How easy it is to see the flaws in others! The rude customer at Walmart, the impatient driver who cuts us off, the mom who ignores her kids while they run wild in the church lobby, even the angry dad who yells at his child for dropping a just purchased hotdog will rattle our cage. The actions of others affect us, so we find ways to cope with our discomfort. How we react is a choice and it is often based on our own spiritual condition.
Generally, our tendency is to point a finger. Many will side-step love, patience, kindness, and self-control (all fruit of the Spirit) to bring forth judgment. In doing so, we elevate ourselves as the better one and forget how we are also guilty of the very same sins.
“And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” Romans 2:3 (NKJV)
“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 (NKJV)
Yes, most of us have misbehaved on the highway. Yes, there have been occasions when angry voices assault an innocent child. None of us are beyond rudeness or acts of inconsideration. Humans are self-centered. It is a choice to be “other-centered.”
The Bible instructs us on how to live righteously before God. There are commands we ought to follow in order to please the heavenly Father. But we live in a fallen world. Sin and temptations are everywhere so our flesh will fail us. Thank goodness we are forgiven time after time when our true repentance reminds us of the blood of Christ.
Matthew 7:1 is a command, not a suggestion. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” It is also a warning. Matthew 7:2 states, ”For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” This reminder is enough to spur us all on to cultivate spiritual fruit and practice mercy throughout our day!
“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful.” Luke 6:36 (NKJV)
Christians have a responsibility to confront sin but it must be done with gentleness, respect, love, and truth. We can’t expect a sinner to turn from his ways if we are hypocrites, unwilling to acknowledge our own sinfulness. Consider the amazing conversion of the apostle Paul.
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display His immense patience as an example for those who would believe in Him and receive eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:16 (NIV)
James 1:22-25 gives us an analogy worth meditating upon. When we look into our “spiritual mirror,” do we walk away before addressing the hairs we have out of place? Do we criticize the appearance and spiritual condition of others before working on our own untidy “appearance?”
“ But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.”
As believers, we are called to help one another. This includes confronting a brother in sin. However, we must examine our own hearts before doing so. If we have a log (sin) in our eye, our vision is sure to blurry and unsure.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.” Matthew 18:15-16 (NIV)
“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? 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? 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.” Matthew 7:3-5 (NIV)
James 4:12 reminds us that there is but “one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” There is a difference between loving confrontation of sin and judgment. God is the only judge. We have a choice to act with mercy or hatred when we find ourselves offended. Only when the fruit of the Spirit is alive and active will we find the strength to overlook our discomfort and behave, as we ought, in love and mercy.
Make this a personal goal. Consider your own spiritual condition before muttering an insult or blaming another for your discomfort. When we point a finger at somebody, there are 3 fingers pointing back at us. Additionally, a thumb is pointing upwards as a reminder that God sees all things.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, show mercy and compassion, everyone to his brother.’” Zechariah 7:9 (NKJV)
“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1 (NKJV)