Archive for Relationships

Do Unto Others: Part 5–Faithful

Hold on to loyal love and don’t let go, and be faithful to all that you’ve been taught.  Let your life be shaped by integrity, with truth written upon your heart.  That’s how you will find favor and understanding with both God and men—you will gain the reputation of living life well.  Proverbs 3:3-4 (TPT)

In Part 3, we learned that one way to win the respect of others is to mind our own business and show appreciation.  Here’s another one—being faithful.

 

Probably the most common way we use the word “faithful” today is in the context of a relationship.  When we are “faithful” to a significant other, it is a sign of focus and commitment.

 

The original Hebrew word emeth, rendered “faithful” in the verse above has much more depth.  It means sturdy, stable and trustworthy.  Something you can depend on without thinking twice.  In the King James Version, emeth is most frequently translated as “truth,” so you can see why it’s a favorite word of mine!

 

The word signifies things that are firmly established as being right.  To apply this word to a person would be to describe them as reliable, sincere, and one who clings to the Truth.  And as we proclaim God as the source and embodiment of all Truth, it stands to reason then that a faithful person is reflecting the image of a faithful God.

 

We like it when we can rely on people, don’t we?  It sure takes a lot of stress out of life when you know you can count on someone.

 

Sometimes, though, it seems that we may not put as much energy as we should into being that kind of person.  If faithfulness is a sure way to win respect, then a sure way to lose it is hypocrisy.

 

A hypocrite is, at the heart, a pretender.  A hypocrite shows you one face while being someone else underneath.  If a person makes a habit of being this way, it won’t take long for the word to get out.  A hypocrite is untrustworthy, because you never know what to expect from such a person.  One thing you won’t expect is truth and faithfulness.

 

There is no room for hypocrisy in the Church.  As Paul advised to the Colossians:

 

Don’t lie to each other.  You’ve gotten rid of the person you used to be and the life you used to live, and you’ve become a new person.  This new person is continually renewed in knowledge to be like its Creator.  Colossians 3:9-10 (GW)

 

If you have professed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, none of the bad stuff you did before that counts against you, but there’s a catch.  You can’t go back and do that stuff anymore.  (Of course, if your conversion is genuine, you won’t want to anyway, so it’s all good.)  But God created you in His image, and if you have accepted His invitation, you have become eternally adopted into His family.  Since God is the source of all love and the essence of all Truth, that means you have His faithfulness in your DNA.

 

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from.  God created you to do the work He had planned for you, but He also gives you the strength and endurance to perform this work faithfully.  When you follow through with that, it pleases God to see His plan working itself out in your life.

 

And as an extra added bonus, other people will notice not only the work you’re doing, but also the manner in which you do it.  They will see your sincerity and know that you are someone they can trust.

 

(Some days this is easier than others, however.  Come back for Part 6—Courage.)

 

Do Unto Others: Part 3–Respect

It is God’s will that your good lives should silence those who foolishly condemn the Gospel without knowing what it can do for them, having never experienced its power.  You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong.  Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times.  Show respect for everyone.  Love Christians everywhere.  Fear God and honor the government.  1 Peter 2:15-17 (TLB)

 

Many Christians love this passage . . . right up until you get to the last three words.

 

Honor the government?  But what do we do if the government is not honorable?  Do we still have to submit to a president or a congress that does not have our best interests at heart?

 

The answer, though we may admit it reluctantly, is yes.  Let’s break down this passage.

 

Verse 15 says that God wants us to shut up the ignorant folk who think we are deluded or even dangerous.  But He wants us to do this not with our words, but with our lives.

 

Verse 16 says that being free from the penalty of God’s law does not give us license to do whatever we want, but to do God’s will.  And what is that will?

 

To show respect to everyone.

 

The remainder of verse 17 gives examples of this.  Love Christians everywhere.  Fear God.  Honor the government.

 

This isn’t multiple choice.  ALL of these examples fall under the heading of showing respect to everyone.

 

“Everyone” also includes the people in verse 15, whom one might describe as enemies of the faith.  But remember in Part 2 when we talked about loving our enemies?

 

There’s just no getting around this, so what do we do with it?

 

First, as painful as it may be, we simply have to accept the fact that the world is full of stupid people.

 

Second, and equally painful, we must realize that no matter what good people we may think we are, not everyone is going to like us.

 

The third thing we must do, and this is where the freedom enters in, is to stop caring about the first two things.

 

Live quietly & mind your own business so that you may win the respect of others and have need of nothing.  1 Thess 4:11-12

 

We don’t solve the problem of finger-pointing by employing the method of sign-waving.  We don’t stifle the ignorance of idiots by yelling louder.  And we don’t solve problems in our government by advocating revolution or anarchy.

 

A Christian should never be concerned about other people’s issues when our primary function is to meet other people’s needs.  Whoever they are, their chief need is Jesus, whether they realize it or not.

 

 

It all comes down to respect.  Honor.  The Greek word Peter uses in the passage above is “timao.”  It means to add value.  A synonymous word in English would be “to appreciate,” but not in the sense we casually use it today, for example, “I would appreciate it if you would put away your laundry.”

 

No, this is in a much larger sense.  It means to esteem, by giving someone his or her due.  By showing a full understanding of their inherent value, especially how it relates to you.  To consider another more important than yourself.

 

 

This is what respect is.  You may not feel respect for Donald Trump’s character or for that of Barack Obama before him, but you are called to respect the office of the president, because:

Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him.  For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God.  So to resist authority is to resist the divine order of God, which results in severe consequences.  Romans 13:1-2 (TPT)

 

Bottom line: if you call yourself an American, then THE president is YOUR president, the same as if you call yourself a Christian, then God is your God.

 

And your pastor is your pastor.  And your teacher is your teacher.  And your boss is your boss.

 

You may disagree with them.  You may cringe at the sound their voices.  You may even find yourself making voodoo dolls of them in your spare time.

 

But they are all people, the same as you, and made in the image of the same God as you.  And this same God has commanded the same respect for all.

 

Do Unto Others: Part 2–Mercy

If you love only the people who love you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners love the people who love them.  If you do good only to those who do good to you, what praise should you get?  Even sinners do that!  If you lend things to people, always hoping to get something back, what praise should you get?  Even sinners lend to other sinners so that they can get back the same amount!  But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without hoping to get anything back.  Then you will have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God, because he is kind even to people who are ungrateful and full of sin.  Show mercy, just as your Father shows mercy.  (Luke 6:32-36 NCV)

 

Many people believe in the Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Yet, it seems that many folks are waiting to be done unto before they do any doing.

 

In the passage above, Jesus is advocating a totally different strategy—mercy.  Mercy is not concerned with everyone behaving properly or with showing favoritism toward those who do.

 

As Christians, we are called to set ourselves apart by being merciful as our Father is merciful.  So what does that look like?

 

Romans 5:8 says, “…while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He didn’t wait for us to get in line to meet His standard (which is impossible anyway).  He didn’t ask, or even consider, what we could do for Him.  He went first.

 

This is probably the easiest way to define mercy—mercy goes first.  Mercy looks to the needs of others, and sets about meeting them before considering anything else.

 

This doesn’t come naturally to most of us.  In our culture, we’re used to “getting what we paid for.”  If we are going to exchange our money, time or talent, we generally expect to get something in return.  For this reason, it seems natural for us to think about how we’re going to be paid back before we make an investment.

 

The thing is the people who are the most in need of mercy tend to be the ones who CAN’T pay you back.  But they CAN pay your mercy forward.

 

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you relied on someone else’s mercy, knowing you wouldn’t be able to reciprocate?  You might have felt gratitude at first, but later, the sense of indebtedness might have made you feel guilty.

 

Don’t go there.  There’s a better way.  Instead of focusing on what you can’t do for the person who helped you out, think instead of what you ARE able to do for someone else who is in a more desperate situation than you are.  There’s always someone.

 

Here’s the catch, though.  The person most in need of your mercy might be someone you don’t like.

 

This is where the “love your enemies” bit comes in.  Jesus never asked us to LIKE our enemies.  Remember though that agape love is not a feeling; it is an action.  As such, it is perfectly possible to show mercy toward someone who has been adversarial to us, even if there’s still a part of us that wants to push them down the stairs.

 

But here’s the part we all need to remember.  We were just as adversarial to God when He chased us down.  He continues to bless us, even when we don’t thank Him.  So if we are endeavoring to be “sons of the Most High,” we shouldn’t be standing around waiting for thanks either.  It feels nice to be appreciated, but remember, this is not the goal of mercy.

 

This is mercy–to listen with compassion to the people who annoy you the most in order to learn what their greatest burden is, then to speak only that which will help relieve them of that burden, and if that is not possible, to remain silent and allow God to do His work in them, rather than burden them further with opinions and judgment.

 

And that is what God offers to us all day, every day.  Think about that for a second.  How does it make you feel to know that you don’t ever have to put on a fake face for God to receive His mercy?

 

Now how does it make you feel to know that you have the power to make somebody else feel a little bit of that?  So go do it.  And focus more on the “you’re welcome” than the “thank you.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 4–Integrity

I am hurt and lonely.  Turn to me, and show me mercy.  Free me from my troubles.  Help me solve my problems.  Look at my trials and troubles.  Forgive me for all the sins I have done.  Look at all the enemies I have.  They hate me and want to hurt me.  Protect me!  Save me from them!  I come to you for protection, so don’t let me be disappointed.  You are good and do what is right.  I trust you to protect me.  (Psalm 25:16-21 ERV)

 

 

The words of King David ring true for many today, especially teenagers.  It is so easy to feel isolated and alone at that age.  In many cases, these kids actually ARE isolated and alone.  Sometimes it’s in their own heads, and sometimes it’s external, as a result of normal social inclusion/exclusion rites, or worse, as a product of bullying.

 

I notice this especially with girls.  Gossip and rumor-mongering are bad enough, but today’s technological advances have made hateful talk accelerate to light speed.  Couple that with this generation’s reliance upon/addiction to their mobile devices and it becomes nearly impossible to get a positive thought in edgewise between all of the notifications.

 

So what’s a parent to do?

 

I believe that it all starts with integrity.  Integrity and uprightness, or honesty, is all we have left when everything else is taken away.  This is true for adults as well as teens.  If we lose everything–our jobs, our loved ones, our material possessions–then what is left behind?

 

Only our character.  Who we are really behind all the masks, the social constructs, the rumors and the legends.

 

So who are we really?  If you lost everything except your life today, what would you have left to rebuild your life upon?

 

If you are a person of integrity, that is, you say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say you are going to do and finish what you start, then you have all you need.  Because you are a person that others can trust and rely upon, then trusting people will do that.  If these are the kind of kids we want to have, then these are the kind of parents we need to be.

 

So our primary goal is to be the kind of parents whose children look to us as David looked to God in the above passage.  Obviously, we are not perfect like God, but we are created in His image, which means that we have aspects of His character woven into our DNA.

 

When my children are up against it, I want them to know that they can look to me for help.  I want them to know that I will forgive their mistakes and give them room to grow.  I want them to know that they have somewhere to turn when it seems like the world is crashing down on them.  I don’t ever want to let them down.  I want them to trust me to take care of them, even when they are older and don’t really need me to do that anymore.

 

But the only way I can be that kind of a father is to remember that I have a Father who does all of these things for me.  And so do my kids.  So it’s not really me I want them to trust, but God.  His integrity is flawless and will go on forever.  If I can point my kids to that, directly or through my own rudimentary example, then I will be giving them what they need to survive and overcome whatever comes their way.

 

The Kids Aren’t All Right: Part 3–Love is a Verb

 

This is My commandment, that you love and unselfishly seek the best for one another, just as I have loved you.  No one has greater love [nor stronger commitment] than to lay down his own life for his friends.  (John 15:12-13 AMP)

 

Our kids’ generation is not immune from the error of past generations trying to pass love off as a feeling.  Love is an action word.  It is the act of sacrificing yourself for the benefit of others.

 

It seems the first thing to go when a child loses his or her innocence is the ability to love.  Not the ability to feel, but the impulse to give sacrificially without thinking about it.  I believe this is because kids in our culture are so habituated in getting that it never occurs to them to give.

 

Remember, a child’s “reality” is limited by his or her perception, just as an adult’s is.  But the less life experience you have, the narrower your perception.  Children don’t instinctively know the difference between perception and reality, so it isn’t ever going to occur to them to test their worldview.

 

Where this becomes problematic is if they think the world revolves around them, they will assume that to be true until they find out otherwise.

 

 

Another stumbling block for kids once they reach their adolescent years is their growing self-reliance.  Growing up is inevitable, and becoming more independent is generally a good thing as one gets older.  However, because kids don’t know what they don’t know, it is very easy for them to get in over their heads when trying to do something themselves.

 

Because they have not yet mastered their pride, it is also not in the nature of most adolescents to ask for help, even whenlife completely overwhelms them.  Sometimes, it seems they gravitate more toward the drama of being in a mess than actually solving their problem.

 

I think this is why it is frequently so difficult for older kids to show love.  1 John 4:19 reminds us that we love because God loved us first.  However, unless you know that, you can’t act on it.  To live out a life of love effectively, you must allow yourself to be controlled by the Spirit of love.

 

Now when was the last time you met a teenager who wanted to be controlled by anybody?  They are just reaching the stage of life when they can finally do things for themselves. Now we’re telling them NOT to think of themselves, but others?  No wonder they get confused, which of course, cranks up the drama even more, which throws them right back into the cycle of attention seeking about their confusion rather than helping them move forward with solutions.

 

Because God is love, if you are showing love, people see God through you.  The sooner we teach our kids how to look outside themselves, the easier it will be for us to help them shape their worldview into a view that actually has some WORLD in it.

 

 

Fishers of Men: Part 2–Track Record

 

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee.  Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration.  When the wine ran out, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They don’t have any wine.”

 Jesus replied, “Woman, what does that have to do with me?  My time hasn’t come yet.”

 His mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”  Nearby were six stone water jars used for the Jewish cleansing ritual, each able to hold about twenty or thirty gallons.

 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” and they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some from them and take it to the headwaiter,” and they did.  The headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine.  He didn’t know where it came from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.

The headwaiter called the groom and said, “Everyone serves the good wine first.  They bring out the second-rate wine only when the guests are drinking freely.  You kept the good wine until now.”  This was the first miraculous sign that Jesus did in Cana of Galilee.  He revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him.  (John 2:1-11 CEB)

 

Jesus hasn’t even had a chance to start teaching or building into these guys who are following Him.  His disciples have only just met Him and have literally not had time to do anything but get to this wedding, perhaps chatting a bit on the way.  They really didn’t have any way of knowing for sure at this point what they were getting into.

 

But then, Jesus reveals His glory to His new disciples by changing the water into wine.  From that point on, the fishermen were themselves hooked.

 

Now go back to the passage at the beginning of Part 1, where Simon (now called Peter) and Andrew drop their nets to follow Jesus full-time.  This event takes place A YEAR after the wedding at Cana.

 

So Jesus wasn’t just walking along the beach casting hypnotic spells on ignorant and gullible people.  First, they knew their scriptures well enough to know that a Messiah was coming.  Second, John the Baptist had pointed them directly to Him.  Third, they had seen Him perform a miracle firsthand.

 

So by this time, Jesus had an established track record with these guys.

 

Luke 5 goes into much more detail than Mark 1 about what Jesus was doing at the lake that day.  He wasn’t just walking along; He was teaching people at the water’s edge.  Then He gets into Simon’s boat, and has him take it out into the lake a bit, so He is better situated to teach the crowd.

 

Afterward, He has Simon go out deeper into the lake and let down his nets.  This doesn’t make sense to Simon, because they hadn’t caught anything all night.  Nevertheless, Jesus already has enough of a track record with Simon that he does it anyway.  This is what happens:

 

They did it and caught so many fish that their nets began ripping apart.  Then they signaled for their partners in the other boat to come and help them.  The men came, and together they filled the two boats so full that they both began to sink.

When Simon Peter saw this happen, he knelt down in front of Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t come near me!  I am a sinner.”  Peter and everyone with him were completely surprised at all the fish they had caught.  His partners James and John, the sons of Zebedee, were surprised too.

Jesus told Simon, “Don’t be afraid!  From now on you will bring in people instead of fish.”  The men pulled their boats up on the shore.  Then they left everything and went with Jesus.  (Luke 5:6-11 CEV)

 

They left everything.  Think about that for a minute.  Think of your job, your family, your house, your friends, your community—everything that makes your life what it is.  Is there anything, or anyone, that could make you leave all of that behind you?

 

If you said no, then consider these words of Jesus:

 

Those who love their father or mother more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Those who love their son or daughter more than they love me are not worthy to be my followers.  Whoever is not willing to carry the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who try to hold on to their lives will give up true life.  Those who give up their lives for me will hold on to true life.  (Matthew 10:37-39 NCV)

 

These fishermen were ready to become man-fishers.  They were expectant, they were vigilant, and they were patient.  And because of this, we are still talking about them 2,000 years later.

 

So what about us?  Are we ready?  Are we willing to drop it all and go fishing?  Does Jesus have enough of a track record with us that we would follow Him wherever He would have us go?

 

If your answer is yes, then it’s time to go fish.

 

Whatever We Ask: Part 3–The Desires of our Hearts

Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4 NIV)

 

This is one of the more misunderstood passages in the Bible. It’s easy to see why. Who doesn’t want to get the desires of his or her heart? Who has ever watched an Aladdin movie without wondering what it would be like to be able to rub a magic lamp and have a genie pop out to grant your wishes?

Unfortunately, many people have looked at that verse above, keyed in on that last part, and subsequently transformed God in their minds to little more than a genie in a lamp.

If you’ll notice though, this verse is a conditional statement. To get the desires of our hearts, we must first “take delight in the Lord.” So maybe we should be focusing more on what that means instead of our own selfish desires?

To “take delight” obviously means, “to enjoy.” But what is it we should be enjoying exactly?

It is the relationship that we have with God as our Father.

In this life, we may have great memories of time spent with our dads. Dad can be our fishing buddy, our baseball coach, our source of worldly wisdom, etc. Many people, of course, have never been able to have a relationship like this with their fathers, but many of those wish that they had.

The relationship with our heavenly Father is different though. He is Abba, but He is also Adonai, which means, “Lord.” As Lord, we serve Him, but as Daddy, we serve Him out of grateful love, not just reverent fear.

When we realize that our service to God is not to avoid punishment but to please our Daddy, then the service itself becomes a joy. God isn’t looking for slaves to command. He wants His kids to look up to Him as if to say, “Did I do a good job, Daddy?”

To be able to hear God answer in the affirmative, we would of course have to have done what He wanted us to do. And to have doing God’s work be a delight instead of a chore, we would first have to WANT what He wants.

Looking at it this way, we begin to see that “the desires of our hearts” have little to do with our desires, but more to do with our hearts.

When we trust Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, He begins a transformation process inside us, gradually conforming us to His image. As we change, our hearts change to become more like His. As we see things more and more from His perspective, we begin to want what He wants—for ourselves, for others and for the world.

Once we get to this place, it is much easier to discern what God’s will is. THEN, when we pray, knowing that our will is in agreement with His, He gives us what we ask for, because it was what He wanted for us in the first place.

And yet, sometimes things STILL don’t go the way we expected.  So what does that mean?

 

(Come back for Part 4—(Un) answered prayers)

 

 

 

Whatever We Ask: Part 2–Ask, Seek and Knock

Ask, and you will be given what you ask for.  Seek, and you will find.  Knock, and the door will be opened.  (Matt 7:7 TLB)

 

Sometimes, that seems too good to be true.  God really gives us anything we ask for?

 

If that were the case, then it would be all too easy for us to make selfish requests of Him.  Just as James and John asked to sit at Jesus’ left and right hand, it seems logical that being tapped into the greatest power source in the universe could make us a tad greedy and ambitious.

 

So why does Jesus tell us to ask then?

 

If you think about it, when do we ask anyone for anything?  It’s when the one we are asking either has or can get something we want but don’t have.  When Jesus tells us to ask, He is simply giving us permission to do so.

 

Along with asking, Jesus tells us to seek.  He tells us this to let us know that God not only can be found, but He WANTS to be found.

 

For this reason, Jesus also tells us to knock, not just once, but persistently and insistently.  Jesus is basically giving us carte blanche to be a pest in seeking out God and petitioning Him with our requests.

 

He is telling us that we aren’t going to wear God out or bore Him to death by bothering Him with our concerns.  This is because God wants us to see Him as someone that we can approach.

 

But really. . .ANYTHING we ask for?

 

It is clear from the context that it isn’t so much the substance of our entreaties to the Lord as our motivation for asking that is more significant.

 

Remember, we are not God’s spoiled brats, but His adopted children.  He chose us for His family, but we also had to choose Him as our Father.

 

The very nature of the relationship that Christians have with God is one of complete submission.  We ask of Him because He has not only the power and authority but also the WILL to give us what we ask.

 

However, the more we are in submission to God, the less likely we are to ask for something selfishly.  If our primary motivation is to please Him, then we would be more likely to ask for the kinds of things that He would want us to have.

 

(So what kinds of things are those?  Come back for Part 3—The Desires of our Hearts.)

 

Whatever We Ask: Part 1–Adoption

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came near to him, saying, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we will ask.” Mark 10:35 WEB

 

James and John have historically gotten kind of a bad rap for this quote. It sounds like they’re just boldly strolling up to Jesus and saying, “give us whatever we want.” When you consider that what they ask for next is to sit at the places of honor, at Jesus’ left and right hand, when He comes into His kingdom. . .well, that doesn’t do much to help this misunderstanding either.

 

The Greek word rendered “ask” in most English translations is aiteo. This does not signify asking as an equal or with the sense of entitlement. This word shows humility and respect. They are making a request of someone who is clearly above them, yet has given them permission to ask.

 

As bold as this question was, it definitely displays a comfort level that James and John have with Jesus at this point (even if their mother did put them up to it). They know Jesus well enough to know that He would not mind them asking for a favor, yet they ask with the reverence and respect that their master is due.

 

So what kind of a relationship do we need to have with God to ask Him for a favor? The one we already have, if we have put our trust in Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

 

You see, you have not received a spirit that returns you to slavery, so you have nothing to fear. The Spirit you have received adopts you and welcomes you into God’s own family. That’s why we call out to Him, “Abba! Father!” as we would address a loving daddy. (Romans 8:15 VOICE)

 

Paul is the only writer in the Bible to use the Greek word hyiothesia for this concept of adoption. By God’s choice, we are given the rightful position of sons and heirs, though we do not come by this position naturally.

 

Because God has drawn us this near to Him, we are indeed in a position to ask Him for whatever we want.

 

(But does that mean that we will GET whatever we want? Come back for Part 2: Ask, Seek and Knock)

 

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DN=: Part 6–Judgment

 

Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.

 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.

 You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, God’s fiery and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!

 If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.

 If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.

Romans 2: 1-13 The Message

Sorry for the long quote there, but I wanted to point out two phrases in the very same passage: “Judgmental criticism” and “righteous judgment.”  Both phrases have forms of the word “judge” in them, but they are very different.

 

It should be clear from the context that righteous judgment belongs to God alone, for God alone is righteous by nature.  Because of His unattainable righteousness and holiness, He alone has the authority to judge in the sense of meting out justice for our sin.

 

As we have talked about in Part 3, righteous DN= self-righteous.  The only way that a person could attempt to judge another’s destiny would be from a position of self-righteousness.

 

But as we have also discussed, self-righteousness is unrighteousness.  How then can the unrighteous judge anyone?  Indeed, they have already been judged themselves, not only for the sins they themselves have committed, but by the greater sin of attempting to push God out of the Judgment Seat which is rightfully His.

 

This is the difference between judgment and being judgmental—it’s all about who is passing the judgment.  God is qualified and has the authority to judge sin.  We aren’t, and we don’t.

 

EXERCISING JUDGMENT DN= BEING JUDGMENTAL

 

Although self-righteous, judgmental criticism is a problem for all people, the distinction between God’s judgment and man’s judgmentalism is relatively clear.

 

What is not as clear as it needs to be, however, is the difference between judgmentalism and exercising sound judgment.

 

My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion. Proverbs 3:21 NIV

 

One of the complications of the English language is words with multiple meanings.  “Judgment” is one of those.

 

God will sit in judgment of us all; therefore, we should not stand in judgment of one another.  Yet we are to preserve sound judgment?  How does that work?

 

It’s really not that difficult when you stop to think about it.  If your judgment is toward a person and stems from motives of criticism and self-righteousness, then you are being judgmental.  This is the bad one.

 

However, if your judgment is focused toward an action or situation, and is based upon wisdom, common sense or sound reasoning, then this is the good kind.

 

Where the problems arise, is when a spirit of offense prevents the person being judged from distinguishing between the two.

 

If someone attempts to shame you for your sin, make you feel like a bad person, tells you you’re going to Hell, calls you a name, places a group label on you, or blames you for something for which you are not directly responsible because of your association with that group, then that person is being judgmental, and your offense is justified.

 

If, however, the other person is attempting to help you correct your behavior respectfully, sharing from his or her own experience a bad result from their having done something similar, calling you by your own name, looking you in the eye, emphasizing the solution instead of the problem, but most importantly, is focusing on the behavior without attempting to analyze your motives or your character. . .then you need to work past the emotional reaction of offense and listen to what you are being told.

 

Chances are this person knows something you don’t.  And they are exercising sound judgment, without being judgmental, by telling you that.

 

(Coming up next, STORYTIME! Going to do something a little different for Part 7–Hatred.)