JUDGE NOT THAT YE NOT BE JUDGED. Few biblical phrases have been more used by more people in our present time than this one. It might be one of the most emotionally charged can of worms in the room. It is one of the most seriously negative things a person can be accused of doing. Some morally confused groups raise the bar another level by equating it with hate. My point is not to debate the fairness of this tactic, because it does raise in interesting thought. Think for a moment about why so many are drawn to this statement of Jesus. It seems that humanity has a universal dislike for feeling judged by others. Perhaps, for those who have felt it repeatedly, judgment does in fact come to feel like hate. Judging each other creates real barriers to relationship, communication and positive impact of any kind.
Now let me step sideways for a moment. In The Good & Beautiful Life, James Bryant Smith observes that we tend to judge for two reasons, either to make ourselves feel better or to help others (Intervarsity Press, 2009, p. 189). The second reason is actually good. However even with good motives it fails to hit the mark. Be honest, think of a time you felt judged how helpful was it in changing your life for the better? For most of us it just makes us stubborn and angry.
So how do we avoid this… especially with challenging people in our lives? What if they really are wrong… WAY WRONG? Are we supposed to just pretend everything is great when it isn’t? In the middle of this struggle Jesus points another way. The way of mercy.
Mercy draws near while judgment pushes away. Mercy creates space while judgment builds walls. Mercy softens hearts while judgment hardens them.
Think of how Jesus works with us. He shows incredible patience working with us until we finally get it and respond to Him. What if we did that with each other?
This week we are going to look at Jesus’ principle of Mercy being better than judgment. We can’t say everything about everything, but we will consider how mercy opens doors that judgment closes. We will see how Jesus treated those we would have judged, with the hope of figuring out how to relate to each other on the basis of mercy way more often.
In preparation for the lesson, think about times you are likely to be judgmental. Ask God to help you see them. What was the result of your attitude in that moment? What would it have looked like to respond out of mercy instead? What exactly do you think Jesus is asking of us? I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions. I hope you can join us this weekend to wrestle with this.