SERMON ON THE MOUNT: Gavels and Flashlights    Matthew 7:1-6

We’re going to wrestle with some very easy words from Jesus today — DO. NOT. JUDGE.  Or you too will be judged.  It’s Jesus’s teaching on the Sermon on the Mount and I joked last week about wanting an easy sermon. . . .one easy message from the Sermon on the Mount. . .and I think this is it.  Here’s why.  Because when we talk about being judgmental, all of us have somebody in our mind who should be here today, but none of us think it’s us.  Judgmentalism is always a problem for somebody else, but very rarely do you meet somebody who says, “I’m just one of the most judgmental people you will ever meet in your life!”  We don’t say that.  We say, “I think I’m right.  I’m not judgmental, I’m just right. And I’m right the majority of the time and I don’t mind telling people that I am right!”

So this gently—from somebody who’s been wrestling with judgmentalism this week—you might fall into the same category that I found that I fell into that I’m a secret judger.  I’m judgmental.  I don’t lead with it.  I cover it pretty well most of the time, but when it comes down to it, I’m judgmental.  Here’s a few things that I’m judgmental about:  I am judgmental of you if you are a Yankees fan.  Or if you’re a Patriots fan. {Bye, Felicia.}  If you think that cats are better than dogs, repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand!  If you don’t like In ‘n Out Burger, I don’t have a place in my heart for you.

Maybe a little more seriously, I’ve found this week that I’m judgmental of people I perceive to be lazy.  I’ve found that I’m judgmental of people who carry the name of Jesus, publicly, but use it to wound people.  I’m judgmental of people who I feel like are judgmental.  And I don’t think Jesus wants to let me off that easy. Oftentimes when I judge somebody, what I picture is Jesus with his arm around me going, “Paulson, go get ’em!”  I picture Jesus saying, “I’m with you and I am backing you and I feel the same way you feel.  Go get ’em, Paulson!”  My guess is you do too.  It’s why we think we’re non-judgmental; we just think we’re right and we think Jesus is always on our side.  I just want to gently propose to you this morning that this message might not be for somebody else, it might be for you.  And the reason I know that is because I know it’s for me.

There’s a study done in a book called unChristian, by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, a number of years ago.  They did a survey of young people and asked them what they thought of Christians.  They gave them a number of different words to choose from.  There were three words that rose to the top:  87% of people outside of the Christian faith perceived those who are followers of the way of Jesus as being judgmental.  87%!  The other two words that they used were hypocritical and anti-gay.  So you just know if you tell somebody you’re a follower of Jesus and they’re not a part of a church or they don’t have a good idea what followers of Jesus believe, they’re going to draw a few conclusions about you.  One of them is that you are judgmental.  Maybe, just maybe, this is a bigger issue than somebody else’s issue.  Maybe what they’re picking up on is something that we need to wrestle with.  I don’t think the answer, “Well, we’re really not that way,” is going to get the job done.  I think that maybe there’s some mirror work we have to do to ask, “Okay, Jesus, is there a part of what they’re saying about us right?”  Are they calling out a part of us that you want to refine, that you want to shape, that you want to heal, that you want to speak to?  And even though I didn’t think I was judgmental, what I found is that there are some pieces of me that like judging others.  Quite honestly, it makes me feel better about me.  What Jesus, not so gently, says is man, when you do that you get into some trouble.  DO. NOT. JUDGE.

We’re going to talk about it , in just a moment.  That’s a massive word and we all have some ideas in our head of what that means.  Let me tell you first what it doesn’t mean.   Here are three things Jesus doesn’t mean.  When Jesus says do not judge, he does not mean do not think!  He doesn’t mean do not think.  Second thing he doesn’t mean is you’ve got to agree with everyone.  Did you know that would be impossible?  You can’t agree with everyone, because there’s a number of people who disagree on things.  You’ve got to choose which one you think is closest.  You can’t agree with everyone.  Finally, Jesus doesn’t mean that when you disagree with somebody or you think there’s a better way, you’ve just got to hold your tongue and sit on your hands and say nothing!  Don’t judge!  Say nothing!  That’s NOT what Jesus means.

So you may be asking, Paulson, what DOES he mean?  This word ‘judge’ in the Greek is the word krinó.  Which is completely unhelpful. . . .to say it and to study it.  When you start studying this word, what you find is that there is a massive range on what that word means.  It means to make a moral judgment.  It means to make a judicial decision.  It means to enforce a law or to exact a lawsuit.  It means God’s judgment.  It means condemnation.  It means all those things.  So when we read the words of Jesus, we start going Jesus, what’s the nuance, what do YOU mean when you say, “Do not judge?”

I ran across a little diagram by an author named Skye Jethani.  He wrote a wonderful book called With.  The diagram is not in that book, but he posted a picture that, I think, paints a great picture of what Jesus means by judgment.  There’s a wide range of meaning; judgment could simply mean to discern.  You have a group of apples and you have a group of oranges, you put them together and simply say, “Apples are not oranges.”  It’s an observation.  It’s not a moral decision, it’s just simply an observation.  Apples are not oranges.  But the other side of that coin is not just discernment, but it’s condemnation.  Apples are LESS than oranges.  God hates apples!  Death to all apples!

The word krinó in the Greek simply means to separate.  But we often take it further than just separating and that’s what Jesus is talking about.  He’s not talking about discernment.  In fact, you’re commanded to discern all throughout the Scriptures.  The Sermon on the Mount would make no sense if we didn’t have a calling to discern.  The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, says this:  The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has know the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?”  But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Cor. 2:15-16)  So what Paul says is the Spirit of God in you gives you the ability to discern what’s going on in the world.  That’s a really good thing.

But how many of you know that discernment can easily turn into condemnation.  It’s not just apples are not oranges, it’s apples are better than oranges.  God hates oranges!  Death to all oranges.  Condemnation is pronouncing a verdict.  It’s taking out the gavel, playing judge, and saying not only is that thing that you believe wrong, but you’re wrong.  God thinks you’re wrong.  It’s people who set themselves up as moral guides, as people who want to point out everything that’s wrong in everybody else’s life.  They’re critics of one another.  It’s who Jesus is talking about here.  People who carry around the gavel, not just discerning, but saying you’re wrong in the very core of your being, which is why judgment is so painful.  If you’ve been judged by somebody, you know the pain of trying to carry that and figuring out who God actually says you are.  It’s not just saying SOMETHING’S wrong, it’s saying SOMEONE is wrong.

What Jesus wants to do is chart a better way forward.  The early church wrestled with these words of Jesus.  In fact, Jesus’s own brother, James, says this.  He’s echoing Jesus’s teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.  Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another.  Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it.  When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.  {Catch this.}  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy.  But you—-who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12)  He says when we put ourselves in the place of God, when we judge somebody, really what we’re saying is we’re God and you should listen to us.  You’re not God and I’m just going to tell you where you’re right and where you’re wrong.  That’s what James says. In judging, we make the same mistake that Adam and Eve made in the garden.  We set ourselves up as God and we fail to live as his citizens.  Love the way John Wesley put this:  “The judging that Jesus condemns here is thinking about another person in a way that is contrary to love.”

The reality is, friends, is that you and I have been placed uniquely and specifically, by God, in our families, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, in this world, and the reason we are here. . . .the presence of Kingdom citizens is to be life-giving not judgment-pronouncing.  Can we just admit that’s hard for people who spend a lot of time wrestling with the words of Jesus.  That’s hard for people who’ve tried to understand what God would want us to do and how God would want us to live.  It’s easy to hold the Bible in one hand and the gavel in the other and say, “This is what God says.  Do it this way and you’re wrong if you don’t.”  We have this proclivity to judge, especially if we feel we know God’s will.  But Jesus urges us, he pleads with us, in the Sermon on the Mount to posture ourselves as God’s citizens, in his kingdom, but NOT as gods.  Citizens in his kingdom, not as gods.  Look at the person next to you and say, “Judgment is not your job.”  Turn to the other person and say, “Condemnation is not your job.”  We often carry around the gavel, and sometimes it’s disguised and it’s hidden,  and sometimes it’s exposed.  I’ve noticed that I will typically put the gavel back in my pocket when people think the same way I do, talk the same way I do, believe the same things I believe.  I very rarely pronounce judgment on people who look like me.  But oh man, if somebody believes different than me, thinks different than me, looks different than me, talks different than me, I find myself reaching for my gavel ready to go, “I’m right.  You’re wrong.”  Maybe, just maybe, it’s not coincidence that everybody we want to judge doesn’t look like us.  Maybe there’s something that Jesus wants to draw to the surface this morning to cause us to wrestle with.  Maybe he isn’t just on our side, under our arm, going, “Go get ’em, Paulson.”  Maybe he’s in the middle, drawing both people to him.

So the question I think Jesus wants us to wrestle with—in a really practical way, this is beautiful—is why it’s better to be a non-judgmental presence in our world.  He gets really, really practical.  Boots on the ground.  He plays on our hedonistic desire to have a good life, and here’s what he says:  Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)  There’s some debate whether or not Jesus is talking about temporal, earthly judgment now or eternal judgment later.  I think the evidence points best towards the fact that he’s talking about temporal, earthly judgment by other people now.  Here’s the way I’d reframe it:  If you’re a jerk to other people, they’re probably going to be jerks to you.  Jesus says judgment is like a boomerang.  You throw it out there and it just comes reeling right back to you.  He’s not saying the same thing someone who believes in Karma would say.  He’s simply saying that the way of wisdom, the way the world works, is that if you judge other people, they’re going to have a more critical eye towards you.

I’ve seen two examples of this in this last week.  Many of you know Dan Elliott, who is one of our associate pastors.  He is an amazing man of God.  What you see up here on the stage is who he is behind closed doors.  He’s just non-judgmental.  There’s been times I’ve tried to hand him a gavel and say just pound that thing down, they are wrong and you are right.  He doesn’t.  You have to be a really big jerk to be a jerk to Dan.  I want to meet the person who’s like, “Dan Elliott—I don’t know what to do with that guy!”  Why?  Because he’s just so genuinely caring and loving towards people and it comes back to him, rightfully so.  You’ve probably also seen some tweets go out this week that you’ve thought, “That doesn’t seem like that’s a nice thing to say.”  Then what happened?  People jumped on that person’s twitter feed and went, “Yeah, you don’t like them, so we don’t like you!”  No names mentioned.

What’s happening?  What Jesus is teaching is simply playing out.  If you judge other people, they’re going to have a way more critical eye towards you.  If you lead a moral majority and have a moral failure, there’s going to be people who hold a magnifying glass up to your life and go I’m not sure we like that guy.  Jesus says that’s simply the way the world works and we would go you’re right.

Here’s the second thing he says though:  Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? {Quick timeout.  Everybody in Jesus’s day, when he said this, would have paused for a second and chuckled a little bit.  Jesus is going for the laugh here.  This is comical.  There’s a log sticking out of your eye and you’re going up to your brother or sister and  going can I help you with that speck of sawdust in yours?  It’s intended to be humorous.}  How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite. (Matthew 7:3-5)

Here’s the second thing Jesus says about judgment.  Judgment is always hypocrisy.  Here’s why.  Because you and I could always be judged for something.  There’s something in our life that’s off.  There’s something in our life that’s broken.  There’s some way that we’re resisting the invitation and the way of Jesus.  There’s something we could be judged for ALWAYS.  How many of you are grateful that God doesn’t act like that towards you?  Jesus is saying listen, when we start to point out the speck in our brother’s eye, what we’re actually doing is feeding our own arrogance and pride, which is often our log, and that we’re doing so in a way that’s not going to bring them life or us life.  Judgmentalism is typically fueled by self-righteousness and pride.  That’s Jesus’s point.  It’s fueled by self-righteousness and pride.

The problem is that arrogance is probably one of the most acceptable sins in the church today.  It’s the hardest to detect and it’s the easiest to defend.  I’m just right and there’s nothing I can do about it!  Can we just admit for a moment today that we pick and choose which sins we want to judge?  And we pick and choose how harshly we want to judge them.  It was interesting that in the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, they said:  “Our research with Christians confirms that often we miss the point of reflecting Jesus to outsiders because we are too busy catering to the expectations of other believers.”  We’re just trying to keep everybody happy.  Let me say it like this, as clearly as I can:  We are a collection—the Church in general, but specifically at South Fellowship Church—of sinners that Jesus has called out as saints.  We do not gather under the banner of our goodness or our perfection, but we gather under the banner of God’s grace.  Every time we walk through these door, every time we walk to the communion table, we are making a declaration that we are people who are in desperate need of God’s mercy TODAY!  Amen?  That’s who we are.  Jesus asks us a question:  In light of who you are, what right do you have to judge?  And we try to take the log out of our own eye and go, “NO right!  None!”

Finally, he says:  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly….(Mt. 7:5) Jesus is saying oftentimes you don’t see clearly.  Have you ever tried to untangle the mess that’s often your own motivation for doing something?  Have you ever tried to figure out why you did something, why you said something, why you believe something, your own motivation for it?  How many of you think that’s a real easy thing to do?  No one.  Determining our OWN motivation is really hard.  May I suggest to you that determining someone else’s motivation is almost impossible!  It’s almost impossible.  Jesus is saying just hold up.  Oftentimes what we do. . . .the log that we have in our own eye, our own pain, our own brokenness, our own shortcomings, is what we often project onto the world around us.  It’s our pain that we often project.

So, maybe an easy example of judgmentalism is a Westboro Baptist Church picketing at a military funeral or picketing at a gay person’s funeral.  They have signs that say:  God HATES fill-in-the-blank.  I think that type of judgmental attitude breaks my heart on two levels.  First it breaks my heart that oftentimes that’s what people think of followers of Jesus.  That breaks my heart.  The second thing though is it breaks my heart because they’re probably projecting their pain and their internal narrative onto the world around them.  So what’s their internal narrative saying?  I think their signs could more accurately read:  I have this sneaking suspicion that God hates me!  I have this sneaking suspicion that I’m wrong, that I’m off.  Because our pain is what we often project.  If they’re projecting hate, it’s probably what’s filling their soul.  We all project what’s on the inside.  We all project our pain onto the lives of others.  When you meet somebody who’s sure of the love of God, they’re usually people who are deeply aware of their own brokenness.  They’re people who are aware—I’ve done nothing to deserve this and yet the King of kings and the Lord of lords has showered mercy and grace down on me.  They’re able to give that to the world around them.

So what Jesus says is because of these reasons. . . .judgmentalism is one, like a boomerang.  It’s always hypocrisy.  It’s often misperception; we’re reading a situation wrong because we have a log in our eye and we don’t see it clearly.  Because THAT’S true of judgment, Jesus says, man, judgment is really unhelpful.  Like, you’ve never judged or condemned somebody and they went back to you and said, “Thank you, I’m really glad you slammed the gavel.  It was really helpful.”  It wasn’t!  But. . . .Jesus doesn’t leave us there.  In this brilliant turn of a phrase, what Jesus does is leads us out of the woods of saying, “We don’t want to live that way.”  We don’t want to live as people who are judgmental of the people around us, but we do have people in our lives that we feel are making bad decisions.  We have people in our life who we feel like if they keep going down that road it’s not going to lead to a good place.  There’s people you know and love that are struggling with addiction.  There’s people that you know and love who are probably thinking of calling it quits on a marriage, or they’re thinking about getting into a marriage that you think they probably shouldn’t get into.  There’s people that we know that are standing on the edge of a cliff; how do we talk to those people?

Have you ever read through the gospels and thought, “There’s something about Jesus?”  He didn’t say easy things, he said really hard things.  He didn’t say what people always wanted to hear and yet, people who didn’t want to hear it gathered around him.  He spoke truth honestly and yet people seemed to love him.  Have you ever realized Jesus looks a lot different than the church looks today, let’s just be honest?  What is it about him, about the way that he treated people, about the way that he interacted, that allowed him to be this non-judgmental, life-giving presence in the people he encountered?  Instead of carrying around a gavel, Jesus carries around a flashlight.  To point things out.  To show us truth.  To invite us to align our lives with it.  It’s where he goes in this next section of the Sermon on the Mount.

Listen to the way he says it (verse 5):  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.    So his expectation is that we would do some speck removal, that we would be people who speak truthfully and honestly and life-givingly into the lives of other people.  If you’re going well, how do I do that? let me give you six ways:  Examine ourselves honestly.  {You may want to write this down.}  You cannot be helpful if you are not first humble.  If we don’t do the hard work of laying our lives bare before Jesus, praying that Davidic psalm, Psalm 139:23-24 — Search me, O God and know me, point out if there’s any way offensive or wicked within me, and lead me in the path of righteousness. If we don’t lay ourselves open and bared to say God, there’s something in me that’s off also, we will not have the ability to speak life-giving truth into the lives of others.   Your pride will shut them down; and Jesus says rightfully so. You’re not equipped to do the hard work of speck removal if you’re on your high horse.  You can’t!  You’ve got to dismount.  So the reality is, friends, that we are ALL just one beggar trying to help other beggars find bread.  That’s the truth.  I love the way Henri Nouwen put this.  I think it’s just brilliant.  I read it in The Wounded Healer this week.  “Experience tells us that we can only love because we are born out of love, that we can only give because our life is a gift, and that we can only make others free because we are set free by Him whose heart is greater than ours.  When we have found the anchor places for our lives in our own center, we can be free to let others enter into the space created for them and allow them to dance their own dance, sing their own song and speak their own language without fear.”  Oohh!  He goes on to say in that same book, maybe with a little more clarity:  “The great illusion of leadership is to think that person can be led out of the desert by someone who has never been there.”  This is divine, spirit-driven work, you guys.  So maybe one of your practices this week is to just get silent, get alone, let your heart get quiet, and pray that simple prayer— God, search me and know me. God, point out if there’s any way offensive in me.  {Which is often a prayer he likes to answer, because he’s got some material to draw from.}  And lead me in the path of everlasting life.

If we’re going to be helpful, we have to first be honest and humble.  Here’s what he says next:  First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.    So this whole approach is one of how do we become ‘speck removers?’  People who care about others in such a way that we go listen, there’s something in your eye that’s affecting the way that you see, that’s affecting the way that you live, and we want something better for you.  It’s not. . .you’ve got a speck in your eye, you’re wrong.  It’s. . .you’ve got a speck in your eye, let me help.  The goal, the aim, is always, always, always for their restoration and wholeness. {Slide: Aim for wholeness and restoration.} That’s the goal.  Repeat after me:  The goal is not to be right.  The goal is to be helpful.  It’s easy to just try to be right, but it takes discernment and it takes wisdom to bring something that’s of use to another person.  That’s what we see, that’s what we look at.  It’s John says about Jesus (John 3:17) — For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn (or to krinó) the world, but to save the world {To heal it, to bring it to a place of restoration} through him.  

The Apostle Paul writes back and forth to the church at Corinth.  There’s some things that he says that hurts their feelings and listen to what he says when he writes back — Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—-I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance.  For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us.  Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.  (2 Cor. 7:8-10)   The invitation to people is to repentance, life, wholeness, and healing, not condemnation.   Repentance always leads us to life because of God’s kindness.

Here’s a thought experiment to do throughout the week. Instead of forming an opinion about somebody—-who’s different than you, looks different than you, believes different than you—what if you just paused when you sensed yourself doing that.  Then instead of doing that you prayed.  You prayed a prayer of blessing over them.  You prayed for their well-being.  You prayed goodness.  I decided to do that this week, leading up to this message, and what I found was that there are more times in my life than I’d like to admit to you that I have a tendency to judge, and diverting that and replacing it with prayer has been a practice that’s been life-giving for me.

Here’s what Jesus says — You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck {For their wholeness, for their good, for their healing} from your brother’s eye.   Whenever we do speck removal—having a hard conversation, addressing something with somebody that maybe we disagree with—we always, always, always operate from a place of relationship.  Listen, truth bombs only work if your goal is to destroy.  Truth bombs only work–lobbing it over the fence to somebody you don’t know, don’t care about–if your goal is to destroy.  Debates rarely change minds….   I don’t think you’ve ever seen somebody say something nasty on Facebook and then there was a comment thread that eventually ended with somebody going, “You know what, now I see your point.”  It might have happened, but I’m just not aware of it.  We typically don’t change when we hear something from people we don’t think care about us.  What Jesus is saying is that speck removal, life-giving presence in the lives of others, is always a relational endeavor.

Fourth, related to that, we patiently pursue cooperation. You’re not going to drag anybody, pin them down, say,  “Listen, you’ve got a speck in your eye; lucky for you I’ve done the hard work of removing my own logs, but now, I’m going to have to sit on you, pry your eyeballs open, and take that speck out of your eye.”  You know what you have to have in order to have that conversation?  Cooperation.  It’s why, if you’ve ever tried to intervene on somebody who has an addiction, you know they need to come to the place where they want help in order to receive your help.  It’s the same thing that Jesus is saying.  You ask for cooperation before you have that hard conversation.  A number of months ago, I had a sermon that I used some math in, which is always dangerous when preachers start using math.  My math was off.  I had a friend that came up to me after the service and he said, “Ryan, if you were wrong, would you want to know?”  I said, “Well, of course I would want to know.”  He said, “You moved that decimal one too many places.”  I said, “That makes a difference, thank you.”

If you were wrong, would you want to know?  What a great way to approach a conversation with somebody who may have a speck in their eye.  If you were wrong, would you want to know?  Would you invite me into the conversation with you and with Jesus?  When you ask that question, please, please, please follow it up by listening….by listening.  Because we always want to interact with gentleness, because we come from a place of care.  Jesus uses this analogy, this imagery, of an eye.  If you’re doing work on an eye, there’s some gentleness that’s involved in that.  It’s the exact same thing the Apostle Paul says when he writes to the church at Galatia about having hard conversations like this:  Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore {Our aim is for wholeness and healing.} that person gently. (Gal. 6:1)  It’s the picture, in the Greek, of setting a broken bone.  You do so with great care and with great focus on the other person.  You may not be aware of this, but your words carry weight in the lives of others, that they can either develop or they can destroy.  The question is: How do we use that?  What do we do with that?  Jesus says work with gentleness.

One of the practices that might be beneficial for you —- I often, when I see somebody different and I start to form an opinion or start to judge, come up with a story for why they are the way they are.  If they would have been more like me, they wouldn’t have been more like them, right?  What if we reversed that narrative?  What if we started to assume. . . .if I was born in the same situation, and if I had the same experiences, and I went through the same things, that I would probably believe the same things they believe and be doing the same things that they’re doing.  Here’s what that’s called:  empathy.  It allows us to approach people with a sense of gentleness.

Finally, here’s what Jesus says:  Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs.  If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.  (Mt. 7:6)   Well, I think that clears everything up, thank you, Jesus.  There’s some people who want to view this as an allegory, and if you do that, you need every single person or character in this story to be aligned with somebody in Jesus’s day.  You could also view this as a parable, where Jesus is telling this story in order to make a central point.  I think that’s more the case.  I think the point Jesus is making is exactly in line with the point he’s just made.

Is a pearl a good thing?  Yeah, it’s a treasure.  Have you ever seen a pig wear pearls?  {Somebody brought up a picture of Miss Piggy wearing pearls after the last service.  I stand corrected.}  The right answer is no.  A pearl is a good thing, but what does a pig do with a pearl?  Nothing.  They trample it.  They destroy it.  Jesus is saying listen, your judgments might be right, but when you lob them to other people, can they receive them?  Can they do anything with them?  Jesus’s encouragement to us is that we proceed with wisdom.  We do not just say true things.  We say things that are both true and helpful.  Because what’s our goal?  Restoration.  Wholeness.  That Jesus might enter in and that he might begin to heal.  We don’t say, “This is a pearl and you should want it!”  Right?  How dare you not want this pearl!  No, we’re more discerning, we pay attention to timing.  It matters in the way people receive things.  We pay attention to motivation—where we’re coming from and where they’re coming from. The desire isn’t just to be right, it’s to be helpful.  We pay attention to the way it’s received, because the goal is that we would be a life-giving presence in the lives of others.  Amen?

On the notes page , there’s a little box that says “My Practice this Week.”  I just want to encourage you. . . .I’ve given you a few ideas throughout the message, but how might you practice being a non-judgmental presence in our world?  What are some things you could do?  You could say, “Instead of forming an opinion about somebody and why they are the way that they are, I’m going to pray blessing over them.”  That’s a great idea.  You could decide this week that instead of getting to decide where you go out to dinner or what game you play or what movie you watch, that you’re just going to make a disciplined decision to say, “I’m going to let others choose this week.”  It’ll help you get out of the position of being in charge.  Maybe this week you do an imaginative reading and prayer exercise with John 8.  This unbelievable section of Scripture—verses 1 through 11—where there’s a woman caught in the act of adultery.  There’s religious leaders there and they say, “Jesus, here’s a stack of rocks. Why don’t we stone this woman?  She’s wrong.  Let’s condemn her.”  Jesus looks at them and he starts to write in the dirt and he says, “How about who’s ever without sin throw the first stone?”  What’s he saying?  Examine yourself honestly and why don’t you lead the charge.  They all start to walk away and he approaches this woman and he sees her, and he cares about her, and he speaks words of life not death.  He operates from a relationship.  He pulls her close and asks for her cooperation.  He interacts with gentleness and eventually he releases her to go and sin no more.  I want to be that kind of life-giving presence in the lives of the people around me.  How about you?

Jesus, we pray that you’d help us, because we’re probably more judgmental than we think.  But we want good for those around us.  We want life and we want to be a life-giving presence, not to be a condemning, judgmental presence in the lives of the people that we love and care about, our neighbors, our coworkers. So, Jesus, help us.  Help us to see our own brokenness. God, help us to fight for life in other people.  Help us to do so from a posture of relationship and with gentleness.  Jesus, our prayer is that you’d help us be wise in the way that we act and speak and live, because we know that our words carry a weightiness and we want that weight to be used to bring about life not death.  Help us, we pray.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.