Recently, as part of our teaching series on The Sermon On the Mount we engaged with the theme of judging others. Jesus begins his teaching on this subject with the words:
Judge not, that you be not judged
This is not an area where the church can typically say that it’s got things right. Last year we conducted a survey across Eastbourne & Seaford asking people to share some of their objections to the Christian faith. The results surprised us. The number 1 reason people gave for not pursuing the claims of Christianity was judgementalism & hypocrisy in the church. This ranked above suffering and science. It’s true, many church people are judgmental and hypocritical. Some have done some horrible things in the name of ‘Christian love’ from bombing abortion clinics, to picketing funerals or just hurling abuse at people in protest. That’s nasty and it saddens me that supposed followers of Jesus would do that. For what it’s worth – I’m really sorry. We as a church are sorry for how we have let people down here. We have not always followed Jesus as faithfully as we should’ve done. Being judgemental, however, isn’t all bad. Even in a society as tolerant and accepting as ours we appreciate the value of bringing fair and proper judgement where it’s needed. In Jesus’ teaching on judgementalism he isn’t outlawing judgement of every kind. What he’s saying we need to avoid (and never do in fact) is the kind of nit picking, and social refereeing that is hypocritical and lacking any humility or self-assessment.
First remove the plank of wood in your own eye,’ he says ‘and then help your friend with the speck of sawdust in theirs.
With that quote from Jesus ringing in our ears and with an exhortation to confront judgemental hypocrisy fully in place (click here to listen to the full message) let’s look at how we can get better at removing the specks of sawdust from one another’s eyes. The truth is that when we love people, when we truly care about them – we want to see them flourish; and when we do spot things they’re struggling with or are blind to we want to help them get past it. To help we shared an acronym that hopefully is of some use to you. We said that we are to judge/confront other people with T.A.C.T (which if nothing else sticks hopefully the word itself will – and be useful). Time it – Don’t just bluster in and confront someone the minute you spot a problem. Don’t grab a conversation in a corridor or as you’re about to leave the room. Find an appropriate time to meet, plan what you’re going to say and pray that God gives you the wisdom you need to say it. Pray also before you meet that God would use you to do them good and not harm. Ask Permission – Just because you spotted it, doesn’t mean it’s your place to confront it. Don’t assume the position of life coach or mentor. Ask them ‘would you mind if I pointed something out?’ Be Christ-like – Be like Jesus to them, not a judge of them. Jesus wants their good and Jesus loves them more than their problem or issue. Jesus sees the person as being more important than the problem. If you end up curing the problem but crushing the person, you’ve failed. Thoughtfully – Eyes are sensitive and close up very easily. Getting something out of someone’e eye requires a lot of care and patience. How many times have you taken someone’s confrontation well enough that it actually blessed you? How many times have you resented the manner in which someone spoke about an issue in your life? Not many right? Ask questions of the person, get to the bottom of the situation, behave thoughtfully toward them and leave them feeling as though you actually care about them – because you really should. In short we should love people enough to speak to them with TACT. So often we are generous towards ourselves and critical of others. So often we cut ourselves a lot of slack, but pull tightly on another’s chord. Jesus wants his followers to reverse it. Instead we are to be critical of ourselves, question ourselves and assume that we don’t always see everything clearly. Jesus wants us to be critical of ourselves and generous of others. God has shown great patience with you. God has forgiven you much. God has never quit on you and God, the only one who has the right to judge and condemn, did the exact opposite when he sent Jesus into the world:
John 3:16 says: ‘for God so loved the world that he gave his only son… not to condemn the world but to save it.’ (my paraphrase)