February 25th, 2013: The Eleventh Day of Lent

February 25, 2013 § Leave a comment

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.”

~Matthew 7.1~

Chapter 7 of the Sermon on the Mount begins with this brief teaching. In the New Living Translation, which is shown here, we see only ten words. In the original language, there are only five words. Perhaps only a few words, but this verse remains a challenge.

What does it mean to judge? A common understanding of the term might involve a weighing of facts and opinions, so as to be able to arrive at an informed decision and act accordingly. In our daily lives, we exercise this process almost without thinking. However, in Christ’s teaching, judging other people carries a negative weight. Christ does not desire for us to treat fellow human beings in this manner.

If we judge people, we demonstrate two things about ourselves. First, we show that we believe that we are better than other people in some way. Second, we show that we believe that we are in a position to properly make that judgment. We may not consciously hold these beliefs, but our judging behavior indicates that we have bought into them on some level.

Unfortunately, both of these beliefs run counter to the realities of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first Beatitude, Matthew 5.3, tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven opens its doors for those who recognize their own flawed selves and their own deep need for a savior. One doesn’t come into Christ’s Kingdom thinking that he or she is at the top; the only way in is by realizing that you belong on the bottom. Once we come to that understanding, we know that we are in no place to judge others, for we place our hope in the one merciful judge, Almighty God.

Christ tells us not to judge, so that we will not be judged. Eugene Peterson, in The Message, renders the verse like this: “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment.” The implication here is that if we judge others, we will be held to the same standard. If we show leniency, we will be shown leniency.

This is an easy verse to hear and nod our heads to, but it is a difficult teaching to apply. How often do we arrive at snap judgments of other people? The barista who made your drink incorrectly this morning? The person who cut you off in traffic on your way to work? The loud talker at your favorite restaurant? How deeply do you really know these people? Are you in any position to criticize them in any way? It is better to remember how much mercy we have been shown. Trying to show that mercy and grace to others may be hard, but it is the way of the Kingdom.

Lent is an appropriate time to consider how often we find ourselves judging and criticizing others. Over the next few days, we will have the opportunity to examine what goes on when we do. But for now, let’s recognize the fact that judging people has no place in God’s Kingdom.

Lord Christ, I repent of my judging heart. I do it without thinking, everywhere I go, for the worst reasons. Help me to sacrifice my pride and my ego and recognize my own brokenness. Help me remember the love and mercy that you’ve shown me, and help me to show it to others. Amen. 

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