Freely Disagree | Why Do We Hate Each Other?
Karl Penn | Matthew 7:1-6
You may have noticed that in the last decade, Christianity has by default, redefined itself into the church of us versus them. We are known for what we are against, rather than what we are for. Not only does this diminish the witness of Christ, but the hate and negativity makes it easy to dismiss Christianity all together.
We can’t change it all, but we can change our own complicity.
“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. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 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, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 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” Matthew 7:1-6
We all make decisions every day concerning what is right and what is wrong. So, what does Jesus actually forbid here?
Jesus forbids a critical, judgmental spirit.
He’s not talking about evaluating behavior, but rather looking down on other people, having a fault-finding spirit or a critical heart. Jesus commands against blaming others for offenses, the habit of passing rash or hasty judgements that magnify the errors of our neighbors.
We need to see ourselves and others, in the light of grace!
We must speak the truth, but loose that critical, judgmental spirit that lifts us up and puts others down. It’s that judgmental spirit that feeds the enemy-making machine.
We Need To Lose Our Judgemental Spirit
I can recall the time in 2003 when I worked for the University of Dayton in Campus Ministry and Diverse Student Populations. One job was to be the campus minister for protestant students on a catholic campus and the other was doing programming for students of color. I literally worked for two different offices and sometimes, had to be in two different places at the same time. Parking was always an issue on campus and there were times when, due to urgent meetings, I had to park rather “creatively.”
There was a certain parking guard who had me on his radar and he would literally follow me around campus and issue me tickets for how I parked at times. He was an older white man and whenever he would see me in the cafeteria, he would give me the dirtiest look. I could tell that his demeanor went beyond where I parked, I could feel some racial undertones AS WELL.
Well, it all culminated when I was rushing an African-American female student to the Counseling Center because she was having suicidal ideations. Her Mom called me that morning, asking not only could I secure an appointment for her daughter, but also, could I escort the Family to the Center. Because it was an emergency, I parked in the emergency parking zone. And sure enough, here comes my guy; cussing and fussing at me in front of this young girl and her family. I apologized to her mom and got them both into the center, then turned to go back outside.
To say that I was angry, would be a gross understatement! I’m trying to get this young woman connected to services that can save her life and my guy is worried about a parking space, with the nerve to insult me in front of this Family.
Now, maybe he could see my facial expression or my posture and pace, walking towards him, but he got in his little car and hurriedly drove away.
This incident was the final straw for me and sparked a much-needed conference with his superiors and mine.
During our meeting, he went straight to judging me as being a defiant student who thought he didn’t have to follow rules, rather than a professional administrator trying to do his job in two different areas of the University.
Our meeting was hostile until I told him that I wasn’t a student but a campus minister, the coordinator of programming for students of color and the chaplain of the football team. Then he explained to me why he was so vigilant on his job, how on his watch in the past people had gotten hurt right where he was patrolling, and he felt responsible for it. Until this conversation, we saw each other as enemies but after talking it out he understood my obligations and my actions and I understood his.
If you can read a person’s story, if you can hear their heart, there isn’t a person you can’t love.
Had this hard conversation not happened over my parking fiasco we may still be enemies today. But after sharing, we came to a place of grace and I was issued a parking pass for staff and faculty parking lots.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
There is a reason God is the judge and we’re not. We are not qualified!
God is Judge and We are NOT
We don’t know the other person’s history or background. We don’t know the extenuating circumstances. We don’t know how far they have come. And we don’t know the other person’s motives.
We can see their actions, but we can’t see their heart.
“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 7:2).
Are we harsh or overbearing to others? Then God will judge us harshly.
Are we loving and merciful towards others? Do we have a generous spirit, overlooking the faults of others? Then God will show us mercy.
God will treat you as you have treated others.
That can be amazingly good news or very bad news. Let’s give that some thought this week.
Jesus also cautions us to be self-aware, to know our own frailties, judging ourselves first.
“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 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, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”Matthew 7:3-5
OH MAN. This illustration cuts right to the point.
The emphasis is on two little words, “your own.” Three times in three verses, Jesus speaks about “your own eye,” knowing we’d be really good at critiquing others but not so good at critiquing ourselves.
The reality is, deep down, you know your short-comings better than anyone else.
The plank in this verse refers to a large piece of wood. The same word was used to describe the main beam in a house or a battering ram. The battering ram is a telling image, because the person who judges others often uses the truth as a battering ram, rather than as a means to gently and gracefully lead someone toward Christ.
Jesus names our sins as the plank and our brother’s or sister’s sins as a speck because whatever wrongs you may see in someone else, deep down you know your own wrongs so much better… your own painful history, your own hurtful words, impulsive actions and careless thoughts.
Ignoring your own shortcomings will only feed the enemy-making machine.
When we find the humility to be truly conscious of our own wrongs that we will grow to be far more generous and loving towards others.
“First take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5).
Don’t ignore the speck in your brother’s eye – It may need to be removed. Just be sure to do it from the position of grace, love and restoration.
“DARKNESS CANNOT DRIVE OUT DARKNESS; ONLY LIGHT CAN DO THAT. HATE CANNOT DRIVE OUT HATE; ONLY LOVE CAN DO THAT.” Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and our job to actively love with grace.
When I consider my experience with the parking guard on campus, I realize that we both had planks in our eyes! His was the plank of racial stereotypes and mine was a plank of anger and racial fatigue. Once we heard each other’s story though, we came to a place of understanding and grace allowed us to make a compromise. To this day, when I see him, we wave to each other with smiles on our faces! What a gift!
Are you loving or judging? Is your mindset one of restoration or are you a part of the enemy-making machine that pushes people away from God? Let’s put aside that critical spirit, let’s get in touch with our own shortcomings, let’s speak the truth in love and let’s have no part of FEEDING the Enemy-Making machine!