Judge Not but Discern Much
A Sermon Delivered to
The Compassion Internet Church
16 June 2013
Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
3 John 9-10
Since today is Father’s Day, I thought it would be interesting to talk about our earthly father as compared to our heavenly Father.
Today we send and receive greeting cards that express children’s love for their own fathers, but if we’re honest with ourselves, we know that no matter how much we love one another, we still recognize that none of us are perfect, even though Jesus tells us to be perfect, as we are told in Matthew 5:48 –
48. “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Fathers know that they are not perfect, and children know they are not perfect when we compare ourselves with our heavenly Father.
How do we know this?
We know this because we discern (recognize) the difference between the way we are and the things we do wrong, even inadvertently, with the way that God wants us to live.
Now, just because we discern that we are not perfect doesn’t mean that we should cease striving to be perfect; on the contrary, it should cause us to strive even harder to remove our imperfections.
To discern the difference between good and evil is a lot like holding a balance scale, like the images we’ve seen of Justice holding her scale.
The things of God are light, and the ways of the world and the devil are heavy.
So, if we weigh ourselves on one pan of the scale against God on the other pan, we will always sink down.
This is one type of judging; the other type of judging is to pass judgment or to condemn, as a court judge does, and as God does.
With this in mind, let’s take a look at Matthew 7:1-5.
1. “Do not judge lest you be judged.
Unfortunately, many people get this far and stop, and tell others who find fault in some discussion that they should “judge not.”
This is also one of the main reasons that there is so much evil in the world around us, for these people fail to speak out about the evil all around them and, even worse, they all too often participate in it.
So, let’s put this in the context in which Jesus said this.
2. “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3. “And why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4. “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5. “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Let’s look at this in some practical ways.
If for reasons of compassion we stopped wearing fur and animal skins because we came to know about the horrible way animals suffer and die in traps and on fur farms, and no longer wanted to be a part of it, then we are to remember from where we came, and that we at one time also wore these remains of tortured animals.
Thus, when we see others wearing fur, skins, and leather, we realize how horribly wrong it is, as we did in our own lives, which is our discernment about the wearing of these things; and since we have already taken the “log” of fur wearing out of our own eye, we can freely tell the other person why we stopped wearing such things, and invite them for reasons of compassion to do the same.
This is where we turn the corner from “judge not” to “discern much.”
This is also very similar to what John wrote about in his third epistle (3 John 9-10).
9. I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.
10. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
Isn’t John discerning the evil ways of Diotrephes as compared to the ways of a Godly church leader who practices what he preaches?
John isn’t keeping silent about the wrong he discerns; he is speaking out to call attention to it, for to not do this makes us a part of the evil we observe.
This is also part of what Jesus meant when He said, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”
John’s standard of measure is the heavenly will of God, and it is by this standard that we are all to measure our own lives, and the ways of the world around us.
So, just as John is disclosing the evil things he has discerned to protect others from them, God will do the same for him.
Similarly if we fail to try to protect others from the evil ways of this world, we may find that God won’t protect us from these things, either.
Let’s look at another example.
We have often found the same kind of ungodly behavior in the church.
On one occasion, we were invited by a pastor friend to speak in his two churches on two consecutive Sundays about how God changed our lives and led us into our compassionate ministry for humans, animals and the environment.
On the first Sunday at these two churches in this rural hunting and animal farming community, there were very good turnouts, but on the second Sunday only about 10% of the people showed up. Nevertheless, we presented the second part of our message.
Following the service, a couple of the women came over to thank us for coming and delivering a message that the community needed to hear.
Then they apologized for the people who didn’t come, because the lay leaders of both churches got together and called everyone in the congregation and told them not to come.
Isn’t this very similar to what John was talking about?
We told the women that it was all right because they really heard the message the previous week, but didn’t want to hear the truth, and tried to intimidate others into following their worldly ways.
This is the problem in the world today.
Most people can discern the truth about how God really wants us to live, and they deliberately choose to hide from the truth, and continue to follow the corrupt ways of the world with all its pain, suffering, and death.
They may not know all the gory details, but neither do they seek to know it; and we come across people all the time who say, “Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know.”
They didn’t want to hear in an open forum that God created animals to feel love and pain just as we do, for such an admission would cause others to see their treatment of animals as being wicked and cruel instead of just the way things are.
What these lay leaders really did was to discern the difference between good and evil, and then try to pass judgment upon the congregation, through intimidation, into going along with their evil ways.
This is exactly the kinds of situations that Jeremiah 5:30-31 teaches us, but in our case the priest (pastor) tried to do the right thing.
30. “An appalling and horrible thing
Has happened in the land:
31. The prophets prophesy falsely,
And the priests rule on their own authority;
And My people love it so!
But what will you do at the end of it?
Jeremiah is also telling us, indirectly, to judge not but discern much.
We are to discern or recognize the appalling and horrible things that are happening in the world around us.
We are to hear and recognize the false teachings that keep us in, or try to lead us back into, the corrupt way of this world, including its bloodshed and death.
Likewise, we are to discern the loving and peaceful teaching of Jesus and will of our heavenly Father, where there is no pain or death.
For if we love the corrupt ways of this world, we will have no excuse in the end.
We are to be the peacemaking children of God who help free creation from its present corruption.
We are not to be a part of the corruption, of which we are a part if we participate with those who further the corruption through their actions, and as we are if we recognize the evil and say and do nothing to protect others from it.
We are to help end the hardness of heart that rules the world.
We are to judge not, but discern much, and expose the evil for what it is.