Monday, September 12, 2011

Judgment & Forgiveness

Judging whether something is right or wrong or whether someone is right or wrong is, I think, so easy for all of us to do. We read the newspaper or listen to the evening news and, without realizing what we're doing, judge whether that person or country or government or corporation made a decision that was good, in our opinion, or bad, or right or wrong. I believe we do it so often that it has become a habit.

Judging is such a common occurrence in our lives that we judge people we see on the street or see in the bakery or McDonald's or walking down the street. As we observe them we make judgments as to what kind of people they are. We do all that in about the first couple of minutes.

That spur of the moment decision will stay with us until we become acquainted with them. It's impossible for our judgment of them to be changed until we discover for ourselves that maybe we were wrong. Never the less, if we're honest, we have to admit we are pretty judgmental.

Apparently in Paul's day people were making judgments about whether it was right or wrong to eat just about anything or whether there should be dietary rules that all should abide by. So, if some thought that in order to be a “true” follower you couldn't eat any meat anyone who did eat meat was considered an outsider and couldn't be a member of the elite group or vice versa. Or, as Paul said, it may have been that one group thought that one particular day of the week was more important than the other days of the week and others believed that they were all equal in importance.

One group believed the other group was wrong. And they couldn't, or wouldn't, change their minds. Each group felt that they were absolutely right and there was no way to resolve the issue. Each group was stubbornly set in their way of thinking.

Paul was counseling them that none of these things really made any difference when it came to being a follower of the Way. But if someone did believe one way or the other and it was in contradiction to our way of thinking they were instructed by Paul to let it go. Don't judge them good or bad, right or wrong. In the greater scheme of things it just wasn't important. Let it go.

That was radical thinking in Paul's day and still would be thought of as radical, by some, today. We might think that we're immune to that way of thinking but ask yourself this question, “What would we think if someone joined this congregation who was from a Pentecostal church and every time they agreed strongly with some part of the worship they'd shout, 'Amen!'” Or what if someone stood up in worship some Sunday and just started giving their testimony; and they thought you couldn't be part of the community of faith unless you shared your faith openly with everyone. How would we judge these folks? How would they judge us? Would we pass the test of whether we were judgmental or not?

Judging folks doesn't seem to be harmful to anyone or that big of a deal until we stop and realize that someone could be judging us. Then it doesn't feel so good.

The other part that we often don't notice is or we forget about is what Matthew wrote in the gospel today. Jesus said, “ ...that's exactly what my Father in heaven is going to do to each one of you who doesn't forgive unconditionally anyone who asks for mercy.”

Judging and forgiving are very closely related. By not forgiving we are rendering judgment against the person or persons we felt has done some wrong against us. And what we have done is put ourselves under God's judgment.

We judge those who are different as not being acceptable. So, we are different. How will we be judged by God? Will we be found acceptable by Him?

Good friends, God has forgiven us. We have been found to be acceptable by Him through the sacrifice and resurrection of his Son, Jesus the Messiah. As God has forgiven us we are asked to forgive others.

It's our choice to make. As we judge so will be judged. As we forgive so will we be forgiven. God loved us so much that He died for our sins Himself and rose again to show that has been defeated. As Paul said, If we live we live for the LORD and if we die we die for the LORD, so whether we live or whether we die we are the LORD'S. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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