Monday, August 29, 2016

29 August 2016
“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.
Profaning the Holy
“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.” Matthew 7:1-6 (NRSV)

            Good morning, welcome. Real estate professionals have a saying that location is everything. Applied to the Bible, we could say context is everything. Here for the first time Jesus speaks of judgement, addressing both our attitude towards others and the need for honest self-examen; both equally important. Jesus seems to be making the point that a non-judgmental attitude towards others both requires and flows from of honest self-reflection. We are seeking out our own faults for healing and restoration all around, not judgement and punishment. Removing our logs allow us to see clearly; otherwise we are thrashing about blindly, which is never good.    
            Jesus will elaborate on the principle of reciprocal judgement later on-for example, the Parable of the unforgiving Servant in (Mat.18:23-35) from the negative side and the woman caught in adultery (Jn.8:1-11) from a more positive side. The point to both is that, as we have repeatedly seen, our forgiveness originates in and from God; with much forgiveness should come much love and little judgement (see Luke 7:36-50).
            Getting back to self-examen-clearing out the log-I believe this to be a most worthwhile practice. More than just a quick prayer of confession on Sunday morning (although I believe that to be an important part of worship), examen allows the Holy Spirit to illumine the darkest recesses of our hearts, burning away what does not belong, healing whatever wounds remain, and leading us deeper into God’s restoring presence.
            The Jesuits have practiced this for centuries with their daily examen, developed by Jesuit founder Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius required examen twice a day, at noon and the end of the day (by the way, there’s an app for that-Jesuit Prayer. It’s free.). The goal is to see where God has been present in your day, and review where you have not done as well as you could have, particularly in your dealings with others. Again, we are working towards eliminating a judgmental attitude, and again we are doing it by sneaking in the back door, more or less. I do not think we can simply resolve to be more non-judgmental. But with self examen we may see more clearly how our faults are reflected in others, leading to more compassion and empathy in our relationships with others.
            We now come to verse 6; pearls before swine. Considering this verse in light of what has preceded it-the radical difference between Kingdom living and the culture of the time (and our time), I believe what is holy-the pearls-to be the Kingdom principles and the dogs and swine to be non-believers, both Jews and Gentiles. The main point is this-since we cannot expect unregenerate humankind to act like regenerated humankind, conversion must come first. Only the heart set free by faith in the risen Lord is capable of the inner attitude Jesus requires. Unregenerate humanity will reject most-if not all-principles of Kingdom living; trampling them under foot. A secondary point is the importance of making disciples, which, after all, is the great commission of Matthew 28:19-20.       
            I believe the application here is clear. We are not called to force our moral code on unbelievers-particularly and especially when we ourselves neither properly understand nor practice what we are to be about-the Father’s business. We are called to be salt and light-to preserve Jesus’ teachings and set the example by living out these teachings in our daily lives. Disciples will be made as a result of regenerated hearts, not by the passage laws and regulations.

            So there it is. Follow Paul’s instruction to examine yourselves, to see if you are living in the faith (2 Cor.13:5). The seven penitential Psalms (6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143) will be helpful here, as well as Psalm 139. Work on setting an example; avoid force of will. And may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship and guidance of the Holy Spirit be with you in your efforts. JRG

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