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(Part 124)


June 22, 2015
Today’s gospel: Matthew 7:1-5

Unity in the body of Christ is crucial, for its witness and for its effective mission. Two things that foment disunity are a critical spirit and gossip.

A critical spirit is one where we are often criticizing the perceived shortcomings of our brethren. Now are there shortcomings? Certainly there are. Are we not to see and recognize such? Yes it is good to be aware. But Jesus tells us, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” (v.1). What does this mean?

First, it is not passing judgment on the person. We all have faults and failings. These are not necessarily wrong in themselves. So we can see and recognize the failings of others but not conclude that the people themselves are bad. They are just, well, very human.

Second, taking off from the first, we should be mindful of our own shortcomings. “Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?” (v.3). We often find fault, but are unmindful of our own grave faults. Oftentimes we become haughty as we look down on others. If we recognized our own shortcomings, then we would become more humble and thus more charitable to others.

Third, we must know that we are judged by God as we judge others. “For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.” (v.2). That should be a sobering thought. Our holy and perfect God certainly see many shortcomings and faults that we have. We can only turn to God in humble repentance and ask for His mercy. But our conduct towards our brethren will determine God’s conduct towards us. We must leave judgment on His people to God.

Fourth, those who concern themselves with the shortcomings of others often fail to recognize their more serious offenses. When one is critical and judgmental, then one fails in charity, and that failure to love is a great offense. Then we often see that such persons who have a critical spirit actually have hidden sins such as pride and a divisive spirit. Thus Jesus calls them “hypocrites” (v.5a). They look down on others and thus put themselves in a lofty position, when they themselves are debased.

Fifth, as has been said, we do inevitably see the faults of others. And in Christian community we are expected to try to help our brethren to overcome such faults. But we must do so in charity, kindness and respect, not judging, but only desiring the good of the brethren. We look to our own relationship with God and brethren first, putting those in good order, and then God can use us to help others. So “remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.” (v.5).

Finally, in recognizing the faults of others, we must never resort to gossip. This is when we tell others who have no business knowing. This puts brethren in a bad position, in the eyes of others. If we want to help remove the splinter from our brother’s eye, then we go to him directly. If somehow that is not possible, we go to someone who has moral authority to do something about it. The gossip has not only judged, but has caused others to sin if they become judgmental as well.

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