Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Judgy Wudgy was a bear


Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today's trouble is enough for today. Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgement 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, then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. [Jesus said, during the Sermon on the Mount], Matthew 6:33- 7:5


Jesus said to his disciples, "Occasions for stumbling are bound to come, but woe to anyone by whom they come! It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea than for you to cause one of these little ones to stumble. Be on your guard! If another disciple sins, you must rebuke the offender, and if there is repentance, you must forgive. And if the same person sins against you seven times a day, and turns back to you seven times and says, 'I repent', you must forgive." Luke 17:1-4

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law, but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-2

On the heels of my last post, I felt the need to comment a little bit more about judgment in the Christian life. (Which is different than judgment in the Christian afterlife- though one may affect the other.) I loathe proof-texting, which is takes portions of the Bible that prove one's point and disregarding texts that do not. In my own interpretive stance, I try to look at things through the lens of Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Frequently there is a struggle today in modern churches of all kind on judging and how we are to judge one another and one another's behaviors. If we lived in Calvin's Geneva, the laws of the land would echo the laws in the Bible and we would never be confused. Except that it seems that some people there were.

Whenever we take it upon ourselves to judge the theological soundness or spiritual health of our neighbor, we're into dangerous and deep waters. So how can we uphold what we believe to be the truth (Honor your father and mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12)) and what we know is sometimes reality (some parents do not treat their children well, to put it mildly)?

If we do know and believe that all sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord and that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of the Lord, then we know that we each persist in sin. (Except me.) We do things that we know are not in keeping with God's laws or the spirit of the laws or within the right behavior prescribed and described for us by Jesus.

How do we speak the truth in love, saying "I think what you're doing is wrong. I want to help." Who knows what is wrong? 1) Is the sin causing people to lose faith in Jesus? (Causing others to stumble) 2) Is the sin separating people from God, beyond by its definition and in reality interfering with their relationship of prayer, praise, confession and forgiveness and daily relationship?

Within history, there have been movements within the Christian community that caused rifts and still do. Some churches split on geographical lines during the Civil War. Some churches divided and remain divided over the ordination of women. Some churches don't allow women to wear pants. Some Christians don't drink caffeine or alcohol. Some churches reject people who are divorced.
When we can clearly see that someone's actions are hurting other people or themselves, we are called, through a Biblical pattern, to intervene. We stand against free will when we have an intervention for an alcoholic, when we call the police during a domestic dispute, when we sit on the jury during a murder trial. Through God's word and the laws of man, we are bound to stop things that hurt other people.

As a church, we walk a fine line of showing love, of using repentant posturing, of praying for our neighbors and of offering corrective actions. In deciding how to handle any matter, we not only look to the Bible, which gives instruction and framework, we also pray and consider how God is leading us at this very time.

If we believe that we can only receive instruction through the Bible, the implication can be that God is no longer speaking. If we disregard the Bible, the implication can be that it has no authority and we may mistake our own desires for the will of God, because we do not recognize God's voice. If we disregard reason, the implication can be that God desires unthinking automatons. If we disregard faith, the implication is that God isn't using us, but that we are forging ahead through our own knowledge of what is right, wrong and true.

Surely, there is a better way.

But strive for the greater gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way.
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 12:31- 13:13

Is that helpful? Maybe not. Is it easy? Definitely not.

But it's better than a millstone around the neck.

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