when who judge others we condemn themselves

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Matthew 7

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.

Romans 2

It is interesting how often it is apparent that the very thing we see wrong in another is something we practice ourselves. We need insight from God to be able to see that. Jesus doesn’t tell us to quit judging as in having discernment in the Matthew passage quoted above. Rather he tells us to make sure we are scrupulous to take care of the sin in our own lives,  before we think we can help someone else with the sin in their lives. The crux of the matter is that we’re not to condemn others in a kind of final judgment which only God can make.

I think Paul is saying much the same thing in the Romans passage quoted above. He is challenging Jews who think that just because they had the Law/Torah, they were a cut (circumcision) above the rest. But Paul makes it clear in that letter that just like the rest of humankind, they too were under the power of sin. So that again, an emphasis is made on judging one’s self with reference to that Torah, and becoming obedient to the Law’s requirement, which is love for God and for our neighbor from the heart by the Spirit.

James has some good words for us related to this:

Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

James 4

Simply put, we’re not to put ourselves in the place of God. And here:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

James 2

Finally, in a sense bringing this to full circle, back to our Lord’s words:

Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.

John 7

I am very wary of topical studies such as this one, because they too often don’t do justice to the context of each passage, and are summarily slapped together in a way which ultimately often fails to support the main point, or at least is simplistic, failing to take into account the whole. Of course we should compare scripture with scripture, no doubt, while letting each passage and book within scripture have its own voice to be appreciated within the mix of the whole.

Today the point is that we must beware and at least be wary of judging others, since only God can see and judge, and since we are sinners, too. But as by grace we do judge ourselves, God will give us insight to help others judge themselves by God’s grace on the path of righteousness. And in the end, we should apply mercy, remembering that mercy ultimately triumphs over judgment. In other words, God’s salvation in Jesus overcomes the judgment and brings mercy in and through Jesus. So that we should learn to see both ourselves and others in light of that great reality and hope.

 

knowing Satan’s schemes

For we are not unaware of [Satan’s] schemes.

2 Corinthians 2

Whether we like it or not, we in Jesus are in a spiritual battle. And the more serious we are about our walk in the Lord, the more real that warfare will become.

Yes, Satan and his hosts are defeated through the risen Christ’s death (Colossians 2:15). We in Christ have the victory, and can live in that by faith. But living within that is not automatic.

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God,and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

1 John 5

The world, the flesh, and the devil have aptly been called the unholy trinity, not that such is actually analgous with the Blessed Trinity, but because in scripture these three though distinct, are in sync with each other. The world refers to the world system set against God either subtely, or not so subtely. The flesh refers to humankind under the power of sin, manifest individually and systemically. And the devil is Satan, or evil personified, actually in a person which in their evil loses what is good of personhood, and disguises evil as good.

We in Christ by the Spirit and in the communion of the church need discernment from God to understand the enemy’s working, what they’re up to, and how they trip us up. There is no question that they do. And we need to be not only aware of that, but to learn to recognize it when it is happening, and know what to do to resist and overcome it. And we have to remember that in this present life this spiritual warfare will continue on (Ephesians 6:10-18) until the Lord returns.*

To be aware of this we might well say is half the battle, but we need to know what to do, as well. We certainly need to resist and stand firm, holding on to the gospel as the power of God to overcome sin, death, and evil. While seeking to remain responsible, our final hope and confidence lies only in the good news of God who is Jesus, with all the meaning that comes with that in God’s revelation found in scripture and taught by the church. There is no easy formula. It involves our entire life, and all of God’s revelation to us in Jesus, received not only once, but over and over again. Through a once for all salvation, which involves a process in growth in grace into increasing conformity to God’s will in Jesus. So that even though we through Jesus can do better and overcome some things, we must be ready for more. Hopefully getting better and better at it, as we look forward to our Lord’s return when evil will be vanquised forever and this spiritual warfare done.

*See C. S. Lewis’s, The Screwtape Letters for a most interesting, informative look at this, told in an imaginative, true to life story.

thirsting for justice

God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
    for they will be satisfied.

Matthew 5:6; NLT

Justice is a theme all throughout scripture, especially justice for the poor and oppressed, as well as for innocents. Justice could be described as what is right in terms of societies and how people treat each other. We speak here in the United States of criminal justice, as well as justice in other ways. While the main idea may be agreed on, just what is involved in true justice, or what is right for all, is a debated point. For example, again in the criminal justice system it’s debated on what kind of justice should be given to those who commit crimes, the worst of such being murder. Some advocate punitive justice and the death penalty for the murderer. Others advocate a restorative justice which seeks to help the murderer and all other prisoners so that eventually they might not only be let out of prison, but also that they might flourish and desire to pay back something of what they owe to society.

Justice is grounded in a righteousness which at its heart is loving God with all of our being and doing, and loving our neighbor as ourselves, which in the case of Jesus includes loving our enemies as well. It’s grounded in love. Jesus taught that those who are blessed include those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for justice. That they will be filled, or satisfied. We live in a world in which justice and what is right is scuttled time and time again for agendas of greed and power. And the “news” is normally about such abuses, so that we are prone to think that injustice reigns supreme. And in too many places, in too many instances, that does indeed seem to be the case. In this world we should be advocates of justice, justice of all kinds. That is part of hungering and thirsting for such. We are passionate about it, and we pray for it, but we also do what we can to promote it. It’s easy to give up and give in to the thinking that there’s little or nothing we can do.

We know that ultimate and final justice will occur at Jesus’s return when God’s kingdom in him is fully put in place. In the meantime we pray and advocate a justice in keeping with the world as it is now, in all its brokenness. One that can’t be as complete as it will be someday, but nevertheless with an aim for completeness even in the here and now. As we await the justice to come.

 

remembering the love

We live in a time in which love is disdained and dissed, or is sentimental and not grounded in either reality or truth. And we have our own difficult worlds to maneuver in, which at times will test our love.

What we need is not just love, but the love so to speak: the love which is grounded in the truth which ultimately is the Truth himself, Jesus. A love which can look past the faults and sins of others, “love covers over a multitude of sins.” And when necessary, but with a reticence ready to reconsider, and great care taken if proceding holds the other accountable, but does so always in a way in which they know we have their best interests at heart, and that we’re on their side.

Sometimes we’re in situations which do affect us, their action or inaction making our life more difficult. That is when we might need to hold them accountable, but we don’t let what might even possibly be an actual personal affront get to us, we don’t let them “get under our skin.” One key way which has helped me time and again is to recite the Jesus Creed (Scot McKnight) over and over:

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.

Mark 12

I will repeat that over and over as a discipline, a necessary reminder to me of what the heartbeat of my life is to be no matter what. And keep doing that until it begins to sink into my heart. And with that, I’ll include “the Lord’s prayer” here and there (Matthew 6:9-13).

Even as God in and through Jesus loves us, we need to love each other, and others. And while our love will fall short of God’s love, nevertheless we drink from that stream of love by the Spirit, so that we receive and impart something of it to others. And we choose to love, when all of our own inclinations might go the other way.

Yes, we must remember the love, the true love, the love of God in Jesus which has been given to us not only to know for ourselves, but to begin to practice on others. Loving them even as Jesus has loved us: sacrificially and to the end.

love one another

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God.Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.

1 John 4

There is nothing more important, foundational, or basic to our life in Christ than to love one another, even as God in Christ has loved us.

This does take effort on our part, but that effort is out of the grace through which this new life is given to us by God through Christ. It is a gift in and through which we live.

We must not draw back and give up and give in to lesser, even base things, which come from the brokenness of sin and out of our broken humanity. And because our love will never measure up in degree to God’s love, we might lose heart.

In the gift, we end up sharing in the very love of God, so that we both receive from and give to each other something of that love. But because all too often, and by and large we don’t love that well, we can too easily be prone to throw in the towel and give up altogether. But God won’t let us stay there. One way or another, we’re brought back to this requirement, indeed imperative necessity of love, because that is the life that is ours in Christ. There is no other life in him.

And so we must be committed to God and to each other in that love. To look for growth in it in our lives with each other and with others in tangible, down to earth ways. To get rid of all that is contrary to that love, whatever it might be. And together to live out this love of God in Jesus as a witness of God’s love in and through Jesus for the world.

God’s measuring line

It’s that more or less dreaded time of the year for job reviews, which in the case where I work end up being rather routine and relatively short, after which we might chat a bit about something else to not end our session too soon. Still, this is not my favorite exercise except that it can be a time of both encouragement and vision in terms of development. For me, I’m getting closer and closer to the end of my work days, even if to some extent I never plan to quit working altogether, as long as I’m able.

I think too of the assessment of others, either in terms of once accepting and even appreciating, but in time completely (so it seems) writing one off, or in terms of praise received. These can be both discouraging, as well as encouraging. What ends up being the bottom line for me is that I am simply a servant with significant limitations for sure, but one who offers the little I have to the Master who can take the five loaves and two small fishes and feed them to a multitude. This is certainly true for each and every one of us, in and through Jesus.

The evaluation which counts is the Lord’s evalution of ourselves, of our works. Everything is of grace for sure, we don’t do anything that is of God apart from God. There may be good humans do which moves God, as was true in the case of Cornelius the Roman centurion in the book of Acts, who feared God, gave to the poor, and helped the Jews in their religious setting. Prevenient grace, the teaching that God’s grace precedes so that only by that grace sinners can repent and believe and do well in God’s sight, as well as the common grace God gives to all by which mothers self-sacrificially care for their young, along with a whole host of other human activities we find good and even at times inspiring, these are all in the mix, when we consider the evaluation of our lives and what we do (and don’t do).

So for me, while I really do appreciate encouragement, and can see that as from the Lord, even when given by another human, perhaps helping overcome despair, the one evaluation which for me in the end matters, is exactly what our Lord will say on that Day, the day when our lives and works are evaluated.

One of the keys is to prepare well now. And a very necessary part of that is to judge ourselves, with the help of the Lord. In a certain sense, we can’t do that at all. God is the Judge, and only God sees everything as it truly is. But in a different yet related sense, we do need to judge ourselves, depending on God to give us discernment to do so, primarily in terms of confession of sin, and change in getting rid of whatever sin we might be dealing with since we have the promise of cleansing in this life, in the progressive sanctification for holiness that is ours in our Lord.

This never negates our need for further confession and cleansing, sanctification in being set apart to God to be holy, a life-long process. But other than never getting beyond temptation to sin in this life, we should be making progress, so that what might have been characteristic of us years ago, is now either unthinkable, or at least an exception to the rule, or at the very least we are ultra sensitive to the danger of such, so that we want to do our best to distance ourselves from it.

All of this to say that in the end it is God’s measuring line which counts. And that standard is Jesus himself. We are not only believers in Jesus, but followers of him, as well. So that our lives are to be taking on more and more of his likeness. So that even if in complying to the standards imposed on us elsewhere, we know we do so only because they are required of us in that context, of course as long as they don’t violate God’s will for us in Jesus, we want in everything to be pleasing to God which we know is always completely from and because of God’s grace, and to God’s glory.

Jesus is the measuring line for us all, and the Spirit helps us see just what that means for us in the course of a day, with reference to the demands placed on us, and concerning the issues which face us, especially in living and working with others, some of which might rub us the wrong way. The question for us remains, what does God want of us, even as we seek to comply with what humans expect from us.

We know it is the Lord’s evaluation which matters in the end. We want to encourage each other, but above all, pray for each other, for God’s greatest good, God’s best in each life. Knowing the Lord is able to make us stand in his grace, and go on, with the goal of hopefully being more and more formed into his likeness.

what do we have in the faith, whether to us it is religion or not?

There have been studies which supposedly indicate that those who have no faith or religion help others more out of a genuine heartfelt love than those who are of a faith tradition. The latter, it’s supposed do a lot of what they do out of a religious sense of duty.

Everyone is made in God’s image, so the idea that all can love wholeheartedly insofar as that can go is perfectly understandable, and even to be expected except in the case of some who have become so jaded in character that they are completely lost insofar as the ability to love and receive love.

But the notion that people of faith can seemingly have less genuine love is most troubling. I’m afraid there can be truth in that, depending on one’s religious or faith orientation. Theology comes into play here. What is one’s main take on the Christian faith as far as where one actually lives? Hopefully the reality that is present and sets in can trump at least some of that. But there’s no doubt in my mind that abberant thought affects one’s life. Augustine said something which fits in well here, to the effect that one’s interpretation of a scripture passage closest to leading one to love for God and neighbor is likely the interpretation closest to the truth. That echoes Paul’s words here:

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

1 Timothy 1:5

Religion and faith can be helpful in keeping one’s focus what is good and true. If it becomes an end in itself, then it leaves one high and dry, and probaby all the more ripe for God’s judgment. Jesus had his harshest words for religious hypocrites, who not only failed to love, but preyed on those they should have loved.

But religion and faith can be quite helpful if it’s grounded in scripture and tradition, with reason following. We as humans need the salvation it brings, a salvation which not only saves us from our sins, but in so doing saves us for the love of God and others, even including our enemies. The gospel or good news in Jesus is the point of it all, a good news which takes us into the love of the Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and out into the world. A love which is not yet full bloom in us, but budded and growing.

What do we get out of the true religion, out of the faith? We get no less than Jesus himself, whom to see is to see the Father. The Jesus who rose from the dead, and whose love knows no end, being the very love of God himself. That is the difference.