The Principal of Judgment
I am sure you must have often heard that frequently quoted phrase; ‘You mustn’t judge!’ When questioned, people will quote the bible verse saying ‘Judge not, or you will be judged’. Actually it does not say that, what is says is ‘be careful of your judgments, of how you judge, because the way that you judge others will be the way that you are judged.’ It goes on to say, ’how can you take a speck of dust out of someone’s eye when you have a great big plank of wood jutting out of yours.’
The fact is we all have weaknesses and strengths, and in the body of Christ it is good to collectively use each others strengths. But we must also help each other in our various weaknesses, and to some extent that will involve judgement on what is weak, what is strong, what is good and what is bad. I am not talking here about sin’ that is rebellion. I believe if we love God we don’t really want to live in rebellion, but we do make mistakes, we do have weak areas, some which are simply practical things. For example, if you are trying to book an appointment with me I will often ask you to speak to my wife, I don’t know why it is but booking dates is one of my weaknesses. I can book myself into meetings on three continents, with only 10 minutes between appointments and often see no conflict. It’s not helpful to say ‘that’s a weakness, I don’t do that’ I need to protect those who are booking appointments but I also need to try and improve that area, and I am, trying that is.
Often we are guilty of judging others by their actions and ourselves by our intentions. We give ourselves credit when things go wrong by saying ‘well my intentions were good’. The fact that we didn’t achieve what we were attempting is passed over because we had good intentions. The flip side is that we often do not extend the same judgement to others. Instead, we judge the action or the outcome of the action and never bring intentions into the equation. Funny that!
Some years ago, our leadership team set up a meeting with a group of people because we wanted to discuss with them their situation. They were people we wanted to help, but we were unsure about how to do this. They had ongoing problems which usually led them into bad situations. We were honest with them; we told them we wanted to help but did not know what to do next. Some of them got mad with us and said they didn’t have a problem, one or two broke down in tears and said ‘please tell us what to do, we want to change.’ Guess who got the best out of that situation.
Real relationships, real friendships must mean that we tell each other the truth, not because we want to hurt or destroy, but because we want the best for each other, we want our friends to succeed and to reach their potential. Dr. Donald Howard said, ‘Discipline is not something you do to someone, it is something you do for someone.’ In the words of scripture Father God says that he only discipline those he loves, lack of discipline indicates lack of love.
That’s all very well, but I am sure, like me, you have been in those situations when someone approaches you and tells you that they need to talk to you, and you can tell from their tone and their body language that they are going to put you right. Which they do, and for good measure, they tell you that they are only doing this because they love you. But you don’t feel loved, and perhaps like me, you wish you had metaphorically reached for your tin hat and bullet proof vest, because you know you are about to ‘get it’. The truth is we need to get to know someone, really know them as a true friend, in a real relationship before this type of conversation can be effective, fruitful and as pain free as possible. It is only within real and loving relationships that we can properly hear those hard things, and even then it’s not easy.
I know my wife loves me, but if she wants to ‘put me right’ then I have to swallow hard and listen, then agree that, yes, she is right, and something needs to change. But I am more likely to try to change because the words have come from someone with whom I have a real relationship, rather than someone who smothers their correcting punch with the pretence of doing it in love. The basic problem is that even if they are correct in their judgement, because I am not in loving friendship relationship with them, or them with me, it is going to be very hard for me to receive it.
I like to think of it in this way, that we ‘earn the right to speak’. Many years ago I lived in the north of England, in the church community there was a lady who was very hard to get on with, she was quite gruff in her approach to almost everyone. As I got to know her, I discovered she had a soft heart inside and a willingness to try to help make my life easy in whatever way she could. She was still gruff, but looking past that gruffness I discovered her heart, her intentions. Many times people said to me, ‘Why do you listen to her? You even try to do what she asks; she is such a difficult person, why do you do that?’ My response was always the same, ‘I know her, I know that she really cares, that’s what makes the difference, I know she wants the best for me, and that’s what counts.’ We had formed a real relationship, she had earned the right to speak and because of our friendship, I could hear what she said.
God loves us too much to want to leave us as we are, he plans change for our lives. To activate that change he uses our collectiveness to bring it about, our love for one another, our good judgement of one another, our willingness to care for each other. As we care for others, we also care how we affect others, and we want to change bad habits and wrong directions. But for this to work effectively there must be real friendship and real love, this is how people will know you are my disciples because you have Love for one another!