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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 7:1–12

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. “Do not give what is holy to dogs; and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under foot and turn and maul you.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

“In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (NRSV)

All of us make critical judgments about others, for good reasons. We decide someone is a bad influence, so protect our children. We sense someone has dementia, so take what they say lightly. We feel someone is crossing boundaries inappropriately and choose not to get sucked in. Or we evaluate that someone’s skill set doesn’t match the job position we are trying to fill. None of this is the kind of judging Jesus preached against.

Jesus denounces judging that condemns other persons, that questions their worth, that emphasizes their faults, that spreads negative thinking about them, that labels others whose life experience differs from our own or whose worldview or character or (you name it) we can’t stand. It is the kind of judging that tears apart the peace and unity of the body of believers. We tend to judge others in this way when we see them as blocking what we want or need or when they embody traits that we have not accepted in ourselves. “The pot calling the kettle black” is apt here. So is “let those who are without sin cast the first stone.”

Imagine a Saturday Night Live skit where one character has a wooden beam protruding from his eye, trying, of course without success, to see and remove a tiny speck from another’s eye? What a laugh! It can’t be done. We are to think the best of others and make space for their limitations. Any focus on weaknesses should be on our own. Then we realize how much we need God’s mercy and have more patience and acceptance toward others.

Gracious God, bring to mind those I have judged. Forgive me. Break any tendency I have toward gossip, negativity, and ill-will. Free me from judging, so I may be free for mercy. Amen.

Written by Victoria G. Curtiss, Associate Pastor for Mission

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