I couldn’t help overhearing the two men at the doctor’s office. "Well, I used to go to that church, but you probably heard what went on there. I go to a little church out in the country now. Not too many attend it, but you get to know everybody."
"Yes, I heard about that pastor. It’s terrible when someone calling himself a man of God acts that way toward a young woman in his congregation."
"He oughta’ be shot," they agreed.
Have you ever felt that way about people who abuse their authority? I admit I have. Slimy hypocrites, I call them, and worse. How can they look at themselves in the mirror and call themselves Christian?
We ought to be glad God doesn’t respond to evil like we do. When we sin, we want mercy and grace, not justice. We certainly don’t want to be shot.
The fruit of God’s Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We can be eternally thankful that he treats us that way and not the way we sometimes want to treat others.
Jesus said in Luke 6:37-38:
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
A few months ago my desktop computer woke my husband with a loud screeching sound. Next day we drove to a town about 30 miles away and I bought a new computer. I left it with them so they could transfer my old data and remove a lot of pre-installed junk software to save me the hassle.
We drove back the next day to pick up the computer. When we got home and I tried to access my data, it wouldn’t open up. So we had to drive back again, our third 60-mile-round trip. The techies admitted they had forgotten to install some of the components and they would need to reinstall everything, including my data. This would take another couple of hours.
Another couple of hours!
We decided to get some lunch. We found a quiet booth in a corner. But then several rough-looking characters came in and sat at the table next to us.
I thought, "Oh no, why did they have to sit by us?" I prepared myself for rowdiness, obscenities and a lot of noise and lack of consideration.
My husband and I continued talking, and after a few minutes I realized the group of "rowdies" were sitting at their table and talking in regular tones with their food in front of them, but they weren’t eating. Then, when another man walked in and joined them, they bowed their heads and asked God’s blessing on their food.
Had I ever misjudged them!
Don’t misunderstand; we have to make some judgments about people and exercise caution, otherwise neither we nor our families would be safe. There are a lot of unscrupulous folks out there. But Jesus is not talking about that kind of judging. He’s talking about condemning people. For example, when we gossip, revile, slander or belittle people behind their backs, assume the worst about them, or harbor contempt for them in our hearts — that’s the kind of thing Jesus was talking about.
At one time or another we probably all have hurt someone with our gossip, and we all have probably suffered from gossip. Words can and do hurt. But our Savior has forgiven us for everything we have ever done. We can rest in that forgiveness, free from the need to condemn those who have hurt us. We can forgive others because God has forgiven us.
Jesus said he didn’t come to condemn sinners but to save them (John 3:17). And Jesus lives in us. In fact, Paul says he is our life (Colossians 3:1-4). Safe in his loving arms, we can forgive others even as God, for his sake, has forgiven us (Ephesians 5:1).
As for the computer techs who caused me all that hassle, I forgave them. And they gave me a $50 gift certificate for my trouble. That didn’t make up for the stress and frustration they caused me, but it about covered the cost of three 60-mile round trips. Besides, if it hadn’t been for them, I’d never have had the chance to wrongly judge those rowdy-looking characters in the diner and be reminded to thank God that he is the ultimate Judge of us all.