There was a young couple who moved into a new neighborhood.
Each morning they would eat breakfast together
and look out the kitchen window.
And each morning, while they ate their breakfast,
their neighbor set about hanging her wash on a clothesline to dry.
The young wife commented to her husband one morning
saying “That laundry isn’t very clean.
Either she doesn’t know how to wash it correctly
or she needs to change brands of soap.”
Her husband looked on but didn’t say anything.
This same scenario played itself out a few more times
with the young wife making the same comments
about her neighbors not so clean laundry.
Until one morning when it all changed.
The young wife came to breakfast and remarked
“Look at that! Her laundry is so clean.
I wonder who taught her how to do that?”
“No one” replied her husband.
“I got up early this morning and cleaned our windows.”
Passing judgment is a dangerous thing, isn’t it?
The words we hear from Jesus this morning are familiar ones.
Even people who do not associate with any form
of Christianity know this passage,
or at least the part that is fun to quote “Judge not lest ye be judged” they even like to throw in the “ye”s of the Old King James for effect. Most of the time thought this quote from Jesus is taken completely out of context, even in Christian circles.
Addicts, when confronted by friends about their additions
will often spout the “Judge not” of this passage to try to get their
friends to back off.
Or if someone within the church is living in open and flagrant sin
and they are confronted by a pastor or church leader
will often pull out the good old “judge not”.
The truth is, We all judge things every day.
We make judgments about whether we like certain restaurants
or certain foods at those restaurants.
We make judgments about
who it is we are going to spend our time with
and what we are going to spend our time doing.
We make judgments about where to go to school,
or church, or to the doctor.
It is simply not possible to go through life
without judging things in one form or another.
Jesus is not trying to tell us
to give up on making the judgments that are necessary in life. Rather Jesus is giving us the tools to exercise good judgment.
The judgment that Jesus wants us to avoid
in this passage is the condemnation kind of judgment.
The kind of judgment where we decide
that because a person doesn’t look like, talk like,
dress like, act like, or believe like us that they are no good,
condemned, cast out into the outer darkness,
or at least further away from our awesome light.
The kind of judgment that says: I am better than you;
or even – thank god, I’m better than you.
This judgment of condemnation hurts
not only the person being judged
but the person or church doing the judging.
Let me give you an example.
A long, long time ago on a peninsula far, far away
I was young and stupid and freshly graduated from my ultra
conservative bible college.
I returned to my home town and began working in churches
with youth and young adults.
At one of our gatherings another young pastor
from another church in the area showed up.
I determined quickly that this pastors theology
was nothing like my own,
and according to what I had been taught
in my ultra conservative school, it was heretical. It was WRONG.
I immediately started pulling away
from any ministry event or opportunity that would
expose my youth or young adults to this pastor and his horrible,
I did not want them influenced or seduced by the dark side.
After a couple of years of growth on my part
and realizing that the world does not function well
when we are all polarized by our
differences I ran into this pastor at a coffee shop.
I still didn’t want to associate with him
but I felt I owed him an apology
for being so judgmental towards him.
Several cups of coffee and miles of conversation later
we became friends.
We did ministry together. He wasn’t a heretic.
He loved Jesus just like I love Jesus.
Some of our peripheral beliefs were different sure,
but that didn’t mean we couldn’t worship together
or be in community with one another.
My condemnation of his theology
nearly lost me one of my best friends from that period of my life.
A friend who could challenge me
and help make me a better follower of Christ.
Jesus doesn’t want us to judge like that.
It is far too easy to surround ourselves only
with people who think and live and look and act just like us
but when do that, when we sit smugly
in our comfortable little bubbles,
convinced that we already know all we need to know,
certain we have it all right
– and happily condemning all those folks getting it wrong –
well, it is very hard for our faith to grow.
And that isn’t the kind of life Jesus calls us to,
nor is it the kind of life Jesus modeled himself.
Instead, when we see something that doesn’t seem right,
or seems like sin,
or simply something we don’t completely understand
– before we spout condemnation –
Jesus wants us to first judge ourselves,
do some self examination.
We are to discover our motives and our reasons
for thinking the way we are thinking
about that person or situation.
Judge not, lest ye be judged
– it is a reminder that ultimate judgment belongs to God,
a reminder that – as like as not –
we ourselves might be the ones getting it wrong.
That’s why Jesus says,
before you try to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye,
better take care of the log in yours.
He doesn’t say, if you see a neighbor sinning, run the other way.
He doesn’t say, if you see a brother or sister
going the wrong way, hit them upside the head with a bible,
make a lesson out of them,
make sure they know they’re going to hell.
He doesn’t say, wash your hands and steer clear.
He says – well, he implies – that part of how we love our neighbors
is by helping them put right what is wrong in their lives
by helping them take care of their “speck,”
whatever it may be.
But we have to do so humbly,
realizing we ourselves are just as dependent
on God’s grace as they are
– we have to start from a place of honesty and humility…
before we go about fixing every body else,
we’d better take a good look at our lives first.
The reality is that none of us are as pure as we think we are.
None of us has their entire act together.
None of us are in a position to judge someone else.
That is why we must always be looking
for the log in our own eye especially before we
try to dive in and clear the speck out of our neighbors eye.
Consider, just for a moment, our polarized political system.
Each side so entrenched in their rhetoric
that neither even stops to question whether
what the other is saying has value or not.
If the opposition said it then we have to disagree with it.
Both sides try to play the Christian base like a fiddle.
Democrats shouting at Republicans
calling their views unchristian and
Republicans striking back with the same.
Neither of them stopping for a single moment
to truly consider their own positions in the light of Christ
nor giving any real thought to the other side through Christ’s eyes.
Such is the state of our political world in recent days
and it just seems to be getting worse.
Both parties with giant logs in their eyes yelling
about the others specks.
No one is right all the time;
no one is purely good or purely evil.
The truth is seldom black and white
our lives are lived in the gray area in between.
It is easier to judge others, to condemn them,
than it is to look to your self and take care of your own issues
because that means admitting that you have them.
Admitting to yourself and to others that you are not perfect.
That, like the rest of humanity, you have imperfections
that you would rather cover up and forget about than deal with. Or better yet throw someone else’s imperfections
into the spotlight to take away from your own.
The brilliance of Jesus, in this case,
is that when we actually do what he tells us to,
when we take stock of ourselves,
examine our imperfections,
deal with the logs in our eyes,
then, and only then, will we possess the humility and the grace
to truly be able to help our neighbor with their specks.
We will understand the pain and frustration associated with
removing these things from our lives
and be abler and better guides for them.
It is not for us to condemn others.
It is for us to examine our own hearts.
To work, and toil to rid our lives of the debris
that clouds our view of Christ.
In doing that we will free ourselves.
Free ourselves from distorted vision.
Free ourselves from misjudging others.
Free ourselves to see the pain and suffering
of our neighbors and actually do something to help.