There is a choice you can make which is assured to make your journey here below much more enjoyable. Many people, if not most, rarely make this a priority for themselves and it is a shame because of the tremendous benefit it would bring to them. By the way, this single facet of the walk of faith is also a command in Scripture which is mentioned on multiple occasions by various people. Jesus taught on this principle and He was rather stern at times in how He communicated it. The reason I believe that few people make this a priority is because it is something which requires constant discernment in order to exercise properly. In reality, our view of this principle is counterbalanced in the Bible with another command which seems to lead us in the opposite direction. Now that I have your curiosity piqued, let me share one verse which communicates the issue of which I write:
“Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” – Romans 14:4
It is your call to love others. It is your call to come alongside and aid others. It is your call to pray for others and to serve them. It is not, however, your responsibility to critique or to fix others today. You are not commissioned, clipboard in hand, to scrutinize others in order to assign to them a passing or failing grade. God has not deputized you to be the spiritual fruit inspector. You are under-qualified for that task and, besides, you do not have the time because there is so much to be improved upon in your own heart and life. Though we have this innate impulse to allow our eyes to pass over the surface of others’ lives and make summary judgments about their motivations, thoughts, words and actions, we are actually prohibited from living in this way by our Lord and the authority of scripture. Yet, is there not also the virtue of being discerning Christians who are called to speak forth the truth in love? Are we simply to bury our collective heads in the sand and raise a thumbs-up to everyone and everything? How do you and I balance the reality of 1st Corinthians 2:15 with the seemingly opposite teaching of Matthew 7:1? In the former verse, Paul teaches that the one who is spiritual judges all things while Jesus taught in the latter verse that we are not allowed to judge others. Can we possibly be discerning without appearing condemning? This feels like being caught between a theological Scylla and Charybdis. Here’s what I have learned – you may take it or leave it but I have discovered it to be, perhaps, the single most freeing aspect of my ministry and relationships.
If you are certain that you are motivated by love and a desire to build up others toward Christ, prayerfully seek a clearly God-given opportunity to share your concern with them. If you are unsure that you are motivated by love and a humble desire to help them, remain completely quiet until your motivations are pure.
Most of the time, when I see something that concerns me about someone else’s life, I remain initially silent. This was not always the case with me. I have a prophet’s fiery nature and a God-gifted ability to communicate truth. Once upon a time, my words were like laser-guided missiles which always hit their mark. I made my point but simultaneously unmade many relationships. My goal in those days was to assert principles, not to edify people. Needless to say there was little relational fruit and I rarely accomplished what I had hoped to do. People could clearly see that I was less about loving and helping them and much more about making a point. It took me long, painful years to really embrace the reality that I would never be qualified to judge a person’s motives. Everyone has a story and all that we see proceeding from their lives is contextualized by that story. Abrasive people are usually hurting people. People that appear haughty might actually be introverts who fear rejection. Loud, boisterous people might actually be highly insecure people who need reassurance that they do not need to be top-tier to be deeply appreciated. The truth is that we are all broken and scarcely few of us understand our own hearts, much less the hearts of others. We do well to find out the best way to serve others and leave the diagnosing and fixing of them to the Great Physician. He knows what He is doing and I am amazed at how infrequently He appears to be fault-finding in the Gospels. The reason that this amazes me is because Jesus was perfect when He walked the earth. He understood in absolute clarity everything that was wrong about everyone. This awareness was with Him 24/7… and He invariably chose the higher ground of listening, loving and helping. It is my opinion that Jesus saved His harshest criticism for those who presumed to be the judges and critics of others. Maybe that alone should give us motivation for turning in our badges and leaving off from our patrolling the streets of Christiantown USA as the high-sheriffs of spirituality.
Believe me, I understand the tension here. That is why I am writing this post today. All I can tell you is that I have been labeled a compromiser, a waffler and a backslider by a handful as they have witnessed me move from a former prosecutor of people whom I felt were lacking to a man who has been humbled and corrected by God for those very things. I am willing to live with being misunderstood if that is the price to pay for my desire to align my life with what I witness in the life of the Lord Jesus. If I am to err in this issue, I will err on the side of gracious quietness rather than presumptuous intrusion. I will be patient with others and what I perceive to be missteps in their lives. There will be a commitment in me to speak lovingly and clearly when I am invited to do so. Occasionally, when the stakes are high, I may speak without being invited to do so but those occasions are less frequent than we think. Most often, I will pray privately to their King and ask Him to address anything and everything that concerns me about their lives but I will not presume to be the one appointed to address those things at their first appearance.
In the meantime I will occupy myself with those things lacking in my own heart. Is not that what Jesus instructed when He declared in Matthew 7:3-5,
“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, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
That alone is sufficient for me to consider that, from this point forward, it is wise for me to bow my head, humble my heart and hold my tongue.
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