Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘gossip’

June 14, 2018

Do Not Judge

 Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. Matthew 7:1

When I think of judgment, I remember a scene I witnessed several times growing up. The parents of one of my friends had matching easy chairs in their living room with a small table between them. They would smoke, drink, and comment, usually critically, on whatever they saw on television, in the neighborhood, or standing in front of them. My image was of a self-appointed king and queen meting out judgment on their lowly subjects and rarely granting anything smacking of mercy. As one who was sometimes the subject of their sharp judgment, the memory is not a pleasant one. Even as I write this, fifty years later, I realize I am judging them in return, albeit posthumously. Interestingly, this is exactly what Jesus tells us will happen when we cast judgement on others – that we, too, will be judged.

I believe most Christians are aware of Jesus’ instruction not to judge. What constitutes judgement, however, and whether casting judgement on another out of concern for his or her “salvation” creates a large divide among us. For example, if one truly believes that living outside of the Bible’s behavioral guidelines condemns one to an eternity in hell, would not the loving thing be to tell a friend or family member that they need to repent? Of all the issues that turn people away from the Christian faith, however, the sense that we are overly judgmental is one of the most common. When a person sets foot inside a church and is accosted by language about salvation and other accusations that make them feel less than welcome or worthy of God’s love, it is little wonder so many of our churches are struggling. Personally, I think Jesus tells us to tend to our own house, first.

There is a foundational reason why it is so difficult not to judge: our minds are designed to judge. We constantly categorize what we see, hear, feel, touch, and taste. This is good, that is bad; this is beautiful, that is ugly; this is worthy of my attention, that is not; this is safe, that is dangerous. These judgments are usually made much too quickly to know anything or anyone at more than the shallowest of levels. Yet, this is what our minds do. In that sense, Jesus is asking us to overcome our natural tendency to judge – both for ourselves and for others. More accurately, Jesus asks us to become more discriminating about when to act on our judgments.

One common and frequently overlooked form of judgment is gossip – saying things about a person in his or her absence that we would not say in their presence. Gossip is often malicious, but not always. I sometimes catch myself saying things about someone in a way I would not say to him or her face to face. Usually, I am not trying to hurt them, but rather to be funny. I attempt to be funny, however, at someone else’s expense.

Here is an even more important reason to be careful about casting judgment, however. That which we find most worthy of judgment against another is almost certainly a reflection of a similar trait or tendency within our self. If we are not consciously aware of that particular tendency, we likely have repressed our awareness of it, often out of shame. Bringing those types of issues to light and acknowledging them can be painful. The old saying that when I point a finger at you there are three pointing back at me is often truer than we care to admit.

When it comes to our own shortcomings, we desire mercy for ourselves more readily that we typically grant it to others. When we see something worthy of judgment in another, perhaps our first thoughts should be, “What within me is reacting so negatively to this behavior? Am I guilty of the same thing?” Once we have those answers, we may not be so quick to judge. No one is perfect, but we seldom improve or grow from the harsh judgments of others. Allowing our repressed memories and immature tendencies to rise to conscious awareness helps us to transform those hidden parts of ourselves into something good. Somehow, that transformation also seems magically to transform others, or at least our perception of others. Because the mercy of withholding judgement is something we desire for ourselves, Jesus suggests we grant the same to others.

 This is the 24th in a series of Life Notes entitled “What Did Jesus Say?”

 Prefer to listen? Check out Life Notes Podcasts at www.ContemplatingGrace.com/podcasts

Read Full Post »

Owning Our Sin

Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. –Psalm 32:5

I do not like to be reminded of my sinful nature. I fear that by acknowledging my sin I appear as a weak and undesirable person, and others will think less of me. I can easily recognize sin in those around me, and I too often comment – if only to myself – on their feebleness. Sinners murder and lie and steal. They commit adultery and take the Lord’s name in vain. Surely my shortcomings are not, well, that short. I like to believe I am above such dreadful behaviors.

Although I have never committed murder, physically, when I am honest with myself I know my words and actions sometimes injure others. Is causing mental or emotional anguish less of a sin than causing physical injury? I fear it is not. Just because our legal system does not prosecute mental and emotional harm in the same way it does physical harm does not mean the sins are not comparable when viewed from heaven – or from the heart of a wounded soul. Indeed, physical wounds often heal more quickly and completely than emotional wounds.

We lull ourselves into believing we have only sinned if we get caught, or if there is some direct and negative consequence of our behavior, or if there is no one else to blame it on. We forget that we reap what we sow, and the seeds we sow grow from our thoughts, words, and actions. When we sow harmful behaviors towards others, the resulting pain stems from us, regardless of whether we are identified as its source. Our sins are actions that separate us from God, as well as those that separate us from others. We all sin and need forgiveness, so being a sinner is not something we can truthfully hold against another anymore than being a sinner is something we can realistically deny in ourselves. Recognizing and confessing our sin, however, is healing both for ourselves and those impacted by our sin. Taking responsibility for our actions is an important stage in our growth as human beings and as children of God. Accepting responsibility is also the critical first step in addressing our sins and moving past them.

“The importance of recognizing our sin cannot be overstated. Until we accept responsibility for something, we cannot do anything about it. We must therefore accept our status as sinners before we can begin to deal effectively with the sin in our lives. We need to reach out to God. To do so, we must lessen that which separates us from God – our sin – and we cannot begin to weed out our sinful, separating traits until we admit to possessing them.” Excerpt from Finding Grace in an Imperfect World, available at the FUMC-Lawrence office, my website (www.ContemplatingGrace.Com) and other outlets.

Come home to church this Sunday. You will find that confession is good for the soul!

Front Cover

Read Full Post »

False Witness

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. Exodus 20:16

 Witnesses in Old Testament days, as now, were vitally important. The Jewish Law reads, “A single witness shall not suffice to convict a person of any crime or wrongdoing in connection with any offense that may be committed. Only on the evidence of two or three witnesses shall a charge be sustained” (Deuteronomy 19:15). In other words, conviction of a crime based on the account of one witness would not stand. There had to be at least two witnesses to testify against the accused. The Law goes on to deal with a false witness, saying, “If the witness is a false witness, having testified falsely against another, then you shall do to the false witness just as the false witness had meant to do to the other” (Deuteronomy 19:18b-19a). As such, a false witness received punishment equal to the consequences for the accused, had the accused been found guilty. If a witness testified falsely against another, and the punishment for the accused behavior was death, the false witness would be killed.

The contemporary term for bearing false witness in a legal proceeding is perjury, which continues to be a very serious offense. The ability to apply justice in a fair and impartial manner is dependent on receiving truthful testimony from witnesses. Although the Old Testament Law is formal and bears resemblance to judicial proceedings today, the ninth of the Ten Commandments has a practical and daily implication – do not lie about others.

Lying goes beyond making a false statement about another in a court of law. It includes making false statements about others in social situations, including implying something untrue about another, such as occurs in gossip. Our legal system assumes a person is innocent until proven guilty, but social situations have no such protection. In Biblical times, two or more witnesses had to agree a person was guilty for a charge to stick. Today, one careless post on the internet, or a few careless words overheard by the wrong ears can tarnish a person’s image for years, even when there is no factual basis for what was written or said. Some people counsel us not to respond to false accusations; but sometimes when a person does not respond to an accusation, others assume the accusation has merit. Being falsely accused causes all sorts of complications. It is like asking a man if he is still beating his wife. There is no good answer, once the charge has been made. Similar to trying to cram toothpaste back into the tube, our words cannot be easily retracted. For these reasons and more, we must speak the truth. Speaking the truth is especially important when we are speaking of others.

Read Full Post »