Even more so, this passage is challenging for me personally. And so, I write this post not because I have a handle on the topic but because I’m hoping to. I write without “you,” and only “I” because I don’t want to judge but instead clean out the inside of my cup that’s often filled with harsh criticisms.
According to Matthew 7, some judging is okay, even necessary. But okay judging seems to be less about evaluating people and more about distinguishing—when to offer pearls and between good fruit and bad, sheep and wolves, disciples and hypocrites.
As for evaluating people, unless I want to be assessed with the same measure I judge, here’s the rub: No matter who I’m judging, I’ll always have a log sticking out of my own eye because I tend toward hypocritical.
Instead of whether or not and what to judge, I’m better off focusing on who not to and how. When the Master Teacher lived on this earth, He directed His harshest judgments at religious hypocrites…people like me. Then, He was overwhelmingly kind to everyone else (even often the hypocrites, thankfully). If I’m to follow in His footsteps, then I should reserve my harshest criticisms for myself and be overwhelmingly kind to everyone else. My Teacher is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. How can I be like Him in my relationships with students and colleagues, friends and acquaintances, and enemies?
Here are some lessons I’ve heard recently. (I haven’t learned them yet. I’m still trying.)
Be gracious. Instead of tit for tat, I should respond to a lack of kindness with more kindness, to ungraciousness with double courtesy, and to evil with a boatload of good.
Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.
Be merciful. Life is hard for all of us. I need to be understanding toward students’ struggles. I should assume the best of my colleagues and friends rather than the worst. I should give them the benefit of the doubt, then chance after chance.
No, not seven times, but seventy times seven.
Serve. Instead of burdening them with my expectations and making them into who I think they should be, I need to support them into becoming who the Teacher wants them to be. Like a servant, I should wait upon them and look after their interests, care for them and attend to their needs.
For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others.
Live in Love. First is loving my Teacher, and then I should love students and colleagues as “both an instance and an evidence” of my love for Yahweh. “I must deny myself for the good of my neighbor…make myself a servant to the true welfare of others…willing to spend and be spent for them, to lay down my life for [them].”
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength…Love your neighbor as yourself.