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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » James Merritt » James Meehan - Why Is It So Hard to Get This Right?

James Meehan - Why Is It So Hard to Get This Right?

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    James Meehan - Why Is It So Hard to Get This Right?
TOPICS: Switch Uncut

James Meehan: Well, hello and welcome to this week's episode of Switch Uncut. I am your host James Meehan with our cohost, Ms. Katelyn Caffrey. Katelyn, thank you so much for always being willing to be a part of these conversations, except, you know, last week when you were out of town, we replaced you with Alison Macross, she did a phenomenal job, but it was temporary because we're so glad to have you back. One of these days, you can kick me out and you can bring in somebody else and I'm sure that everybody watching will be grateful to hear another perspective because, you know, I talk a lot. So with that being said, this week's episode, Switch Uncut, we're doing what we always do, where we're tackling your questions about faith, following Jesus and the Bible. And specifically for this week's episode, we want to dive a little bit deeper into what we talked about in this past week's message at Switch, where we are coming to the end of our series, kingdom people walking through the sermon on the Mount, where Jesus lays out his manifesto for what life in the kingdom of God is supposed to look like. And in 7:1-12, Jesus lays out how we are to relate to other people as followers of Jesus, he begins by saying, "Do not judge or you too will be judged". And then he closes out that kind of portion of teaching by telling us to do to others what we would want done to us. And in that message, we talked about this idea that that mindset is what we have to have in place as followers of Jesus if we want to relate to other people well. Now the reality is though, is that there are still so many different questions that have arisen that people have had about, okay, but like, what does that mean and look like in practice? And what about the other scriptures that sometimes people can quote to justify either being really harsh on other people or totally ignoring other people and what's going on in their lives? So that's what we wanna do today is do a more thorough conversation surrounding these ideas so that we as followers of Jesus can learn how to judge justly.

Katelyn Caffrey: Yeah, that's really good. The first question that kinda comes to mind out of Jesus's opening statement in Matthew 7, where again, he says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged". The first question that comes into my mind is, okay, but does that mean that we're supposed to ignore sin? So start to help me wrestle through that, what do we do when we see someone doing something that is not okay? Are we supposed to just keep it inside? Conceal don't feel?.

James Meehan: Ooh, come on, okay, Frozen, I see you. Yeah, I think that would probably be the wrong approach. We want to take our cues from Jesus, not from Elsa. Now she might be a great singer, but Jesus is the good teacher. So here's the thing that's so important, is yes Jesus says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged". He goes on to say in the same way that you judge in that way you will be judged. And then later on, he talks about how when we judge, this is how we're supposed to do it. So in the same portion of teaching, Jesus says don't judge, and then he says, when you do do it this way, is he like just confused? Did he forget what he said? No, of course not. Jesus is helping us understand how to judge justly. And so he begins by making the very true statement that the way we judge others will determine how others judge us. If I am a jerk to other people, other people will likely be a jerk to me in response, because that's just how human beings typically operate. And so what Jesus is not saying is to ignore sin because the reality is, is that as followers of Jesus, we have to be able to judge the difference between right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, harmful and helpful. And so the type of judgment that Jesus is telling us not to engage in is probably more better defined as condemnation. It's a judgment that looks down on others. And so what Jesus is not saying is to turn a blind eye to sin, but what he is saying is that the way that we engage with sin matters, the way that we approach and address sin is a big deal, and it's in this portion I'm teaching, like we talked about in the message where Jesus says, "Hey, before you start calling out all of their sins, maybe you should start dealing with your own sins". And that mindset right there of starting with confessing our sins before calling out their sins is I think a really, really helpful step in the process of learning how to judge justly. Now, again, this is just a little bit of a tease of what we talked about in that message. If you haven't watched it, make sure you go and check it out. It's on our YouTube channel to see how we walk through the entire portion of scripture, but kinda big idea we wanna make sure is very clear here, is that Jesus is not asking us to ignore sin, just instructing us on how to deal with sin in a way that is good and true and helpful. And that often starts by dealing with our own sin before we start focusing on someone else's sin.

Katelyn Caffrey: That's great. Do you think that the reason why it's so hard to do this well, is that because we are generally unaware of ourselves? Like, is it because we have such a hard time looking at ourselves in the mirror and it's a lot easier to see the person that's standing right in front of me, annoying the crap out of me or something like that, like, is that why it's so difficult, or what are some of the other things that make it so hard?

James Meehan: Yeah, I mean, I think that's a big factor because I think the reality is, is that when we judge others unjustly, when we condemn them, what we're doing is we're looking down on them. Maybe it's because of what they do wrong, maybe it's because of what they don't have. Maybe it's just because of the things that they believe that we don't agree with. But when we look down on others, what we're sort of doing in our minds is we are lowering them in order to elevate ourselves. It's kind of like the really cliche way that people talk about bullies in TV shows where it's like, well, the reason why that person is a bully is because they feel small and they just wanna feel big by picking on others. And now, well, I think there's absolutely times where that is very, very true. It's just so funny how that doesn't just get played out when people are bullying others physically, it comes any time we are judging and condemning others and we're looking down on them, we do it to elevate ourselves. As human beings, we are all sinners. We have all been infected by this disease of self-centeredness, this disease that blinds us to the image of God in others and distorts our understanding of the image of God in us. And so instead of actually seeing ourselves the way that God does, we oftentimes see ourselves as less where maybe we're racked with shame or guilt or this feeling of insignificance. And so we start looking for ways to make ourselves feel better, and sadly that oftentimes comes from looking down on other people and tearing them apart because of the things that they do that we just don't agree with. And so I think this is one of the most important things that Jesus confronts in us in this passage of teaching is acknowledging that before we address the sin in someone else, we have to acknowledge their humanity. And in order to do that, we actually have to gain awareness in the aspects of our own lives that are out of alignment with who God wants us to be. And so I think that that's one of the things, I know there's more things, but like, as I say, all that, Caitlin, are there any things that kind of come to your mind?

Katelyn Caffrey: What's coming to my mind is like how necessary the Holy Spirit is to the process of doing this well, like Jesus doesn't just talk about it in this passage. He actually equips us to do this well by giving us his Holy Spirit, who that's like literally part of why we have the Holy Spirit is to help us discern like right from wrong, good from bad. And like 1 Corinthians comes to my mind where with the Holy Spirit, like where it's in the whole passage, where he's talking about how the Holy Spirit works in the way that we're meant to operate in step with the spirit and like right smack dab in the middle of all of that is the passage that we call the love chapter.

James Meehan: Come on.

Katelyn Caffrey: And so if we are not operating in the Holy Spirit and it doesn't look like love, we're doing it wrong. So that's the thing that I'm kind of processing is how much I need to like lean into and rely on the Holy Spirit when it comes to judging justly.

James Meehan: Yeah, well, so it's so far okay. But here's the part that this is why it matters that we talk about this. When you say love, depending on somebody's context and the way that they view the world, they're going to typically lean one of two ways when it comes to love. Now I'm just gonna make this statement, I'm not saying that this is always true, I've just found it to be generally true, that people who are more progressive in their politics tend to define love as being lots and lots of grace and not very much truth. Whereas people who are more conservative in their politics tend to find love as lots and lots of truth with not as much grace. And so what can happen is if somebody is more, you know, progressive leaning, when they think about loving other people, it is all about accepting that person for who they are, affirming their identity as somebody that is loved by God, and there is usually very little calling out of sin or challenge or confrontation or putting a lot of emphasis on truth when parts of their life are out of alignment with that. And then if somebody is more conservative in their politics, they have a tendency to put most of the emphasis on telling people the truth about what they need to know, what the Bible says and how they need to live that out. And there's oftentimes not a ton of empathy or grace or compassion for where people are in the moment. And I think this is the thing that we have to resist as followers of Jesus. We have to acknowledge that we live in a world where there are different forces and ways of thinking that are trying to change our understanding of what it means to follow Jesus, to change our understanding of what love is supposed to look like. They're going to be these temptations to drift to one of these extremes, either all grace little truth or all truth very little grace, and either of those are distortions of love. It's in John's gospel where we are told that Jesus is full of grace and truth, right? It's not either or it's both. And so for us to actually understand how to love others well, we have to bring those two ideas together, full of grace, full of truth, because as followers of Jesus, our worldview, the way that we see others, the way that we interact with others has to be more shaped by good biblical theology than our distorted political ideology. That is so much easier said than done, but we have to be aware of it and call it out so that we can engage wisely in ways that are actually loving to others, full of grace and full of truth.

Right, yeah, if God is love and Jesus is the fullness of who God is and he is all grace, all truth, there has to be that spot where those two things come together and actually operate in conjunction. So when we look at Jesus, how did Jesus go about judging people? Are there examples of him doing that, that we can look at?

Oh, for sure. And I think this is what's so beautiful about the scriptures that have been handed down to us is that we have four different accounts of Jesus's life, his teachings, his methods, his ways of thinking that we can use to inform us on what we're supposed to do in our modern world. And as followers of Jesus, if we're not taking our cues from Jesus, then I think we've got something a little bit out of place. If we follow Jesus long enough, it is inevitable that we will start to look more like him and to live more like him. And this is the part that I think can be really challenging for those of us that might be a little bit more conservative in our politics is acknowledging that the way that Jesus interacted with sinners was really, really heavy on grace. And yes, there is always truth, but he wasn't trying to shove truth down their throats. When we look at the scene after Jesus calls Matthew to be one of his disciples, Matthew throws this party where he invites all of these sinners and tax collectors to come and be a part of it. And we have Jesus, the Messiah, a Jewish rabbi, the son of God, who is fully God and fully man who is blameless and without sin, dining, eating and drinking with sinners and tax collectors, and the Pharisees were not okay with this because in their mindset what they saw, was Jesus being so gracious and loving towards these sinners, that they were afraid that Jesus's methods would lead those sinners to believe that they're not actually sinners. And he gets accused of eating and drinking and being friendly with them to the point where it was kind of being implied, that Jesus was compromising with sin and being complicit with sinners. But here's what's so beautiful about Jesus, is he knew exactly what he was doing, right? Because Jesus recognized that if he really wanted to bring these people to God, to life, to truth, to the fullness of life that God offers, then the way to do that is not to shout the truth at them, but to show them love up close to build a relationship, because what we can all agree with is that we are so much more open to hearing the truth from people that we know care about us than some random person on the street or the internet. Like I can't think of a single time someone angrily yelling on the internet has ever convinced me to change my mind about anything. But when I have friends, when I have family, people who I know care about me personally, showing me different things that maybe are different than what I've believed in the past. I'm more open to actually considering whether it's true or not, because I know they care about me. And the other thing that I think is important to think about is the fact that like when you are in the presence of unfiltered grace, when you are in the presence of pure holiness in human form, you are going to be abundantly aware of how short you fall of that standard. Because it's like, if you were to go and sit down with a professional NFL player, they would not have to tell you that they work out a lot for you to be able to tell that they work out a lot. They wouldn't have to tell you, "Hey, you should work out more". You would just be seeing them and then thinking about you and you realize, I should probably work out more. And then if you've got that friend who just recently started doing CrossFit and is constantly telling you about CrossFit, how you need to do it, your reaction is probably like, yeah, no thanks, and like, I know those are silly examples, but I think the power of this idea comes from the fact that Jesus, holiness in human form, unfiltered grace got close enough to know these sinners and tax collectors. And because of the proximity of their relationship, they saw how he lived, and just his example would have convicted them of their sin in ways that were probably so much more powerful than if Jesus simply yelled at them with a megaphone.

Yeah, proximity is powerful. That's what I'm hearing out of this conversation. And it actually makes me think of a really vivid example of that in my own life. Probably one of the most formative moments of my life is a moment where my dad called me out on something super hard, and what it would not have been nearly as if like anyone else could have said the same words to me, and they would have had little to no effect on me whatsoever, but because it was my dad and he has the proximity to me, he like lives up close and personal with me, when he called me out, when he said, "Hey, you know, you don't get to claim to follow Jesus and also treat your mom like that". It wrecked me. It wrecked me because his proximity made those words so powerful. And that was the moment that I was like, "Dude, I gotta take this stuff seriously". And it like completely sent me on a different trajectory, but that was because my dad loved me enough to be in close relationship with me and like his proximity and like the timeliness of him calling me out too, man changed my life. You know, did it feel great? No.

No, of course not.

But it was incredibly effective.

Dude, I was like, oh gosh, that is whoa, but...

I know.

But I think the thing that's so powerful about that example that you're describing is your relationship with your dad wasn't mostly just based on him telling you what you're doing wrong. Your relationship with your dad was so much more than that. And I think that's the thing that we have to resist as followers of Jesus is to make our primary role in the world, shouting at the rest of the world all the things that they are doing wrong. I can't remember who it was, but there was a theologian who said that the role of the church is not to make the world more like the church, but to make the world more like the world by simply being the church. And what they're describing is this idea that we are called to be so faithful and committed to Jesus, that the rest of the world looks at us. They see something radically different in the way that we love one another. And this isn't the thing that I think is so important for us to get our minds around, is us shouting at the rest of the world all the things they are doing wrong does not make us look any different than the rest of the world. The entire world is consumed with shouting at people they disagree with, whether it's about politics or the way that people are responding to the coronavirus pandemic or what someone's favorite sports team is, whether they're like Marvel or DC or whatever, it is so easy for people to shout truth from a distance, but as followers of Jesus, we look to his example and we see someone who showed his love up close because God of heaven, did not stay distant from us, but he came close in the person of Jesus to show his love in person. And so again, what we're not saying is that we ignore sin or that we deny truth, or that we hide the truth. Of course we don't do any of those things. We're just saying that how we bring truth to others matters because if we do it in a way that is not loving, then I would argue it's not true anymore because for something to be true, it must be consistent with reality. And for those of us who believe that Jesus is the son of God, that God is the creator of everything, what we believe is that the foundation of reality is the God that we worship. And so if the foundation of reality is God, if all of reality has been shaped by God, who is the author of life and who is love then for something to be consistent with reality, it has to be loving. So we can say accurate statements in ways that are not loving. And when we do, even if the statements are factual, it is no longer true because in order for it to actually be true, it has to be consistent with not just the nature of what's happening in our world, but also the character of our God who is fully loving, fully truthful and fully gracious. And so this idea of choosing either or grace or truth, we have to reject it and throw it out. We have to live in the tension of the both, and because that's exactly what Jesus came to embody.

That's fantastic, I think that, that speaks a lot of peace into a question that I've heard brought up a lot, or like aa fear/concern that I've heard brought up a lot is the idea of like God's final judgment. And it being like this immensely horrifically scary thing, and God just being like this big, mean judge sitting up in the sky. But what you described is a God who formed all of reality in a way that's consistent with his character in nature, which is love. So can you speak a little bit more into the way that God judges?

Yeah, so what I would always wanna point back to is God's character, because what we believe as followers of Jesus is that God is totally loving, he is totally just, that he is gracious and he never denies truth. And so when we think about God's judgment, we have to think about it through that lens. And so if we just focus on one of God's qualities and not all of God's qualities, it can be easy to assume that either, God is going to judge everyone really, really harshly, and there will be no mercy or God isn't really gonna hold people accountable for the things they do wrong because you know, he's gonna have grace and mercy. I was like, no, it's all of it. God will absolutely deal with the consequences. He will deal with the injustices. He will deal with the wrongdoings in this world because he is just, and he is going to do it in a way that is the most loving and merciful imaginable. God is going to continually seek out after the hearts of people that are far from him, because he wants them to know him and experience the freedom that he offers. And yet he is going to love them enough to honor their choice to reject him because God is not some puppet master pulling the strings behind the scenes, dictating every decision that we make, God is a loving father who gives us the freedom to choose, and he honors our choices. And when we choose to do things that are sinful, that are harmful to others, there will be consequences, God is gonna hold us accountable for that. And he is going to offer us plenty of opportunities, every opportunity imaginable to give us a chance to repent, to ask for forgiveness and to be made right with him. And so when we think about the judgment of God, we have to think about it with both his justice and his mercy, his grace and his truth, and all of those come together to show us a judgment that will be more loving than anything we can imagine.

And that gives me hope that we can figure out how to do it well, because we are made in the image of this God who combines justice and mercy so beautifully, and then we have the example of Jesus who literally walked out the mercy and justice of God in the most real intangible way possible. And so the more that I look at Jesus, and the more that I recognize that I'm made in the image of God and have the innate ability to follow and reflect his characteristics, the more that gives me hope that we can find that sweet spot. We can figure this out and we can look more like Jesus in a world that like really, really needs us to.

Yeah, absolutely. Well, 'cause I think the thing that's so powerful there is like the ability to do this well has been put inside of us. The reality is, is whether we act on that ability or not is up to us, it is a skill set that takes practice. Now God's spirit wants to shape us, to form us, to empower us to do this well. But if we don't actually put in the work of trying to do it, it won't happen, right? It's like if you are given all the answers to the test and you're told, Hey, the test is coming up, so just make sure you study the answer so you can be ready for it. If you do not study what you've been given, then when you get to the test, you probably won't do very well, right? So there is a yes, absolutely this part that you have to play and you have to own in your discipleship, where you have to step into the opportunities that God gives you to develop the muscles, to develop the skill of being able to judge justly, to bring together grace and truth. It's not easy, but it's absolutely possible, and the more time we spend studying the life of Jesus and following the footsteps of Jesus, the better we get at these different things.

That's really good. A practice that I employ basically daily is praying Psalm 139. And I think that that's something that helps me do what we talked about in the very beginning where it's like choosing to allow God to make me aware of what's going on inside myself so that my focus can continually be to reflect him and who he is instead of get stuck on them and what they're doing wrong. And Psalm 139, I think it's verse 23. It just says, "Search me God and know my heart, try me, know my anxious thoughts. Test me, see if there's any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting". And that's something really practical that I do to help me do this well.

Yeah, well, and I think the thing that I just want to encourage all of you that are watching this video and listening in is the reality that what we've been called to do matters. We have been called to represent Jesus to the rest of the world and the way that we do that matters. And so as we are engaging in relationship with people that are really hard to love, we get to bring those qualities together of grace and truth. We get to be in a posture of humility because we are confronting our sinfulness daily. And we are looking at the humanity of the other person, always remembering that they are human being made in the image of God. Now in those relationships, there will be times, absolutely where we have to be ready to bring truth. Like when people ask us, we wanna be able to respond with truth, but in order to do that well, we actually have to know the truth and truth is there's a lot of people in our world who think they know what the Bible says, but really they just know what other people tell them the Bible says, this is what matters so, so much, is that as we are doing the best we can to love others well up close and study the scriptures to know what is good and true so that we can share it with others, we have to be diligent in this process of becoming fully devoted followers of Christ. People who actually know what it means to love God with every part of who we are and love others the same way that we would want to be loved. And so I think that prayer that Caitlin mentioned is an incredible place to start, and then I would say from there, continue to read the gospels, move slowly, ask questions, reflect on the things that Jesus said and did and see how those things do or maybe don't line up with your own life, because I think that will give us a really clear picture into how well we're doing this whole grace and truth thing.

Yeah, the concluding thought that comes to my mind is Peter writes, that we should always be ready to give a reason we're right. No, that's not what he says. He says, we should always be ready to give a reason for our hope and the reason for our hope is Jesus, that perfect combination of grace and truth. And so, and when I'm always ready to give that reason, it is a lot, lot harder to always be ready to give the reason that I'm right. So that's what I wanna focus on, and I'm super grateful for this conversation. I think it was really helpful.

Yeah, absolutely so, if you have questions, if you have suggestions, if you have comments, please let us know down below, because we wanna make sure that we are in dialogue with you regularly because that's the entire reason we do any of this to help you better understand how you can follow Jesus faithfully in our world. If you haven't already, make sure you like the video, comment, subscribe, and we look forward to continuing the conversation in the weeks to come.

Yep, see you next time.
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