So often the illustrations we use have to do with the people in the story that we thought were bad turn out to be good. That happens, we don’t know the whole story. Like an old neighbor of ours that was so unfriendly, barricaded herself in her house, private to the extreme. After a couple years her husband told me that her ex-husband was so abusive, one time he had a loaded gun in her mouth and threatened to pull the trigger. Instantly her over the top behavior did not seem so over-the-top. I was guilty of thinking she was incredibly unfriendly and a bit spooky, but there was so much more to the story that helped explain it. Here’s another story I like: A newspaper reporter was searching for a story about the laziness throughout the South. He saw a man in his field, sitting in a chair, hoeing his weeds. This had to be the ultimate in laziness. So he rushed back to his car to start his story when he looked back a second time. What he saw changed his entire outlook ~ the pant legs on the farmer hung loose ~ the man had no legs. What seemed at first to be a story of laziness turned into a story of great courage.
That is often the case; we assign motivation to people and are wrong. But sometimes the bad decisions we see really are bad. Even in those situations, we are called to not judge the heart, never give up, believe that God knows them…. Even if a person makes the craziest decisions, we must leave the judging of the heart to God. I know a person who has made a poor lifestyle choice, he is stuck, the world looks in and questions the way he lives, I’ve been honored to hear him express the constant guilt ~ disagree with this man’s choices, but don’t judge his heart ~ he is wrestling with God and that’s a good thing!
WARNING! The world often mixes up actions and the heart. When the world says, “Do not judge” they mean “Don’t judge my actions.” As followers of Jesus we are called to have high standards. /be obedient to God. There is right and wrong. The apostle Paul said, “Why do I do that which I don’t want to do?” … it is easy to see the crazy things people do, the flagrant sins, abuses, and write them off as hopeless ~ but we cannot judge their heart. As followers of Jesus Christ it is acceptable to be disappointed. I am personally disappointed with the new marijuana laws, the gay marriage laws, the patterns of society in going away from traditional Christian values, but that is different from judging a person’s heart and declaring they are unacceptable to God, because we are all sinners and in need of a Savior and it is ONLY by GRACE that we are saved!
I am doing my best to love people and accept them regardless of the choices they make. Two days ago I watched a person do something in violation of a court ordered mandate ~ she did not know I was driving by ~ I am so disappointed, when will some people hit the bottom and start to climb out of the hole! I love that person and look forward to the day when she will be healthy, whole, peace replaced by the turmoil. God knows her sweet spirit. Ministry is messy. the more we quit judging people’s heart the more the world will let us in their lives. We must not abandon our principles, but we need to not let go and let God wrestle with their heart. My entire adult life I’ve watched our society steadily become more and more permissive ~ you’d think we’d be happier than ever as a society, but as permissiveness grows, so does discontent. While not condoning every choice, we have to believe God loves people as they are….“Do not judge” means, “Do not write anyone off as unworthy of God’s love because God loves them and God can change them. And maybe they are closer than you think!”
The rest of Luke 6:37 is powerful READ. Jesus is saying be concerned about my own heart. So much of this is tied to the previous scripture about loving enemies ~ don’t condemn them just because they do things that are wrong. Let offenses go. For the enemies sake, and for our sake, let God work on their heart, whatever you do to go on when somebody slaps you on the face must be done in a loving spirit. Let God be your champion wrestler ~ pray for God to wrestle with them.
READ Luke 6:38. The abundance that is yours, the peace, the joy, when you let God wrestle in the heart of your enemy. Let go of trying to read motivation into the other person’s actions, that gets us into more trouble than anything else. Trying to assign motivation to other people is the source of more gossip than anything else! The more we quit judging the hearts of others and step down from the throne of the universe the more freedom we have. God has distributed a lot of spiritual gifts to us so that we can do amazing things for God ~ but judging exactly what is going on in the heart of another person is a gift reserved for God alone! Here is the abundant good news: our only job is to love people! I have the best job in the world! I get to go around and do my best to love and affirm people in and around Sumas ~ doesn’t mean I have to agree with every choice or even try to fix anything.
I like that last phrase: “with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Mom told her children they could have half a glass of milk. The older brother found two glasses: a short skinny glass and a tall wide glass and filled them both half full. Half a glass is all mom said. With a look of triumph, the boy handed the short skinny glass to his sister making sure she could see his glass with far more milk in it. Sister screamed. Mom came running. Mom saw immediately the problem. Set both glasses on the table. Turned to her daughter and said, “you have first choice.” With the measure you use, it will be measured to you. We are talking about judging another persons heart. We are talking about condemning. We are talking about forgiveness. Here’s the problem. Based on the outward appearance I can always find people that make me look good…. (I am so tempted to name some names….) but….using the word in Luke 6:39, I am blind. The same idea is expressed in Rom. 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God’s test for our heart is how we treat others, our attitudes… may we repent of any judgmental attitudes in which we look at others and secretly desire they get what’s coming to them… our privilege, our calling, is to love people, not condemn. Forgive, not seek revenge.
Conversely, we must let God root out any evil in us, invite God to judge our hearts ~ Luke 6:41-42.
A young couple moves into a new neighborhood. The next morning while they are eating breakfast, the young woman sees her neighbor hanging the wash outside. "That laundry is not very clean," she said. "She doesn't know how to wash correctly. Perhaps she needs better laundry soap." Her husband looked on, but remained silent. Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, the young woman would make the same comments. A month later, the woman was surprised to see nice clean wash on the line and said to her husband: "Look, she has learned how to wash correctly. I wonder who taught her this?" The husband said, "I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows."
Luke 6:42 uses the word hypocrite. The challenge is to look inward, clarity comes when we see the depths of our own sins, the true nature of our character. Clean the windows so we can see the outside world with more clarity. The world hates hypocrisy more than anything else… We like to look at people with bifocals. We use the bottom part to see ourselves, and it has kind of a rosy tint to it. We tend to look past any shortcomings. But the top part we use to look at others. And that’s the hypocrisy Jesus was denouncing. One person said it this way, "I am firm. You are obstinate. I have reconsidered. You are pig-headed. I’ve changed my mind. You have gone back on your word."
One of the most wonderful things about the youngest generation alive today, the teens and young 20 somethings~ they have the wonderful ability to spot phony’s. Even if they disagree with some of the conservative beliefs of us old people, they will respect if they sense we are sincere and consistent. But if we do one thing and say another, that is the worst testimony of all. Jesus tells us to allow the light of judgment to fall on ourselves. We hold others to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. Reverse it.
I’d like to read you a posting on Facebook from a few weeks ago. I have permission to use this: Vicki Wilson. I am not sure if it fits perfectly, but I like it because she is looking inward, wanting God to create in her the person he wants her to be. The word of Vicki: “I think anyone tying to please others and forgetting the path the Lord has set for each of us, should BE YOURSELF! It's funny how when you grow up things that bothered you when you were younger don't seem to matter so much! I always felt bad cause I talk a lot and fast or laugh at stupid things or that I act so childish when I am around kids. I am over helpful even when I notice it annoys people, Its just the way I was brought up, This is also one of the reasons I love going to the church that I do. There are people who accept me for who I am. People I don't feel I have to act normal around cause we all know I am for from normal but the older I get the more I am happy of who I am! I am the PERSON GOD WANTS ME TO BE!!
Personal judgment may be painful, it may be tempting to avoid looking within, yet it is important to ask the Lord to examine you, know you, and you will be a different person. You will gain clarity, you will gain understanding of others, tolerance for those who are different, you will learn to forgive as you have received forgiveness, give out of what has been given to you. Others have no way to judge our hearts, but God does.
Do not judge the hearts of other people. High standards and high expectations are necessary, but even if people make different choices, we must never condemn them or give up on them because God is the miracle worker of people’s hearts. The more we quit judging people’s heart the more the world will let us in their lives. We must, however, invite the Lord to turn the spotlight of judgment within. This is what God wants for his disciples. Our job is simple: ask God to show us his love by changing us from within, and then we love the people around us believing no matter how it looks from the outside they have the same fundamental needs as us and God wants to love them too. Amen.