Welcome to Sunday worship with First Baptist Kingsville this morning. As the fall school year begins again, our hope is that more of you will choose to meet with us on Sunday mornings. Much has been done to create an environment in the sanctuary that is safe; and while restrictions remain, it is still good to spend some time with each other, focussing our minds and hearts on God.
Our focus today is on our tendency to judge each other, a clear violation of the teachings of the New Testament, and yet still we persist in this. But before we begin, let us be reminded of Who it is we worship through the following Song of Praise.
Matthew 7:1-5 New International Version
1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “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? 4 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? 5 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.
Before we begin the message for the morning, spend a few moments asking yourself the question, who do I judge?
Today's Message - Judging Others
The call to Christians to love each other is a basic tenant of Christianity. At the very least, to be a follower of Jesus is to commit to:
- Love God
- Love each other
- Bring the good news (gospel) to the world
This morning, I want to talk about the second one: our challenge to love each other. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 7, that call to love requires a clear understanding that we are NOT the judge, but God is.
What does it mean to judge someone? It doesn’t mean we are not to use our judgement. People can be truly harmful in many different ways, and we need to have the wisdom to be able to recognize them. Soon after these words were uttered by Jesus in Matthew 7, in that same chapter, He told the people to “beware of people who are wolves in sheep’s clothing;” false prophet’s intent on leading the people astray are not to be ignored.
What Jesus is talking about here is that we are not to make pronouncements or draw final conclusions about the worth of another human being. Actions need to be judged appropriately, but not people. That is God’s job, and His alone.
And yet, we know that making this distinction is a lot harder than it sounds – especially today! This pandemic has brought out much good in people: helping neighbours; people willing to sacrifice their rights for the sake of others; sharing resources. But it has also brought out much division and discord.
Speaking only for myself, I know that when a person or group speaks of COVID as a hoax or refuses to take the simple precaution of wearing a mask when asked to do so, I find myself judging them. I judge their intelligence, I judge their character, I judge their hearts. I see how infections are out of control in the United States and don’t understand how someone could conclude that it isn’t real.
And on top of this, most of these people identify as evangelical Christians; my own brothers and sisters in Christ! I find myself feeling embarrassed and angry, and so I judge them. And when I do, I am sinning.
I am not saying I believe I have the facts wrong, in fact, I truly believe that I don’t. I’m not talking here about their sin. I believe the threat is real and so does the leadership of this church – the proof being all of the precautions and protocols that have been put in place to make this experience as safe as possible.
But what I do need to apologize for, is where my heart sometimes goes. Sometimes I villainize those anti-maskers. Sometimes I wish they would stop talking about their faith in public. Sometimes I declare myself as judge over them, and that is out of line. That is my own arrogance. That is my sin. That is me struggling with being the kind of Christian Jesus is calling us to be in Matthew 7.
Passage: Romans 14:1-12
Situations and conflicts of opinion like this have happened in the church throughout history and can be traced right back to the first century. At that time, one of the big issues the church faced was the eating of meat sacrificed to idols, as we read in Romans 14:1-12:
Romans 14:1-12 New International Version – The Weak and the Strong
1 Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarrelling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
5 One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. 6 Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone. 8 If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. 9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”
12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
In the Roman world, it was customary to offer animal sacrifices to the various gods in the city. These sacrifices were not burned up but were consumed, usually resold in the marketplaces as meat, often at reduced prices. The issue for Christians was this: was it permissible for a follower of Jesus to eat this meat, or should this be considered a blasphemy to God and avoided at all costs?
This was a big deal and was a very divisive issue in the day. People would be looked down upon for this perceived compromise; even shunned; definitely judged.
Paul here is saying that this is not an issue to divide over, but one where Christians need to exercise grace. Those who considered themselves free to eat it should not think they are better in their freedom, and those who refrained should not think they were more holy or obedient. Judging one another over this was not an option. In fact, Paul tells us that NO ISSUE justifies judging one another. We are all brothers and sisters.
I like the image of the church as family: brother and sister. Most of us have siblings who are quite different from us. We may have had the same parents and home growing up, but that is where the similarity ends! And yet, our differences are overshadowed by the bond of family. Holidays and family gatherings often bring together people you would normally have little to do with if you weren’t related. When a church is a strong one, our own gatherings can be much the same.
These days those bonds are being tested as never before. We have no idea how many people will return to our congregation when this pandemic ends. What we do know is that there are those who think we should be doing more in terms of ministry on Sunday morning; and those who believe we are already doing more than what they are comfortable with, so they stay home.
This is the challenge. Will we respect each other even though our opinions and differences are significant? Even though we are thoroughly convinced in our own minds that our conclusions are right? Even though harmful words are said? Will we choose to not judge each other?
I believe many of us (myself included) need to ask God for forgiveness because in our hearts we sometimes dismiss those who have chosen to ignore the science. It is possible to be right and wrong at the same time! I can be fully convinced that the truth is on my side, but still sin through my judgemental attitude.
It is your and my place to learn the facts and discern the truth with the wisdom God gave us and the guidance He provides. But it is God’s place to be the judge.
Clearly, this principle goes far beyond the controversies of our day. There will always be differences between us; different opinions and conclusions. God knows we are not all the same: after all, He made us that way!
But those who have received the good news of Jesus, those who are being transformed by the renewing of their minds and the power of the Holy Spirit; we are called to be one. We are called to love each other and not condemn them. We are called to unity, because having Jesus in common breaks all barriers.
Grace is hard.
Before we pray, take a few minutes and ask God to show you someone you have judged over these last 6 months, even if they are wrong, even if they sinned against you. Ask God to help you to forgive them and help you to see them as your brother or sister in Christ.
Forgive us our judgemental hearts. Forgive us when we hold to the truth, but exercise it sinfully. Forgive us when we dismiss our brothers and sisters in judgement.
And yet, I pray that you continue to give the leadership of this church wisdom; that they will keep turning to You and to the truth, even when there is pressure to do too much or too little. Guide them Lord, and give them the wisdom to discern, and the courage to lead.
I pray that we take seriously the call to be at peace with everyone, as much as it is up to us. May we be people of grace and love, and in doing so, show Your face to the world.
In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.
Benediction (from 365 Prayer)
Father, help us to live this day to the full, being true to You, in every way.
Jesus, help me to give myself away to others, being kind to everyone I meet.
Spirit, help me to love the lost, proclaiming Christ in all I do and say.