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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Meehan » James Meehan - Judgmental, Bigoted Hypocrites... and Jesus

James Meehan - Judgmental, Bigoted Hypocrites... and Jesus

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    James Meehan - Judgmental, Bigoted Hypocrites... and Jesus
TOPICS: Judgment

So the other day, I was having a conversation with a pastor friend of mine who in this conversation they're recounting something that they had talked about with their high school daughter. Their high school daughter comes to them and says, "Hey dad, I don't know if I wanna be a Christian anymore". And this parent who is a pastor at a Christian church was a little bit concerned because, you know, like as a pastor and a parent, you want what's best for your kids. And so this pastor is like kind of taken aback. He's surprised by this statement from his daughter. And so he begins to ask some questions to figure out where this is coming from. And eventually his daughter says to him, "Dad if I have to choose between loving God and loving my gay friends, I think I would choose loving my gay friends".

I think the reason that that statement is so heartbreaking to me is because as we've been exploring throughout this series, Kingdom People, Jesus never separated loving God from loving others. As a matter of fact, over and over again, he joined those ideas together to help us understand that in the kingdom of God, we are called to love God with every part of who we are, our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love others the same way that God has loved us. And so over the course of the last seven weeks, we have been exploring the Sermon on the Mount.

This is Jesus' manifesto of what life is like when God is in charge. And throughout this series, we have discovered what it really looks like to live according to the values of God's kingdom rather than the values of our culture. But none of these things that we have been learning are actually that easy to live out. And tragically as the church here in the United States, we have so often gotten these things wrong. Recently, there was a survey that went out asking non-Christians what they thought about Christians. And the three most common words used to describe Christians by non-Christians were judgmental, hypocritical and bigoted. Judgmental, hypocritical and bigoted. And this is so heartbreaking because sadly, we have become known for the very things that Jesus taught us not to be.

And so as we step into week seven of our series, Kingdom People, we're also stepping into Matthew chapter seven, the last chapter of Jesus' teachings found in the Sermon on the Mount. And we're going to be walking through 12 verses where Jesus is going to teach us how we are meant to relate to other people. And this passage of scripture specifically is one that I would bet is one of the most commonly misunderstood and least practiced passages of scripture found throughout the New Testament. And so together, we're going to walk through this and do the best we can to understand what it is that Jesus was getting at so that we can live according to his values and not simply our desires. So picking up in verse one of Matthew chapter seven, here's what Jesus says. He says, "Do not judge or you too will be judged for in the same way that you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you".

What Jesus is challenging us to do is to not judge. But it's important to recognize that there are different ways of understanding judgment, right? Because there is good judgment and then there's also bad judgment. So what type of judgment is Jesus calling out in us? Well, it's the type of judgment that sees others as less than. It's the type of judgment that looks down on other people. Because there's the judgment that means to discern which is all about telling the difference between two things. And then there's the kind of judgment that is about condemning, looking down on others or seeing them as less than, right? Jesus is not saying that we should not practice good judgment, knowing the difference between right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, helpful and harmful. Being able to discern the difference between those things is really important for us to live as Kingdom People. But we are not to get this wrong to the point where instead of telling the difference between things, we begin looking down on other people.

So here's what Jesus is getting at in the first two verses of this section. He's saying, "Don't look down on others because if you look down on others, others will look down on you". Don't look down on others because if you do, they're gonna look down on you. And so the question that we have to ask for those of us who are followers of Jesus is how do we want to be judged? And whatever way that is, is how we are called to judge others, hopefully it's with discernment and not condemnation. Because I don't think any of us want to be looked down on because of the things that we do wrong, because of the things that we don't have or because of the things that people might disagree with us about. But one of the challenges that we've got to be aware of is the fact that it can be really easy to justify our judgment.

One of the ways that we've done this as Christians is we've said things like, "Hey, we wanna love the sinner but hate the sin". And while that sounds really good at first, when we take a closer look, what we begin to realize is that when we think about loving the sinner and hating the sin, we're putting our focus exactly where Jesus tells us it shouldn't be. So picking up in verse three, here's what Jesus says, "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? How can you say to your brother, let me take the speck out of your eye when all the time there's 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".

So what is it that Jesus is getting at here? He's asking us to not look down on others because of what they do wrong. That's what the spec symbolizes. It's the things that other people do wrong. It's the sins in their lives. And the plank are the things that we do wrong. The sins in our lives. This is so important because the more we focus on their sins, the easier it is to ignore our sins. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said it this way, he said that, "Judging others makes us blind whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil into the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are". And as followers of Jesus, as Kingdom People, people led by him, shaped by grace and moved by love, we are called to live according to the values of God's kingdom and not the values of our culture. And the reality is is that we live in a world with this overwhelming desire to call out and cancel offenders.

But what Jesus is telling us is that as his followers, our priority has to be on confessing our sins and not just calling out their sins. The culture of God's kingdom is confession culture not cancel culture or call out culture. Because when we focus on the things that we've done wrong then we can begin to see clearly who we are and who others are. Because it's actually the church that should be the safest place for you to open up about all of the things in your life that you're ashamed of, the things that you've done wrong, the sins that you want to keep hidden. The church is supposed to be the place where you can go to confess those, to bring them before others and before God so that you can experience healing and freedom. Because when we confess our sins to God, we are met with forgiveness.

When we confess our sins to one another, we experience healing. And all of us as human beings, we've made a mess of our lives and we need the mercy of God. And since the very beginning, the church was always meant to be a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints. And so we have to be extra careful as Kingdom People that we don't fall into the temptation of focusing on their sins while ignoring our sins. Because of what Jesus is inviting us to do is to not look down on others because of what they do wrong. Now in this next verse, what Jesus is gonna do is he's gonna shake it up a little bit by coming at things from a different angle. Instead of just focusing on what others do wrong, Jesus wants us to pay attention on another thing that can cause us to see ourselves as greater and others as less.

Here's what he says in Matthew 7:6. He 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". So I'm gonna tell you what I think Jesus is getting at and then I'll explain how I got there. Here's what Jesus is saying, he's saying, "Don't look down on others because of what they don't have". Don't look down on others because of what they don't have. Because judgment, condemnation doesn't always come from focusing on the things that other people do wrong sometimes it comes from focusing on the other things that people don't have. Because in journey that we call life, there are going to be times where we have something that others don't, where we have sacred things, where we have pearls.

Maybe it's because we have a relationship with Jesus and our friends don't. Maybe it's because we're the kind of people who believe that we have the truth and those other people are believing a lie. Maybe it's because we're the kind of people who practice empathy and those other people are just a bunch of jerks. And if we're not careful, when we frame things in that way, we can start to see our relationship with them as a conflict between us and them. And we start to elevate ourselves because of what we do have, a relationship with Jesus, truth, grace, love, whatever that thing might be and we lower others because of what they don't have. And over time, if we continue to do this then what we'll do is we'll actually see others as less than human. We will dehumanize them. I think that's why Jesus is saying that the other characters in this part of the story are dogs and pigs. Because if we're not careful, we can begin to look down on other so much that we stop seeing them as human beings made in the image of God.

Steve Corbett is a Christian leader who has spent a tremendous amount of time helping to meet the needs of people throughout the world who don't have a lot of material goods or wealth. And here's what he talks about when it comes to this idea. He says that, "Until we embrace our mutual brokenness, our work with low income people is likely to do more harm than good". He says that, "I sometimes unintentionally reduce poor people to objects that I use to fulfill my own need to accomplish something". And then he goes on to say, "I am not okay and you are not okay but Jesus, Jesus can fix us both". The beauty of Jesus is that when people were seen by their culture as less than, Jesus always saw them as loved. There's this event in the gospel accounts where this crowd of people who are described as being harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

But instead of seeing them as less than, instead of seeing them through the eyes of condemnation, the Bible tells us that Jesus looked at them with compassion. He saw them for who they really are, human beings made in the image of God who are desperate for love and for mercy. And so for those of us who are followers of Jesus, who identify as Kingdom People, well, we wanna make sure that we don't make the mistake of doing is looking down on others because of what they don't have. So as we've been walking through this part of the Sermon on the Mount so far, we've covered a lot of what not to do, right? Don't judge, don't look down on others because of what they do wrong and what they don't have. But this next part, Jesus is sort of going to flip the script and begin to instruct us on what we are to do.

So picking up in verse seven, he says this, "Ask and it will be given to you, seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, the one who seeks finds and to the one who knocks the door will be opened. But which of you, if your son asks for bread will give him a stone or if he asks for a fish will give him a snake. If you then though you are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him". Ask, seek, knock. Here's what Jesus doesn't say. He doesn't say demand. He doesn't say take. And he doesn't say barge in. Because what happens when you try to take something from somebody else that isn't yours, they hold onto it tighter.

But what happens when we humble ourselves and ask people for help, more often than not, people are actually really willing to share. And what Jesus is helping us to see here is that anytime we want something from somebody else, they always have the freedom to say no because we're all human beings made in the image of God and we have the dignity to choose what we think is best. And what other people might think is best might be different than what we think is best. But when we try to force our views on them, what's going to happen is they're going to actually become resistant to whatever it is that we're trying to offer. And so Jesus is saying, hey, humble yourself and honor others. Because no matter who you are, no matter what they've done, no matter what they've said, they're still a human being made in the image of God. And that mentality, that posture of humility applies just as much to other people as it does to our Heavenly Father.

And so we have to resist the temptation to try to force God to give us what we want. But instead we are to look to the example of God to shape how we interact with others. Because what does our Heavenly Father do with us? He's not this puppet master, pulling the strings behind the curtains. What he is, is a loving father who honors our freedom to choose. He honors our dignity. And so as we are interacting with other people, instead of trying to shame them for what they've done wrong, instead of trying to force good things on them that they don't have but we do, we're called to simply offer requests, to invite them to share, to give, to be open, to be generous because that is the way of the kingdom. That's what Jesus is inviting us to do, taking approach defined by humility and curiosity.

So then in verse 12, Jesus summarizes everything up to this point with these words, "So in everything do to others which you would have them do to you for this sums up the law and the prophets". Do to others what you would have them do to you. This is the golden rule, do what you would want other people to do to you. I love the way Dallas Willard talks about this when he says, "That the golden rule is devoted to the good in the lives of those around us and this reaches far beyond the mere absence of harm. It aspires toward a remarkable richness in their lives, not simply the alleviation of their suffering". What Jesus is trying to help us understand is that as Kingdom People, there's a big difference between condemnation and compassion. Condemnation looks down on others but compassion seeks the good of others.

And as followers of Jesus, as Kingdom People, people who have been led by him, people who have been shaped by his grace, people who are moved by his love, our posture should always be to show compassion to others, to love them the way that we would want to be loved. Now I know at this point, it's not really easy to talk about these things and nod our heads and say, yeah, that sounds really good but it is really challenging to actually live these truths out in practice. And so what I wanna do is simply share with you what it is that God is helping me to change in my own life. Because I recognize that as a follower of Jesus, there's a lot of times where I get this wrong. There's a lot of times where I fall prey to the bad kind of judgment, where I look down on others because of what they do wrong, because of what they don't have or maybe because of the ways that I just disagree with what they think or believe.

And so here's what God is showing me. The first thing he's showing me is that in the kingdom, we look in the mirror before we point a finger. In the kingdom, we look in the mirror before we point a finger. I remember last year during all things 2020 with the origination of the COVID pandemic, with the racial tensions that were all throughout America, with a political division that was taking place. I kept getting so angry and frustrated by the amount of Christian leaders and pastors who from my perspective seemed like they were doing more harm than good. Because from my perspective, it seemed like they were fueling the outrage and feeding the division rather than calling for people to have empathy for the other side. And instead of actually seeing the other side as human beings to be loved, it seemed like they were demonizing and dehumanizing them in ways that just drove people further apart.

And I remember one day just being so frustrated, I was reading through the Sermon on the Mount. And as I'm reading this, I get to the part where Jesus is like, hey, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. And I'm like, yeah, I wish people would get this. And then I kept reading. And eventually it got to this part and Jesus said, hey, before you try to take the speck out of their eye deal with the plank in your own eyes. And I felt like Jesus just slapped me across the face and said, hey, this is for you because I was doing to them the exact same thing that they were doing to others. I found myself in a place where I was judging the judges, condemning the condensers and wanting to counsel the counselors. And I was convicted of my own hypocrisy. And so since then, I've been asking God to help me be better at this, to have compassion for others, to see them the way that he sees them.

And so here's some of the things that I've been doing. I've been praying Psalm 1:39 daily where the Psalmist says this. He says, "Search me God and know my heart, test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there's any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting". I've been journaling at night asking God to help me repent from the things that I've done wrong, to give me the strength to follow him more faithfully. I've been confessing my sins to some of my friends, just letting them know that, hey, here's what I'm struggling with and here's what I need your help to hold me accountable to. What I'm learning is that in the kingdom, we're called to look in the mirror before we point a finger. The second thing that God is showing me is that in the kingdom, we're called to lead with compassion and not condemnation. We're called to lead with compassion and not condemnation.

You see, when I get frustrated with people, it's really easy to begin to think less about them and then to say things that are not honoring about them. And it wasn't too long ago that I heard another pastor say these words and it was incredibly convicting. He said that if your heart isn't breaking for them, you better not open your mouth about them. Yeah, he got me because I was confronted by the fact that there were times where I would see others as less than and I would talk about them as if they were less than but that is not the way of Jesus. He never saw others as less than, he sees them as loved.

And so I had to go through this process of beginning to identify when I saw others in ways that God doesn't. And I began to ask God to give me the eyes to see others the same way that he does, to treat others the way that he does, to love people the way that he does. And I had to invite people in my life to bring accountability when I mess this up because I still mess this up. But every day, I'm trying to do a little bit better of seeing others with compassion as human beings made in the image of God with hopes, dreams, desires, fears and frustrations, just like I do. People who, even though they don't always get it right are honestly probably trying the best they can with what they know just like I am. In the kingdom, we lead with compassion and not condemnation.

And then the last thing that I feel like God is teaching me is that in the kingdom we love others the way that we would want to be loved. We love others the way that we would want to be loved. I've got this WWJD, what would Jesus do bracelet that I wear all the time to be reminded that as Kingdom People, we are called to love others the same way that God through Christ has loved us. But what's interesting is in this passage of scripture we read, what Jesus talked about is this idea of doing for others what we would want done for us. And as I've been reading this, here's what I'm realizing is that it is really hard to actually know and do what Jesus would do because like that standard is so high, that there are times it feels unachievable. And I was introduced to this concept of these different stages of maturity in the spiritual life where the first stage is simply us asking the question, what do I want?

The second stage is us learning to ask the question, what would I want if I were you? And then the final stage is what would Jesus do? And as we're going on this journey of becoming more like Jesus for the sake of others, discipleship is what that's called, eventually we want to arrive at stage three but the reality is, I don't think I'm there yet. Because there's a lot of times where I think about what I wanna do and then I just try to justify why Jesus would do what I would do instead of actually doing the work of slowing down and asking the question, what would I want if I were you. If I were in that other person's situation, what would I want somebody else to do for me? And then how can I do that for them. And so here are the things that I'm learning. I'm learning that in the kingdom, we look in the mirror before we point a finger. I'm learning that in the kingdom, we lead with compassion and not condemnation. And finally, I'm learning that in the kingdom, we love others the same way that we would want to be loved.

Now I know that maybe some of you at this point are asking the question, okay, but like what about truth and accountability? And that's a fantastic question because those things absolutely do matter. Because as followers of Jesus, we are called to follow the one who is truth in human form. But how we bring truth and accountability makes a big difference. Because if all we do is preach truth from a distance, whether onstage or on social media, then it's gonna be really hard for people to receive it. This is why Jesus is inviting us to practice love up close, to bring truth and accountability to others in the same way that we would want it brought to us with love with mercy, with grace, with compassion, with kindness. And I think the thing that's so powerful about this is it's that approach that actually leads to repentance.

In Romans 2:3-4, the apostle Paul says this, He says that, "When you a mere human being pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think that you will escape God's judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, his forbearance and his patience, not realizing that God's kindness, his kindness is intended to lead you to repentance"? You see, when we try to force our way of thinking on other people, it's never actually gonna lead them to change. But when we love people where they are as they are, the same way that Jesus has loved us, what it does is it opens people up to the truth of who God is and the life that he's called them to.

I think the person who gets that better than anyone else alive today is a man named Daryl Davis. Darryl is a black man from Maryland who has spent the last 30 years doing the work of befriending KKK members and other white supremacists. Like he literally finds these people, sits down, gets to know their name, their family, their story and begins a friendship with them. Because what he recognizes is that if all he does is throw hate at them from a distance it's never gonna change the way that they think, it's never gonna change the way that they see him. And so he has done something that a lot of people have actually been critical of which is getting close enough to know them, to hear their story. And over the course of last 30 years, it's estimated that more than 200 individuals that were white supremacists or KKK members have abandoned those organizations and that hateful ideology because of the compassion that Daryl Davis showed them.

I think one of my favorite examples of this was there was this woman whose husband was imprisoned because of some hate crimes he committed. And Daryl all heard about this on the news and so he called this woman up and said, "Hey, I want to take you to visit your husband in prison because I know that you haven't been able to go see him". And this woman is a little bit surprised and also offended and begins to just like tear him to shreds over the phone. And Daryl just says, "Here's what's gonna happen. I'm gonna come in and pick you up, I'm gonna take you to see your husband". And that's exactly what he did. And over the course of several months and years, Daryl began to build a friendship with this family to help them stay connected to their husband and dad that was in prison.

And over the course of several years, this family realized that the beliefs they had about Daryl were just not true. That their ideology that was rooted in hate was beginning to crumble because of the compassion that he was showing them. Because what they realized is that none of the other members of their hateful racist organization were doing for them what Daryl does. The rest of their organization had abandoned them. But here is Daryl, a black man showing up time and time again, to show them the love of Jesus up close because only love gets close enough to know. And for those of us who are Kingdom People, followers of Jesus, we have been called to be led by him wherever he takes us, to be shaped by the grace that transforms us from the inside out and to be moved by love for others because ultimately that's what we would want others to do for us, to love us the same way that Jesus would. Let's pray together:

Heavenly Father, I thank you so much for the fact that we get to be a part of your kingdom, that you've invited us to be a part of your mission of bringing the good news of Jesus to others, to help them understand that in Jesus, there is no condemnation but all of us are loved by you and invited into your family.

I know there are probably some of you right now that as you're hearing this message, you're realizing that there's a part of your life where you're still holding on to negative views of others because of what they've done wrong because of what they don't have or maybe because of what they think or believe that you just don't agree with. But today God is asking you to let go of those condemning views and to see those people with compassion, if that's you and you're at one of our Life Church locations, would you just raise your hand so I can pray for you. If you're watching online, type it in the chat or on YouTube, leave a comment down below as we can pray together and ask God to give us the eyes to see others the same way that he does.

Heavenly Father, we thank you that because of Jesus, we have been shown a better way, that because of Jesus, we can love others the same way that you loved us because while we were still sinners, you died for us. And so God, I pray that you would give us the eyes to see others the way you see them, the heart to reach out to others the way that you would ask us to. That God we would see them not with eyes of condemnation but eyes of compassion.

Now, there are others of you right now who would say, "I'm not actually a Christian. I'm not a follower of Jesus. I don't know if I believe in this whole God thing". But what I hope you'll understand is that the good news of Jesus, the gospel is that, God so loved the world that he sent his son, Jesus, to die for you and me so that anybody who believes in him would not perish but would have eternal life, life with God forever. And that God did not send his son Jesus into the world to condemn it but to save it through his sacrifice on the cross. Because as human beings, all of us, we were created by God for a relationship with him.

But because of our sins, the things that we've done to hurt others, ourselves in the heart of God, there's been a separation created, a fracture in our relationship with God. But through Jesus, God made a way for us to be made right with him for our relationship to be healed. And he is inviting all of us into a new relationship with him, to turn our backs on our old lives and to turn towards him, to receive his grace, his forgiveness and his compassion that is readily available to anybody who would receive it. Maybe that's why you're here today to begin a relationship with Jesus, to say YES to the invitation that will change everything from here on out, wherever you are today and you're saying, Jesus today, I want to give you my life. I want to turn my life to you. I want your love your grace and your mercy.

If that's you, simply lift your hand right now. All over the places people are saying YES to Jesus. If you're online, let us know in the chat, type it in the comment saying, Jesus, I'm giving you my life. As you are making that decision, I need you to know that that is the most important choice you can make in your entire life. Because in that moment, you become a new creation, a new person, no longer defined by the sins of your past but to find by God's love for you. And as you're making that choice, together as a church family, as a Switch movement, we are going to pray out loud together, repeating after me:

Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus. I give you my life. I'm turning my back on my old ways and I'm turning towards you. I need your love. I need your grace and I need your mercy in Jesus' name, amen, amen and amen.

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