Sometimes, it takes a couple of things coinciding to get my attention, to wake me up to sin in my thoughts or attitudes. Some of the things I seem to write about a lot, like judging others, are so deeply embedded in my human nature, that, even though I am a Christian, I need to continually walk in the renewing power of the Holy Spirit. I need to ensure that strongholds, places where the enemy has had undue influence in my life, are pulled down and stay down by taking my thoughts captive to Jesus!
We went to a baseball recently and as we were sitting in our designated seats, we watched as a family of three arrived after the game had started. It appeared that they were having difficulty trying to figure out where they were supposed to sit and moved around several times before they settled on some seats several rows ahead of us. I had a running dialogue in my head wondering about how difficult is it really to figure out your row number and seat number, assessing their appearance and making assumptions. Finding boxes and putting them in while totally submersed in my judgments and thought processes.
Later, I found out from my daughter that some other people were sitting in their seats and refused to move. That caught me up short and exposed to my consciousness the sin in my heart.
I know these texts on judging:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite…!” (Matthew 7:1-5a)
The problem is that we can’t see our own logs because they are blocking our view!
“Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things…do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1, 4).
The problem exists in our denial, “I’m not like that!” …whether it is the sin we perceive in another’s life or our attitudes and the judgments we are passing.
It is so easy to condemn others, forgetting that, God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17).
Unconsciously, many Christians suppose that people need to quit sinning, quit their sinful lifestyles (especially really “bad” ones), and then God will forgive and save them. Forgetting that Jesus told the accusers of the woman caught in adultery, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7); forgetting that “all [every single one of us!] have sinned and fall short [still doing it!] of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 3:23-24). And he told the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (v. 11). The command to “sin no more” came after forgiveness was granted.
Yet here I was doing it! Judging. Condemning. Falling short. Forgetting that, “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly … – but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6, 8).
I just finished reading a book about the Holocaust—a novel based on the lives of women both employed and incarcerated at the Ravensbrück Nazi concentration camp. Such unthinkable atrocities!
It shakes me to the core that unbridled prejudice and hatred can go so far; how human life can lose significance, how violence and murder is justified in the minds of some people. But it cannot be justified! Not in God’s eyes—and this kind of hatred is becoming increasingly prevalent! It is not a huge step between threatening words and actions. Yet, and this is so scary to me, this kind of hatred toward “outsiders” is often lurking in the hearts of Christians, though not recognized.
God forgive us! Cleanse our hearts from impurity. Refresh us daily in your Holy Spirit and teach us to live Spirit-filled lives.
Remind us of your words: “…everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever say, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22). Convict us when we are inclined to excuse our attitudes and behaviors, O God! Help us to acknowledge that enmity, strife, fits of anger, dissensions, and divisions are works of the flesh (Galatians 5:20).
The Holocaust happened because someone decided that society would be better off without certain groups of people, and many agreed. That same spirit exists in the hearts of all who harbor resentment and hatred towards people groups who, in the thoughts of some, do not have the right to exist. As believers in the Messiah, we must acknowledge that everyone deserves the opportunity to know God and receive His amazing gift of salvation.
I know some would object to my suggestion that we, as Christians, would intentionally harbor thoughts of anger, hatred, and murder. Yet some of the words professing Christians speak belie attitudes incongruent to the life and mission of Jesus. We must also consider that there is one who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, who influences thoughts, and without discernment, and the constraint and the power of the Holy Spirit filling our lives, there is little control where those thoughts may lead.
We have this counsel from the apostle Paul: “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raise against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ….” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
In a world, in a nation where “united” was once a description, it is no longer a reality. As Christians, we must neither be swayed by the hatred, the vitriol characterizing the spirits of this world; nor through compromise, discard the belt of truth encircling our lives through the knowledge of God and His Word.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths,
But only such as is good for building up,
As fits the occasion,
That it may give grace to those who hear.”