Thursday, April 2, 2009

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Judging Others by their Actions, and Ourselves by our Intentions

It has been said that we judge others by their actions, but judge ourselves by our intentions. This leads us to excuse our own bad behavior as well-meaning or understandable, while ... well that other guy is just being a jerk (or heathen, or Pharisee, or ...).

Seth has a great post reflecting on Nathan and David up at Contend Earnestly:
This story always seems quite amazing that David is such a moron. The problem is that everytime I read it or hear it preached, Nathan seems to always yell at me: You are the man! For whatever reason I can easily discern everyone else's sins besides my own. I can see their faults as though I sit on some throne of righteousness. If you know any theology at all, you know, and I should know, how much I need Jesus more than any other person I know. I need to realize that I am the greatest sinner, not the most mature saint.
Amen. Of course Jesus spoke of this in a passage most of us know well: 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.

Lord, draw me ever nearer to your holiness, that I may ever more clearly see my sin and my need for your grace. Teach me always the humility to cry aloud with Paul: Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

21 comments:

  1. Yes, I know what the Lord said about the plank. But what about Hezekiah 3:17 which talks about the gift of criticism? How do you reconcile the two?

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  2. Rich -- I agree. I tend to think the difference is humility. We are clearly commanded to rebuke and correct in love. If we do it instead from a position of self-righteous arrogance, that's the plank that blinds us.

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  3. Of course, I was joking with my first comment . . . but your comment reminds me of a continuing misunderstanding of Matthew 7:1. To hear some people talk about judging others it would seem Christians are to never even come against evil . . . otherwise we would be "judging" others. Yet, St. Paul does exactly that (in my view, anyway) in (for example, 1 Cor 5 and Gal 2:11ff, and Gal6:1 (which also addresses your comment about humility). Lots of others, but you get the point.

    What do you think?

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  4. I think the extent to which we give others the benefit of the doubt says a lot about what's going on inside us spiritually. I had a former boss who always expected the worst from people, and was suspicious of their intentions. I came to see over time that his outlook was that way because he saw people as being much like himself.

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  5. Very true. I am realizing this fault of mine so much recently, just like this discussion through which God's voice is heard once again. I am so lucky and blessed for HE talks to me through his people. Anita

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  6. I have always wondered why most Christians I meet seem more comfortable with the 10 Commandments' sins of commission, but uncomfortable with the Sermon On The Mount's sins of omission.. I think this is because we are all tempted to earn our 'salvation' by comparing ourselves to others in order to justify ourselves.

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  7. I do believe there is a great misunderstanding among many Christians when it comes to judging other Christians. Jesus explained what the proper protocol was when a fellow Christian SINS AGAINST YOU. First YOU go to that person IN PRIVATE and resolve it. (Mt 18:15; Lv 19:17) This is something I have promoted in other groups when a comment by someone offends another, then the offended person is commanded by God to resolve it this way - privately contact the offender and resolve it. To not follow Jesus' words here and instead talk behind a persons back to a third party or to publicly accuse the person ends up in spreading gossip, rumor, strife, division, factions and does zero good. If that first step does not resolve it then the second step Jesus decreed was to take another person with you in order to establish all the facts of both sides of the issues to see if it can be resolved that way with BOTH parties PRESENT and attempting to resolve it with a third party. (Mt 18:16; Dt 19:15) If this step is not followed properly then the third party could end up playing favorites and taking one side over the other instead of establishing facts and doing so in the presence of both sides. Proverbs 18:17 "The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him." If that fails then the third step Jesus decreed was to take the issue to all the brothers and sisters in that local group so that the entire assembly can hear the case and weigh in. (Mt 18:17) If this step is not properly followed then the leaders of the assembly could begin to usurp the authority God granted to the entire group and did not grant exclusively to the leaders of the assembly/group. The Apostle Paul taught the same protocol as well in 1Cor 5 & 6. A different protocol is in place when a Christian SEES another Christian sinning. In such a case the one who saw it should pray and ask God to give that sinner life so that they can see their own sin and repent and be forgiven. (1 Jn 5:16). Jesus said that in such a case make sure you take the plank out of your own eye before you actual go to the person to help them overcome their sin. (Mt 7:1-5)

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  8. Stacey -- this comes back to my comment to Rich. I think it's helpful to clarify terms. What you refer to above is (to me) an issue of rebuking, correcting, restoring, etc. These things properly come from a position of humility (which is not to say weakness). Judging, as I understand Jesus to mean it, is condemnatory in nature, and comes from a position of arrogance and self-righteousness. Perhaps this is worthy of a follow-on post.

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  9. to address your comment: Some of the confusion is that the Bible states "do not judge" and also states "to judge and teaches how to judge". It seem contradictory unless we understand the two fold nature of judging. To judge has two parts to it (1) To assess the behavior and/or person based upon true factual evidence. (2) To pronounce a sentence (condemn) of right and just punishment or discipline based upon a proper following off step one. The problem is making an erroneous assessment and/or making an unjust (too harsh, to weak) sentence or a sentence based upon wrong evidence. This is what Jesus was addressing in Mt 7. If we take that "two step model of judging" and apply to all the teachings of Jesus on the topic AS WELL AS his practices of judging (Acts 1:1 do and teach) we see it clearly. In addition if we do the same to all the teachings and practices of the Apostles we see they followed Jesus exactly in this. For example the women caught in adultery Jesus uses two terms -judge and condemn - and he judges step one - assesses the women as a sinner and tells her sin no more BUT he does not sentence (condemn) - step two - her to death. In Mt 7:1 Jesus says "do not judge", then in vs 2 he says why not "you will be judged the same you judge others" or in other words "a man reaps what he sows" (Gal 6), thus if we get step one or two wrong we can expect the same treatment from others "treat others as you want to be treated". Then Jesus explains how to properly do it in vs 3-5. Explains further in Mt 18. and the Apostles follow HIM exactly in this. Now with that two step model we can see how Jesus was properly assessing people and sentencing them too (Mt 23) and the Apostle Peter in (Acts 5) and several other places, John in (3 John 1:9-11) and several other places, Paul & James in many verses too and Jesus again where the Lord praises those who judge well (Rev 2:2) and also condemns those who do not judge properly (Rev 2:20). Solomon ask God for wisdom so that he could judge the people properly (1 Kg 3:9). This wisdom was what Paul said was lacking in the church in many cases (1 Cor 6:5) Improper judging could be either a wrong assessment or a wrong discipline. This Jesus warned against in Mt 7 and James warned against in (Jas 2:2-4) Improper judging could also be - Dereliction of duty is not doing any judging at all (Rev 2:20) defined legally as "willful or negligent failure to perform assigned duties" (1 Cor 6:5). I hope this clears it up.

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  10. I have featured [Jailer's] comments here at the top of the [LinkedIn Christian Professionals Group] discussion area for a few days to help us all be reminded of why we're here together and how we can build each other up in the Faith by being careful of how we say what we say and recognizing that each of us, no matter how well schooled, can learn from the newest of Believers as God speaks through us all.

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  11. Just like to add - Motive and Intention Without a confession of motive & intent I don't think it is possible to know the motive and intention of a Christian's behavior exactly without the direct help of the Holy Spirit to discern it. Thus judging the intent and motive is very dangerous. 1 Corinthians 4:5 "Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. Hebrews 4:12 "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Proverbs 16:2 "All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the LORD." Jesus and the Apostles rarely assessed the intent or motives of the heart of another. Matthew 22:18 "But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, "You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?" Acts 8:22,23 "Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. "For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquityFor I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity." The Holy Spirit can from time to time reveal the intentions and motives of the heart but it is rare and most of the time people are just guessing based upon what they think, a grudge or etc, not what the Lord revealed to them.

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  12. Ability to be judgmental? Guilty! Thanks!

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  13. Probably the best "preventative measure" for me is Matthew 7:1-27 with different "blocks" of this Passage being applicable in different situations. But they all begin with that first verse. For example, recently THE LORD provided (through others) sufficient information to make a "judgment call" as in "Al, you asked, so I'M providing you with an opportunity to help others." To me, all I was doing is "my job" and only "pitched in" according to the opportunity presented just like several others who were, likewise, "pitching in" with the Charismas (see Romans chapter 12 for more information) that each was given. Where the first part of Matthew 7 "hit me" was that, at times, I don't see any difference in "pitching in" as I am able as any different than what another might be able to do. THE LORD simply provided me with an opportunity to do what I could while also providing several others with no less important opportunities but more according to his, her, or their Charismas. Had another not "done his or her or their job" so that the opportunity could be provided to me, then I could not have done what I could with still others being placed in position to do what he or she or they might be able to do. If the intent is for one simply to do his or her "job" with THE LORD receiving all the glory, praise, honor and credit, then this intent appears to be "built" upon a ROCK rather than upon the sand. So that's kind of how I have to look at it, and it's hard not to judge others who simply do what their hands find to do just because of what might be nothing but a "to do list" or something. Am I judging others with this comment?

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  14. Sad how true it can be to see the flaws of others so clearly! But, oh the benefits when we actually stop to care and consider the other person's point of view or rationale instead of criticizing/condemning/judging. Stopping to care and consider, however, requires time and yes, time is our enemy in our fast paced world! As a coach I make it a priority to try and envision what it would be like to be in that persons shoes. And, at the end of each session, I consider what I just heard/learned as it relates to my own life ~ what can I learn, instead of judging their behavior! Luke 6:41-42 "And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye."

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  15. I used to hang out with some really good Baptists and had some great conversations about judging vs inspecting fruit. Whether by action or intention, are we not to be good fruit inspectors?
    For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit.

    Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?

    There is something to be said for inspecting our fruit, judging ourselves accordingly, repenting, and receiving the forgiveness that Christ died to give us. I see that believers are often hobbled by embracing their guilt and shame more than the grace and forgiveness of Christ. Do we really believe and act like we are forgiven and the price has been paid?

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  16. Once you judge someone you cease to consider them. You forever more have them locked into a certain position as a certain type of person in your mind and you don't even see them anymore. Guilty! A person I dearly love now was one that I did exactly that to, but God kept forcing us together until I saw her as He sees her. So hard to not walk in the flesh and so rewarding when we manage to do so!

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  17. "If you want to avoid judgement, stop passing judgment." (Matthew 7:1)

    For "lukewarm" and non-believers, that is the favorite if not the only scriptural text they know. Actually Jesus further instructs us to "Remove the plank from your eye first; then you will see clearly to take the speck from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7: 4)

    Paul says, "My brothers, if someone is detected in sin, you who live by the spirit should gently set him right, each of you trying to avoid falling into temptation himself." (Galatians 6:1)

    The key is measuring yourself first and do you agree to be judged with the same standards you are judging (Inspecting the fruit). Hopefully we Christians have friends who will point out our misgivings to us so that we may correct ourselves, repent and ask for forgiveness.

    Don't you love the term freedom of speech, freedom to live your life as you see fit. Paul says, "My brothers, remember that you have been called to live in freedom - but not a freedom that gives free rein to the flesh. Out of love place yourselves at one another's service."(Galatians 5:13) And Peter says, "Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cloak for vice. In a word live as servants of God." (1 Peter 2:16)

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  18. Christians often get confused on this. Judgment is saying, "You are going to burn in hell for your sins!" Discernment is saying, "The Bible says"... So don't judge. But by all means discern.

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  19. Judgement should be left for the supreme Judge who also had the mercy to provide an escape from our just judgement. At times it can be too easy to say you know X he should have done 'that' or he can't be a Christian if he doesn't Y. What we can also do (James 1) is ask for wisdom and discernment. God will grant us the understanding or discernment as needed. I can accept where someone is coming from, whether I agree with it or not. The issue is for us to have wisdom and a healthy self-examination to say what do I, or God what are you calling me to do, with what I have encountered

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  20. Good wisdom here is this analogy I think. Great reminder that we should 'judge not lest we likewise be judged ourselves'...The 'flavor' of this writing going hand in hand with a previous post - "Reading My Wife's Mail"

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  21. Lets consider... Matthew 7:1-5 "Judge not, that ye be not judged. (2) For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. (3) And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." It seems to me that there is at least a couple of "judgements" that are taking place here. First - we should judge ourselves! With the help of the Holy Spirit, we should repent of and remove the beam from our own eye. Second - we should judge our brother! We will then be able to "see clearly to cast out the mote" from our brothers eye. The desired end result is that BOTH the beam AND the speck BE REMOVED! BOTH need to be discerned and dealt with. Richard got this right, there is a difference between judgement and discernment. If we understand the Greek word used here for judgement, it REALLY helps to clear up this idea of "do not judge". The Greek word is... krino -- pronounced: kree'-no -- and the Strong's Concordance defines it as... "properly, to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to TRY, CONDEMN, PUNISH: KJV -- avenge, conclude, condemn, DAMN, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think." I fully agree that we should NOT make judgments with regards to the eternal destination of someone's soul; however, we can and SHOULD certainly discern actions and attitudes that are right and wrong based upon the Word of God!

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