As a church, we're embarking on a journey of reading through the New Testament in a year. This week, we finished reading the Sermon on the Mount, and Pastor Ed Allen spoke to us from Matthew 7:1-12 on Better Relationships.
First, Susie got up front to read the passage -- and shared a comment about the "Do not judge." passage. She said she was looking for a church where she heard the message that God loves us. We're uncomfortable with our own sins, but sometimes we're more uncomfortable with other people who are not uncomfortable with their sins.
It's often easier to believe that we are sinful than that God loves us.
Pastor Ed began the sermon with a summary of the Sermon on the Mount and what had gone before. It's a sermon, not just a collection of random sayings from Jesus.
How could the hearers remember the sermon? It was an oral culture, and it was almost certainly Jesus' "stump" sermon that he used often.
The sermon begins by telling us who is actually living the "good life" -- those who are part of the kingdom of God, under God's control.
Then he unfolds what life in the kingdom of God is like. He looks at big ticket items like murder and adultery and traces our intentions back to their source.
Next he looks at religious life and pursuit of money. Religion shouldn't be for show; it should be simple, sincere, and for God alone.
Our obsession with money and possessions demonstrates our lack of trust in God. Seek God's kingdom first, and everything else will be added.
Now in Matthew 7, we see: What does living life as a resident of God's kingdom look like in our relationships?
If we want to have healthy, life-giving relationships we have to utterly abandon the tried and true practice of condemning and blaming others.
It isn't that God will judge us if we judge others. It's that in relationships, if we give out condemnation, we're going to get condemnation back.
Think of your crazy uncle's political Facebook posts. Do they ever change your mind? That's how effective we are hen we lead with condemnation.
The church in America has a bad reputation today -- a reputation for being judgmental.
Aren't we supposed to help others leave their sin? "Judge" can also mean to evaluate and assess.
Yes, we're supposed to evaluate and assess, but that comes with a strong warning. Look at Galatians 6:1-2 --
When we confront others who are sinning, it is to restore, not to punish. It should be done gently. And it should only be done by those who are spiritual -- not everyone is ready.
Then we looked at Matthew 7:6 -- Don't give pearls to pigs.
If we want to have healthy, life-giving relationships, we will not impose our "good things" on those who don't want them or need them.
Jesus was never condemning or condescending.
Jesus met people where they were and offered what they requested or what they truly knew they needed.
This isn't about the pigs and dogs who aren't worthy of my wise insights.
That's not what Jesus is saying. Pigs don't need pearls. They need food.
If you want to touch people's lives, show the incredible, radical peace and joy that comes from living life in the kingdom of God.
If we want healthy, life-giving relationships, take our concerns to God.
Ask, seek, and knock -- and God will surely answer.
What's the connection between these three ideas -- Don't condemn; don't be condescending; ask God?
When we violate these, we're almost always looking for something in the relationship that it can't give. We're almost always making it about US. We elevate ourselves above the other person.
Instead, ask God.
The world would be different if we did this.