TRA 18th May, 2003
The Promise of Individual Judgement
Matthew 7: 1-7
Over the past three weeks the Australian people have been saying they have judged the Governor General, Dr Peter Hollingworth and found him wanting. He has committed no offence either legal or moral, but they have found him guilty, on the basis of his own words, of appalling lack of judgement in giving judgement on Anglicans who have committed sexual abuse, and of an in-excusable lack of compassion for the victims of abuse.
The feeding frenzy of the media and the eagerness of so many to rush into making public comment, makes me ask, on what basis should we make judgements on others? Why is there such a mad rush to judge others? We often rush to judgment on politicians, our leaders, our trade's union bosses, our teachers, and our preachers - but on what basis is the judgment made? How should Christians assess others?
Many Christians quote what Jesus said: "Do not judge." Matthew 7:1 Does He mean we are not to judge the behaviour of anyone? After all in the next sentence He warned us not to cast our pearls before swine! How are we to know that such people are swine unless we judge them so to be? Jesus also said that we must take care to distinguish between the true and the false prophets. How can we make the distinction unless we make judgment? What does Jesus mean by not judging others? His great Apostle Paul certainly did not hesitate to judge people. When he heard that Judaisers were troubling the church at Philippi, he wrote "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh." Philippians 3:2 That is judging them!
Paul told Timothy, "Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more un-godly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some believers." 2 Timothy 2:16-18 There was judgement to be exercised about believers who pervert the truth. Jesus also made judgments when He said, "Beware of the teachers of the law.. They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely." Luke 20:46,47 Some of the harshest judgments ever made were by Jesus against religious leaders. What does Jesus mean when He says, "Do not judge?" He means that we are not to make judgments that are censorious, self-righteous, and that puff us up while we deflate others. We must not promote ourselves by walking over others. Jesus gives us three clear reasons why we should be careful in our judgments.
1. GOD WILL JUDGE US.
Jesus said, "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." Matthew 7:1,2 We turn judgment on those who judge us. When a policeman stops a driver for a traffic infringement, the driver knows he is in the wrong, so when he reads in the paper about a dishonest policeman, he says, "There you are. That's what the police are like! They are all the same!" We expect teachers to have high standards and when a teacher spells a word wrongly, we say, "How can our children be expected to learn when they have teachers like that?"
We judge others but God will judge us. Some think they will get away with dishonesty or immorality. The judgment of God may be slow, but is inexorable. "Though the mills of God grind slowly, yet they grind exceeding small; though with patience He stands waiting, with exactness grinds He all." F.von Logau
Harry Ramler is my friend. He is a Jew who lived in Poland. His family had worked on their farms there for hundreds of years. In 1931, a young Dutchman came seeking work in the valley. Harry's uncle employed him but later dismissed him for dishonesty. The Dutchman joined Hitler's SS and led the German SS into the valley. The SS rounded up all members of the family: men, women, and children, marched them into the forest and machine-gunned them. They were buried in an unmarked grave. Harry was safe as he was in a German prison.
In 1946 he got to Egypt and boarded a refugee ship. He landed in Melbourne. Years went by. One day every year Harry honours his family, buys a wreath, goes to a cemetery, finds a grave that had no marker, and leaves the wreath in memory of his family. He did not know where his own family was buried. In January 1978, 39 years after the massacre in the valley, a wealthy Dutch businessman stepped out of his front door. Waiting for him was a group of people who said, "He is the man." He came to trial. Eventually, he was taken to a Polish wood and he pointed to a spot. That man has been imprisoned for the rest of his life… and Harry now knows where his family lies! Thirty-nine years later! The mills of God grind slowly, but they grind exceeding small.
Scripture says, "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Galatians 6:7 "Make no mistake about it; you will be punished for your sin." Numbers 32:23 "I will take revenge. I will pay back, says the Lord." Romans 12:19 Although Christians come under judgment, they do not come under judgment for sin. Jesus said, "I did not come to judge the world, but to save it." John 12:47 Paul Romans 8:1 says, "There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death." We are not judged for salvation, for we have believed in Christ. However, Christians are still judged, rewarded or punished for what they do.
Many passages speak about rewards. 2 Corinthians 5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." Judgment may be deferred, but for some it comes right now. Paul speaks of present judgment when he writes: "For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself." 1 Corinthians 11:29 Albert Camus, in his book, "The Fall," says, "Don't wait for the last judgment. It takes place every day." We all live under the judgment of God for the way we live and behave and for the things we do. Students know long before an examination that the time they have wasted has now come for judgment. Some married couples know, long before they go into the divorce court, that their marriage is being judged. God will judge us for the evil we have done, and reward us for the good we have done. His judgements are inevitable and sure.
2. GOD JUDGES YOU BY YOUR OWN STANDARDS.
There is no doubt that God will judge you by the same standards you use to judge others. This is how Paul put it: "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God's judgment?" Romans 2:1-3 We are judged by our own words, by our own deeds. We are hoisted on our own petard. Our actions condemn us.
Once there was a baker who took a farmer to court because every time the baker purchased butter from the farmer it was lightweight. He said to the judge, "Every time he gives me two pounds of butter it is under weight." The farmer said, "I don't own scales. I have a simple balance but no weights. When I weigh out my butter, I use a two-pound loaf of bread from the baker!" President Richard Nixon was judged by his own words recorded on the White House tapes. Dr Hollingworth is being judged by his own words on an ABC TV program. The heavenly tape-recorders run and we are judged by our own standards.
Psychology tells us that when people are judging others they tend to point out the wickedness, sin and evil against which they themselves struggle most. We condemn in others what is in ourselves. John Bradford, in 1550, on seeing a man being led to execution, would say, "But for the grace of God, there goes John Bradford."
Do not judge others, because God will judge you and when He judges He will use the same standards you use to judge others, to judge yourself.
3. OUR OWN FAULTS BLIND US.
Jesus said, you cannot properly judge others. You cannot judge them because of your own faulty vision. Your own fault blinds you. He said, "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 7:3-5
If you think it is funny to see a blind man leading a whole group of blind men, Jesus is saying, how much more ridiculous it would be if you have trouble with your eyes and go to a blind oculist. That would be foolish. But those who judge others are so frequently blind to their own faults they cannot help another. Our own faults blind us to what is in the lives of others. Therefore, because we cannot judge truly, we ought not judge at all. We should first remove our own faults, clean up our own lives, take the log out of our own eye, and then start to help others. The eye is the most sensitive part of the body. We cannot care for it ourselves. We need someone from outside to provide eye care. The soul is also sensitive. We cannot cure our own soul's sickness. We need someone else, a Divine Physician, to make us whole. Then, when we are made whole, we can help the brother with a speck in his eye.
Be careful how you judge the Governor General. He has been foolish and insensitive, but he has done nothing illegal or immoral. He is judged by his own words and stands condemned for appalling lack of judgement and expression of compassion. But are any of us free from making appalling judgements and showing lack of compassion? The media bay for blood, and those who do not think join in the hunt. But the standards we use to judge him are the standards by which we will be judged. That is the fifth promise of Jesus found in Matthew's Gospel.
We all stand under judgment for sin, but the good news is this! If you believe in Jesus Christ and have responded to Him, you do not remain under judgment. "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life." John 5:24
Jesus said, "The Son of Man must be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son." John 3:15-17 Nothing is more important than you believe in Jesus as God's Son and your Saviour so you may pass from condemnation to life eternal.
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