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Monday, February 21, 2011

When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me

Do you judge people? Think about it, do you make judgments about people you
know or people you meet. You may not even know someone; you may just observe
them in some situation. What guides your thoughts and judgments? Judgmental
is defined as: "one who is characterized by a tendency to judge harshly."

One of the interesting things about being a preacher is it seems that most
people outside of the church think you automatically judge them when you
meet them. Sadly, some of those in our churches feel the same way. I'm not
sure exactly why people have that perception, maybe it's the influence of
things they are shown television and movies. (Yes, I have a real problem
with how preachers and Christians in general are portrayed in those medias).

Perhaps it's because they take a quick look at their own lives and think
that we somehow have magic vision that allows us to see any mistake, fault
or weakness. Of course we don't, but have you every felt that way about
anyone? Of course you have, why is it, the first thing you do when you are
driving and see a police car is to look at your speed odometer.

I have no problem stating that almost all of the preachers I have met in my
life are really nice, loving individuals, not judgmental at all. However
because of this general perception I often don't mention that I'm a preacher
when I first meet someone. I have hopes that they will get to know what kind
of person I am before they stick a preconceived opinion on me.

I believe that most preachers are governed by the same example as are all
Christians, that of Jesus our Lord. I don't think I have ever heard anyone
accuse Jesus of being Judgmental, though he had no problem telling people
they were not serving God and going to hell.

The example I first think of is found in John 12:44-50, "Then Jesus cried
out, "When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the
one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. I have
come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should
stay in darkness. "As for the person who hears my words but does not keep
them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to
save it. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my
words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. For I
did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what
to say and how to say it. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So
whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say."

Jesus makes it clear that there are rules (laws) given by God through His
Word. If judgment is made, it is not by some decision which you or I make,
but it's made by God. We often hear the phrase, "don't kill the messenger,"
meaning the one carrying the message is not the source of the message, only
the means of communicating it. Any judgment or decision is made based upon
the Word of the Master, not on our personal likes or dislikes.

In Matthew 25, Jesus tells the parable of the separation of the sheep and
the goats, or those who follow God's word and those who don't. He ends in
Matthew 25:46 with these words, "Then they (those who do not obey God) will
go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous (those who do obey God) to
eternal life."

When we recognize the difference between someone living in sin or living
righteously, does that make us judgmental? Often we don't have to say a word
to make the difference known, that's the impact of Jesus' words in Matthew
5:16 where he says, "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that
they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." As the old
adage goes, sometimes deeds really do speak louder than words!

Russ Lawson

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