Oh, the internet hurts my head. There is a lot of shouting, and not a lot of listening. Sometimes I wish I could wave a magic wand, do away with social media, and force people to have face-to-face conversations with one another, and discuss their respective positions on life. I don’t think it would solve the world’s problems, but I do believe there might be a little more listening. Less ugliness to one another. Deep down I believe that the majority of people would be kinder, gentler, and more thoughtful with their words in person. At least that is what I would like to believe.
It’s loud out there, and I think it is interesting that I feel God drawing me to simple truths, first loves. I’ve been camped out in Matthew 7 for my devotions.
The chapter begins with a call to not judge others….but then later on tells you how to judge others. Wait…what??
Well as for the first portion of Matthew 7, the world seems aligned. Don’t judge me. Worry about yourself. Don’t worry about the speck in my eye, you have a log in yours! We are a bunch of log-eyed people in America right now. We can’t see each other, so we shout.
“Don’t judge me!”
“No, Don’t judge me!!”
“Nooooo. You are judging me!”
“Uh-uh. You’re judging me!”
In a way I can’t help but laugh. I don’t mean to make light of all the high emotions, but it brings to memory a funny little story from when my oldest son was two-years-old. He and his little buddy each had special chairs situated around a campfire in our backyard. They had played hard, and it was edging past bedtime. Prime time for two-year-old drama. I’m not sure what exactly set off this little argument. But each child was sitting in their own respective chair.
Caleb pats the armrest of his chair, “This is my chair.”
His buddy emphatically bangs his hands on the armrest of his own chair. “This is my chair!!!”
“No. This is my chair!”:
“Noooooo!!!! This is my chair.”
We parents once we figured out what was going on sat back and watched for a moment, and we couldn’t help but laugh at the exchange. Two boys, in their own chair, fighting about sitting in their own chair.
In this divided country there are two camps each sitting in their own chair. At the root I think many of them want the same thing. Relief for the impoverished. Financial health for the nation. A sense of safety. Opportunities for the American Dream. We just have strongly different philosophies on how that should happen. But we are too busy sitting in our own chairs yelling with logs in our eyes.
I know that is a stark oversimplification. It just saddens my heart that there is such missed opportunity to listen and learn from one another. Many of my personal philosophies would never change no matter how much I spoke with someone else. But, I could learn from them and see problems in a new way if I listened. I’m secure with the fact that my chair is my chair. I don’t need to yell about it. But, I can help by pulling logs out my own hypocritical eyes (because we can’t help but a little hypocritical, what with all the specks and logs) and be able to see the specks in others. I could listen to the heart behind the philosophy, and see them as a human being instead of just a philosophy without a face.
So, I think the first part of scripture is about worrying about examining your own heart instead of how other people are wrong. It is about personal responsibility instead of worrying about the responsibility of others.
Now on to the second portion of Matthew 7, starting in verse 15. Here Jesus is speaking about being careful about false prophets, and making a judgement call. We have been created with the capacity to judge situations and people as a manner of safety and preservation. Judgement isn’t quite as all bad as the world paints it to be. Judgement allows me to know if the chair I am sitting in is safe and good to hold me up. It lets me decide if a person is dangerous or safe to let into my life.
So here, Jesus talks about the importance of judging the fruit of a movement or philosophy. Good trees do not produce bad fruit. Bad trees do not produce good fruit. It takes time for fruit to grow on trees. It doesn’t happen over night. When a tree is producing fruit, sometimes there might be something small and shriveled on the tree, this new fruit. But wait and watch what happens in the bigger picture. Judge not one poor choice, but the collective. Is it a basket of healthy fruit, or shriveled fruit. Do the actions align with a whole and balanced representation of scripture, not just a few select verses?
How did Jesus command us to judge? By actions. The “false prophets” can spin pretty words that sound logical, but are their actions loving? A full picture of who Jesus is from Genesis to Revelation, or a few picked out verses?
Condemnation is not synonymous with judgement. A movement or leader is judged in order to know if they are who you want to follow and become more like. As Jesus says in Matthew 7, there are many people who will call out “Lord, Lord, but will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” Listening to someone, and aligning yourself with someone are two very different things.
We need to use wisdom, and yes, good judgement to know what teachings to embrace. So yes as this funny little toddler says in the video below, “Worry bout your own self.” But as scripture teaches us in Matthew 7 one way to worry about ourselves is to be careful which teachings, beliefs, and philosophies that we embrace. Just because it sounds “good” or “logical” does not mean that it is good for us. Wait, and look at what fruit is there. Sit in your own chair, be confident in it, but be willing to listen to the heart of the person in the other chair.