How to Live in a Broken World
Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye”, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
If Jesus had never been born and these words had never been spoken, imagine what life in this world would be like—hard, harsh, hypercritical, and judgmental. But Jesus did live, and he did speak these words, and they are meant to change everything about the way we live with others.
We were entertaining friends, and I picked up a pan of deep-dish lasagna on my way home. Since it was filled to the very brim, I carefully belted it in the back seat and started home driving very, very carefully. No driver is more loathed at rush hour than the one who drives very, very carefully. People honked, glared, and made unfriendly gestures. I kept thinking, “If only they knew that I’ve got lasagna in the back seat, they’d understand.” Now, whenever I encounter an annoying driver, I play this little game with myself. I tell myself, “Relax, they’ve got lasagna in the back seat.” It helps take the edge off my naturally critical spirit.
I’m not sure I’d play this little game if Jesus hadn’t said, “With the judgment you make you will be judged.” This statement is part of a larger collection of sayings that stand at the very heart of Jesus’ entire ministry. Jesus returns again and again to the themes of managing anger, refusing revenge, resisting judgments, overcoming hatred, and forgiving as we have been forgiven.
Even people on the outer fringes of Christianity agree. From the mid-1980s to the early 2000s The Jesus Seminar orbited at the very edge of Christianity. They convened 150 scholars to determine the “historical facts” about Jesus. Astonishingly, they wrote off Jesus’ divine nature, his signs, wonders, miracles, and resurrection along with 82% of his teachings and 84% of his deeds. But even after throwing out almost all of Jesus’ life and teaching, The Jesus Seminar did agree that Jesus was passionate about showing mercy, resisting judgment, and extending forgiveness to others.
“Don’t judge.” It’s not the only thing Jesus says. Life is full of circumstances where judgments are necessary. So he goes on to say, “Be careful how you judge.” It is especially interesting that when Jesus speaks of the “speck” and the “log,” the word Jesus uses for “speck” is actually a small piece of the “log”—they are both from the same material. In other words, the flaw we see in another is usually a miniature version of the very same full-sized fault we have in ourselves. That’s why we are usually guilty of the things we judge most harshly in others.
In a broken and hostile world where everyone wounds and is wounded, one of the most powerful management tools Jesus gives us is the power of mercy. Mercy. It is the difference between exercising wise judgment and being harshly judgmental.
Here’s the bottom line: No one likes being around judgmental, merciless people—not even God.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Describe some of the qualities that are commonly found in a person who is judgmental. What do you find to be most helpful in taming your own judgmental spirit? What’s it like to be around a person who is generous in praise and slow to judge?
PRAYER: Most gracious and merciful God, I really don’t want to be the one others call judgmental, but then neither do I want to come across as so open-minded that all of my convictions have fallen out. Teach me the humility that comes from honest self-analysis. Amen.
Dave Peterson is an ordained pastor who is the Director of Community Outreach for The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and Scholarly Advisor for the H. E. Butt Family Foundation. He is the author of Receiving and Giving, Unleashing the Bless Challenge in Your Life. Dave and his wife, Terri, have four adult children and four grandchildren.
What if spiritual discipline is easier than we think it is? In his book Celebration of Discipline Richard Foster offers this list of spiritual disciplines: meditation, prayer, fasting, study, simplicity, solitude, submission, service, confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.
That list can look like a mountain to climb and a setup for failure. We start to ask questions like: What spiritual disciplines should I practice in my work life? Does prayer make a difference in my work life? Does a Christian layperson really need to read the Bible everyday? We wonder how to fit spiritual disciplines into our lives with so many deadlines and meetings and expectations and budgets. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air to discover the Holy Spirit at work, even here, even without working so hard to bring the Spirit with us everywhere? We hope this series on Spiritual Disciplines gives you freedom and a little more space to breathe.