In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has touched on practically all the aspects of a believer’s life, in a wonderful and marvellous summation of all of the areas of truth related to living within the Kingdom. We see Christ meet us at every point.
Beginning with our perspective on self in the Beatitudes, He discussed our religious activities — giving, praying, fasting, on money and possessions and material goods. And now he comes to a text that deals with our relations with other people in Matthew 7.1~6.
The first 12 verses of Matt 7 taught how we are to interact with one another, verses 1~6 on what we are not to do, and then verses 7~12 on what we are to do. From “do nots” to “dos”. And that probably sums up all that is to manage all our human relations.
As with the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, the perspective here is in contrast to the views of the scribes and the Pharisees. They were the religious influence of the day. They trusted in themselves. They put all their confidence in their own self-righteousness. Because they had set their own standard, they were the standard. And because of their pride and egotism, they looked down on everybody else, and against the background of their perspective, Jesus presents the truth.
For now, we’ll just look at the “do nots”, what not to do – do not judge. Or “Stop criticising”. In the Biblical context, we know He’s not forbidding all judgment, because He talks in so many other places of the necessity of righteous judgment e.g. we have to make a right judgement mentioned in John 7:24. But not the carping criticism of the Pharisees. And that is essentially what He’s saying. We’re not to judge people’s motives, not to condemn them because they don’t look, act or talk like we think they ought to. They don’t come up to our supposed self-righteous standard. We have no business doing that. That is forbidden. Romans 14.13 succinctly puts it, when it says, Therefore let us stop passing judgement on one another. More so if we are not aware of the person’s circumstances.
Stephen Covey recounted his “mini-paradigm shift” experience in his best seller The 7 habits of highly effective people: Where a peaceful sub-way train ride was suddenly disrupted when a man came on board with several children. The children were loud and boisterous and were causing annoyance to the other passengers. The entire climate was changed. Yet the man sat oblivious to what is happening. Only after some unusual patience and restraint did Covey approached him to do something about the situation. He then realised that the group had just left the hospital where their mother had just died an hour ago! Suddenly all irritation vanished. He saw things differently, thought and felt differently. Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely. Paradigm shift.
When we have to make judgments, let them be proper, righteous judgments. It all comes down to an attitude. Are we criticising, evaluating, discerning, or discriminating in order to know the truth and honour God? Or are we doing it to exalt ourselves and hurt somebody else? Even when we find those who err, let us help restore them in love and meekness, knowing we, too, could be in the same situation. And may we be forgiving and merciful. Ultimately, it comes to that decision.
Let us pray that our fellowship here in BC be known as one that loves. We know that all human relations could be amazingly enhanced if we just stopped being critical and had good words for one another, except in those times where rebuke and reproof and restoration is needed, and that we must seek the Holy Spirit’s counsel. And that the LORD help us keep the balance.
Deacon Henry Leong