blindness when he was forced to face what he had done. He pleaded with God not to remove his Holy Spirit from him. David treasured God, and therefore chose to look honestly at his own heart. The heart that chooses blindness is self-centered, and cares far more about self than God. The heart that loves God will deny self, but as a result will find the path to abundant life.

 Lord, please help me to always be willing to look at my own heart honestly. Do not allow me to be so insistent on my way that I fail to seek yours first. Let me always be willing to confess and willing to repent. Help me to see my own sin before I see the sins of others, and help me not to judge. My sweet Savior, help me to love you more than I love myself, and in doing so make your ways a priority over my own. These days my sins are usually heart issues rather than blatant actions, and when I look at other people, I tend to judge their heart attitudes too. Open my blind eyes Lord, and help me to see  my own failures before I start pointing my fingers at others. Amen

He’d be Crucified in the Blogs

Some days I just get weary of life in the 21st century American church. Yes, I am a part of it, and yes it does many good things.  When I walk through the halls at my church, I see lives that have been radically transformed, marriages that have been saved, and I hear messages that proclaim God’s unchanging truth. When I look at disasters in our world, I am always blessed by how the church rises up to help victims. However, when I look at the American church as a whole I sometimes get a little nauseated. It brings a whole new meaning to Jesus’ words about spewing the lukewarm Laodicean church out of his mouth (Rev. 3:). In fact, in the Greek, that word literally means vomit.  The church is supposed to be salt and light not curdled milk!

Is it just me, or do others have that same queasy feeling about our modern church? Between the television preachers who promote a feel good, self-centered gospel to the Christian bloggers who take issue with just about everyone in ministry, I find myself ready to spew. It seems we can’t find a balance between judging and condoning self-serving doctrines.  I guess that is what lukewarm is all about—having no passion for God and people, but only for our own interests. Pride fuels one extreme and selfishness the other. I often wonder what would happen if Jesus showed up in America today. I feel quite sure many who claim his name would reject him. The prosperity sect would be drawn to the miracles, but later appalled at his teaching on self-denial. They probably wouldn’t even bother to debate him. They’d be too busy confessing their next blessing. It would be the self-righteous, faultfinding bloggers who would crucify Him this time around, except this time it would be done with words.

I can only imagine the uproar He would create in the blogosphere! Here are just a few blog posts we might see. “We find it hard to endorse this man, because he clearly does not live a lifestyle that is ‘above reproach.’ He not only violated the unspoken rules about spending time alone with a woman, but he did it with a divorcee who was living in an adulterous relationship in Samaria. Then there was the sinful woman who crashed a religious discussion group by clinging to him, kissing his feet and washing them with her tears. He didn’t even bother rebuking her for her inappropriate physical contact.” “Masses are lining up to be touched by this self-proclaimed faith healer. We believe he has planted actors in the crowds to build the mass hysteria.” “We are told there are several uninformed women footing the bill for his ministry.” “He is a wine bibber and constantly questions century old traditions passed down from the church fathers.” “He travels with a group of women (one of them a known prostitute), and spends a great deal of time hanging out with prostitutes, drug addicts and the like. It’s one thing to minister to such people, but he apparently prefers their company.”  “Apparently, he disagrees with many widely accepted interpretations of Scripture.” “We consider this man a false teacher.”

I believe if Jesus came and established a ministry on earth today, He would have many followers, but I also believe he would meet criticism on all sides. Since He always seemed to honor individuals over institutions, I am sure that would happen again. In his day, He clearly broke their Sabbath traditions, and even seemed to break the law concerning the Sabbath.  In our day, I wonder if He would tolerate the way we tend to honor broken marriage covenants over individuals. Would He send women and children back into abusive situations for the sake of saving the institution of marriage? When questioned about his apparent disrespect for the Sabbath, Jesus responded, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath” (Mk 2:27). I believe the same is true of marriage. God created Eve, because it was not good for the man to be alone. It sounds to me like marriage was created for man, and not vice versa. Yet, I have seen far too many women sent back into dangerous situations for the sake of an institution while they and their children were enduring physical and emotional harm with lifelong effects. Don’t get me wrong! Marriage was ordained by God and meant to be permanent, but God allows divorce because of hardness of heart (Mt. 19:8). However, in the modern church, even though God allowed it, we have labeled sin rather than the result of sin. I believe Jesus would be far more gracious. He would esteem individuals over institutions every time.* (See footnote added on 7-4-18)

In Jesus’ time the religious people were all about show, and Jesus constantly challenged them on it. I wonder what it would look like if He popped into one of our modern day worship services. In one instance, would He endure the lifeless, thoughtless vain repetition of hymns along with the precisely timed rising and sitting? And on the other hand, would He appreciate worship services reminiscent of rock concerts seemingly more intent on conforming to the pattern of this world than glorifying God? I guess the answer to those questions would depend on the hearts of the people involved.  But I feel quite sure He would find much to challenge.  Bottom line is, we as God’s people need to get back to our first love. We seem to think we have it all together, but we are so lacking. Like the church in Laodicea, we are spiritually “wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17).  We get so tied up doing that we forget to be the people He intends us to be. Salt adds flavor and light delivers people from darkness. If we were being salt and life, I believe our nation would look completely different right now. Perhaps its time we stop pointing fingers at one another and look at our own hearts. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if his people who are called by his name would begin to humble themselves and pray (2 Ch. 7:14)? That would bring healing to our land. Personally, I would much prefer that to crucifixion in the blogosphere.

Lord, help your people!

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*Of course, with the modern church we find extremes on either side. There are domestic violence advocates who deny the power of the gospel by saying that abusers can never change and they attack anyone who says it’s possible. While good advocates knows that seeing an abusive personality change is quite rare, I believe that one of the main reasons for that is a lack of knowledge. Uninformed counselors, therapists and pastors  treat it like a marital problem and actually make matters worse. The general pattern tends to put the burden of the entire relationship on the victim. As a result some advocates have become lopsided in their approach by only addressing victims. They always advise divorce, even when the victims want to try and save their marriages. This unbalanced approached goes against everything we are taught in advocacy training as it once again takes freedom of choice away from those who have never had a voice in their marriages.* It fails to recognize that if we don’t at least try to reach the hearts of abusive people with the power of the gospel, they simply move on to their next victims and perpetuate the cycle. The bottom line is that as these “advocates” aim harsh words at those who are offering gospel hope to offenders they may be hurting the very ones they claim to be helping. They set themselves up as authorities, and like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, end up caring more for their agendas than lives. That, my friends, is the definition of lukewarm. It is caring more about ideologies more than God and people.

*We do always advise SAFETY for victims, but we have seen cases where a prolonged separation and working with experts has led to marital restoration.

At the Heart of Every Conflict

Lord, I am simply in awe of how gracious You are. My efforts are small and pathetic, yet You respond in abundant and powerful ways. It blows my mind, and I am forever grateful. My flesh and the world tell me how inadequate I am on a daily basis, but when I get into your presence that condemnation melts away as I bask in your sweet love. It is amazing that my perfect God can embrace such imperfection, and yet in our human condition we rarely extend such grace to others. Instead, we tend to see others’ faults while ignoring our own. We act as though we actually deserve your abundant grace. There is so little humility in this world—even among your people. You called the religious leaders “blind guides” and I would venture to say nothing has changed in 2000 years. I catch myself focusing on the “specks” in the eyes of others while ignoring the blinding “log” in my own (Mt. 7:3-5). I see it in counseling all the time. People come in able to list every single fault of the person who has offended them, but very few are ever willing to look at their own. Lord, forgive the hypocrisy of your people! Help us to see ourselves clearly, and teach us to search our own hearts rather than judging our brothers and sisters. At the heart of every relational conflict we find people standing in judgment over each other. In our imperfection, we determine that someone else is far more imperfect. We set ourselves up in the position of judge—a position that only You deserve. Help me to lead by example, and never take your amazing grace for granted. Help me to remember how flawed and weak I am in my dealings with others, so that I can extend to them the same overwhelming grace You show me daily. If your people would embrace humility and grace, it could completely transform this world. As it is, we simply look like the world. We act as though the Gospel is only meant to save our souls, and forget the impact if should have on our relationships. Ephesians 4:32 reminds us to be tenderhearted and to forgive others as You have forgiven us. Help us to be honest with ourselves, and willing to look our own sin before judging others. Forgive us for looking like the world, and rendering the Gospel ineffective for daily life. Amen

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?  Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” Mt. 7:1-5 NLT

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.                                                                                                

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?  James 4:1-12 ESV