How's your Monday going? I hope it is off to a beautiful start. Here in RVA, the sun is shining and the temperature is PERFECT! It's an unbelievable gorgeous day!
Here's a phrase that is pervasive in popular culture these days: "don't judge me!" I don't really know exactly where the popularity came from, but I suspect it may have started with Tupac Shakur and his popular adage, "Only God can judge me." Where ever it originated, the idea is pervasive in our culture. I've been thinking about this a lot since last Wednesday. I've been wrestling with this idea. I looked to the Word of God, and the texts there seem to say conflicting things. When I prayed about the tension between some of the Biblical references, I believe God gave me some clear insight about this.
Matthew 7:1 is probably one of the most well known scriptures in the entire Bible. In his own words, Jesus says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." It seems pretty straight forward, right? Don't judge! But there are questions that this passage leaves behind. What about sin? Do we ignore it? If no, how do we deal with it without judgement? This is where the tension exists for me. This is where I've struggled — even within myself. How do I deal with my sin?
As I prayed about this I found myself coming to terms with one of the reasons why I've experienced tension here. For so many of us the Bible is abstract. We read it like a set of rules to be followed. Lots of times tensions arise in our understandings because we don't put ourselves in the Word of God. We pull the scriptures a part — separating words from intentions and actions. I think this "don't judge me" thing is one of the places where this is true.
When I put myself in the scriptures — looking around at the landscape, watching Jesus work with people and situations a trend emerges. Jesus didn't ever sidestep sin. He didn't hesitate to call sin what it was. However, he also rarely spent time chastising sinners. When we put Jesus' words together with his work we see a perfect example of dealing with our own sin and dealing with other people who are struggling with sin, themselves. Jesus' approach was always steeped in compassion and ours should be as well.
I think one of the profound things about Jesus' dealings with sinners was just the fact that Jesus always addressed root causes. Over and over again in the gospels we find Jesus reading people. We find him being perceptive about what was going on insidepeople — in their hearts and in their heads. He wasn't taken by people's actions like we are. Jesus always dealt with the root of the problems of sin he encountered.
So what does that mean for us? I think as Christians we are called to have a profound interest in people. I believe this is the Jesus way. I believe we are called to follow Christ's example of not getting stuck on why people do what they do. I believe we are called to look deep within ourselves and within others to try to see their hearts. When we do this, we learn to bypass judgement. When we do this, we learn to care for people with compassion. This is exactly what enables us to love our enemies and pray for those who use us!
I even think how Jesus dealt with other people is instructive to us in how we deal with ourselves in our own sins. I think his example shows us how to break sinful habits in our own lives through prayerful consideration of the causes in our hearts. I believe Jesus' example of dealing with sin keeps us from creating the debilitating baggage of guilt and shame. I believe his loving care for others is instructive to teach us — not just how to love others but also how to be loving toward ourselves.
All the way up to the cross, Jesus was pushing aside the veneer of people's actions and looking to their hearts. Even in his agony, he was looking deeply into people to see their spiritual illness and praying for them in that space. Oh what an example he gave us! What a picture of love — not just in his death but in the details of his living!
This week, as we observe so much going on in the world let's try together to pay special attention to this aspect of Jesus' example. Wherever we encounter sin — even when it isagainst us or in us — let's ask God to open our eyes to what is really taking place. Let's ask God to help us remember there's more to every situation than we can see. Let's ask him to give us the clarity to see total truth and deal with ourselves and others in a way that is consistent with Jesus' example. Let's ask him shape in us a spirit that is courageous to be honest about sin and compassionate to suspend judgement and see the roots of sin that need prayerful care and healing!
Questions for the week
- Am I judgmental?
- Is my perception of righteousness based on a judgmental paradigm?
- How do I deal with my own sinfulness? Do I beat myself up? Do I take time to understand where my sin is rooted?
- How do I deal with sin when I encounter it in others?