May 18, 2008


God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. – John 3: 17

A British author, Robert Burns, once was standing on a balcony at Warwick castle in England. He wrote:
That balcony overlooks one of the most beautiful scenes it was ever my privilege to view …. There at the base of the castle was a winding river; next to the river were lovely green fields. Next to the fields there were large squares of the beautiful mustard plant. Stretching off into the distant hills there were scenes of breath-taking beauty. Beside me stood a tourist. He looked down at the scene & all he could say was, “Isn’t it terrible that there is scum on the river?” He thought he was judging the landscape; he really was judging himself.

Too often we see only what we want to see. While one appreciates & enjoys the breathtaking beauty of a landscape, the other misses it entirely because he is too busy looking for flaws. The same is frequently true in the way we view each other. While looking for someone else’s flaws, we miss the chance to glimpse a breathtakingly beautiful image of God.

Some of us are so eager to point a finger at other’s faults that we’re not even aware of how judgmental we have become. We judge with our words, our tone of voice, the way we sigh, in short, with the whole arsenal of body language. Jesus gives us three strong reasons why this is so destructive.

First, our own condition is worse than those we presume to judge. Who are we to judge others when we too are flawed & sinful – perhaps to a greater degree? When Jesus pointed out to those ready to stone the woman caught in adultery that they were in the same condition as she, they slipped away. In his play Measure for Measure,” Shakespeare is also simple & direct:

The jury passing on the prisoner’s life may, in the sworn twelve, have a thief or two guiltier than him they try.

Secondly, The God who created us has forgiven US so much! In spite of our selfishness, our disobedience & insensitivity to the needs of others, He forgives us. So who are we to condemn others? The problem is not that we overvalue ourselves, but that we undervalue everyone else.

Jesus told a parable about a man who had been forgiven a very large debt. Yet when another came to him owing a smaller amount, he had the man thrown into prison. Our sense of judgment is outraged, but that is exactly what we do every day. We who have been forgiven so much refuse to be merciful to others.

Third, Jesus tells us that our relationship with God is the most important thing in our life, so what we need to be concerned about is how to make our relationship with God more authentic & real. Our relationship with others affects our relationship with God. When we are insensitive, destructive & manipulative, we block the power & love of God & become estranged from Him. So being judgmental not only hurts our relationships with others, it cuts us off from God.

Most of us know how deserving we are of punishment, but our Lord says the Father did not send Him to condemn us. No, He was sent to save us! That is totally awesome. Those who are condemned – & it is not ours to say who they are – are self-condemned. An editorial in the “Chicago Times” of 1865:

The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, dish-watery utterances of a man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.

These words were a critique of Abraham Lincoln & his Gettysburg Address. God did not send us into the world to condemn it, but that the world might hear the Good News of its salvation in Jesus Christ. AMEN!