Each day the morning news, our online homepage, even a trip to town, is a reminder of the factions and fractures that exist in our society. We are on this earth together, we are human beings created in God’s image, and yet….we group and re-group ourselves into subsets and interest groups and alliances that bicker and squabble and confront each other until we are faced with fanaticism and violence in the pursuit and practice of our beliefs. I have always found the Bible’s teachings on the values and actions of others to be challenging, controversial, and at times even confusing.
Judge not. Well, then how do I recognize with whom I should fellowship if I am not to some degree judging others? “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45 So each time I listen to a fellow human being I am subconsciously judging and categorizing him/her.
Turn the other cheek. We are to stand up for our beliefs and declare the gospel to others. “I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.” Psalms 40:9-10 How do we remain strong enough to do that if we are taking abuse at the same time?
Love your neighbor. However, if my neighbor is evil I’d better love them from a distance. “But now I am writing you that you must not associate with anyone who calls himself a brother, but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat.” I Corinthians 5:11 Again, that nagging realization that in order to label a person I must in some measure judge their actions!
Forgive others. Many people these days proclaim that the Bible teaches tolerance, but it seems to me to teach the opposite- you can’t forgive someone unless you recognize that they need forgiveness, and that, again, implies judging their actions to be sinful. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32 God forgives me when I do wrong, so I assume that is what He wants me to forgive of others.
Being a Christian has never been easy, even in much simpler times. But now that we have such easy access to the news of everyone, everywhere it is even more challenging. Now that any and all groups in society feel the need to express their views loudly and proudly we are continually bombarded by moral decisions that must be made in order to live our daily lives. It is one thing to confront an “issue” and quite another to confront a neighbor or co-worker. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that.” Luke 6:32-33 “But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.” Luke 6:35 Wait a minute…what happened to not even eating with them?
God warned us that this is not an easy path to follow. “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 6:14 I am thankful for His wisdom and daily guidance because I certainly would wander off the path on my own… and probably just sit down to wait to be rescued! But God takes my hand and leads me along, even when he has to pull really hard or even give me a little jerk. I had no intention of writing this today, nor did I choose my Bible reading this morning. Totally led by God. Somewhere in my ramblings there must be something someone needs to hear. And of course thinking and writing are always a lesson and blessing to my own feeble brain. I will think long and hard today about the difference between judge- “to form an opinion through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premise” and judge- “to govern or rule.”
Perhaps we can all think on Luke’s words today and pray for someone who would normally receive our contempt.