“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” (Lk. 6:37-38, 41-42)
A few weeks ago Brian Chesemore, one of our pastors, used this passage as the text for a message he called “The Difference Mercy Makes.” His two points were simple, memorable, and potentially life changing.
1. Extend mercy at every opportunity.
Brian pointed out that “Judge not” is probably one of the most often quoted and least understood passages in the Bible. Our Savior isn’t forbidding all judging. We are commanded elsewhere in Scripture to discern between right and wrong, and have to be aware of sin in someone in order to forgive them. No, Jesus is addressing our attitude in the way we relate to others. He is speaking of interactions that are rooted in sin rather than grace. When we are quick to criticize, slow to understand, and confident in own uncharitable judgment, we’ve forgotten the amazing mercy God has shown us at the cross.
2. Address sin, but start within.
This point challenges the way I magnify the sins of others rather than my own. When, by God’s grace, I do look at the beam in my own eye, I usually find that my problem is arrogance. I hear one piece of evidence or experience a single interaction, and assume I know everything there is to know about the situation, as well as the motives of everyone involved. I don’t need to search for more facts because what I know is all I need to know. And I assume that “looking” right, not “acting” right, is the most crucial issue.
Because of the way my heart works, I’ve found it helpful to pause when I sense sinful judgment rising in my heart, and ask myself, “What is it that I DON’T know about this situation?” I’ve been amazed at how easily one piece of information can fuel a barrage of sinful thoughts, attitudes, and words. Here’s an example.
After a Sunday meeting, I greet the pastor as he passes by. He doesn’t acknowledge my greeting. As I walk away, I “innocently” start to evaluate what just happened. “He didn’t greet me. He didn’t even say hello. No smile, no nod. Nothing. Who does he think he is? He has time to greet everyone else. But not me. Some pastor, doesn’t even have time to care for his flock. Oh, I’m sure he has more important things to do, more important people to talk to. You know, I haven’t ever really felt cared for in this church. Maybe it’s time to start looking for another church…”
On the other hand, I could ask myself what I don’t know. Did the pastor actually hear me? I’m not sure. Did he see me? Not sure about that either. I don’t know what was on his mind. I don’t know what he came from, or where he was headed. I don’t know if I spoke loudly enough. I don’t know if he was distracted.
In every instance I find that what I don’t know far exceeds what I do know. That enables me to dismiss the situation, or if appropriate, to humbly pursue answers to my questions. How many relational conflicts could be avoided if we simply followed our Savior’s command to look for the beam in our own eye first!
May we always be mindful of the mercy we’ve been shown by the God whose judgment is perfect, righteous, and sure, but who poured it out on his Son instead of us.