In many circles today the most well known verse of the Bible is “Judge not that you might not be judged.” It is often, probably most often used in ways that Jesus never intended us to use it. This verse has become the mantra of all those who can’t believe anyone is wrong and feel that tolerance is the most important mark of a Christian. I’m for tolerance if you mean that I respect the thoughts of another person and trust their honesty until they demonstrate that they aren’t being honest. The reality is that no one can go through life without making any judgments. The person who sees themselves as tolerant of everyone and everything becomes horribly intolerant toward a person who isn’t tolerant of them and their beliefs. Often the stand for tolerance in all situations has led to willy, nilly thinking on just about everything. It isn’t my job to judge the destiny of another person. Only God can do that. But there are important judgments that everyone must make to succeed in life.
The first judgment that is needed by all of us is to take a long look at ourselves and our beliefs to see if they are right. One of the purposes for taking the Lord’s Supper is to “Examine yourself” to be certain that we are focusing on the right thing as we worship God. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 13:5 “Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course , you fail the test?” One of the reasons we read and study the Bible is to see for certain we are living by what is being taught. There is nothing more common than one who believes they are right with God because they have a good feeling about it, yet Solomon said, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” At the very time when Paul thought of himself as the chief of sinners, he said he had lived in all good conscience. Many of the religious leaders who led to the crucifixion of Jesus sincerely believed they were doing right.
But how do you put yourself to the test? In the context of Jesus statement about not judging others he said not to try to get a speck out of our brother’s eye when we have a beam in our own eye. First, he said, we should remove the beam from our own eye so that we can see better to get the speck out of the brother’s eye. Notice, he didn’t say to leave the speck in the brother’s eye. He said to correct your own problems first so you can with clear vision look at the problem of the brother. If we were looking at ourselves to see if we had everything in place in our clothing we would look into a mirror and see how things looked there. Then most of us would ask someone we love how we look. We trust that if they saw some major flaw they would let us know before we went out in public to embarrass ourselves. Spiritually the mirror is the Bible. Instead of reading the Bible to try to prove what we believe is right or to try to prove that someone else is wrong we should read to adjust our own lives to make certain we are living by God’s will.
When we look at the thoughts and beliefs of another person, even if it is someone we deeply admire or on the other end of the rope, someone we can hardly tolerate, it is important that we judge their beliefs with a fair standard. Paul said to put all things to the test and hold on to what is good in I Thessalonians 5:21. When someone comes along that we love and respect, it is easy to go along with what they say and believe it to be right because of who they are and our respect for them. But if someone comes along with whom we disagree on just about everything, it is easy to set aside what they say without any real examination at all. But right isn’t determined by who said it. Paul asked the Galatians if he had become their enemy by telling them the truth. That is an excellent question to raise for anyone. But we can only learn better on anything if we are willing to listen to people that we don’t agree with. There has been only one person who ever walked on this earth that was right about everything and spoke the truth about everything and that was Jesus Christ. One of the most important lessons then for any of us is that Jesus is right and we aren’t Jesus.
What if in examining your firmly held beliefs on some topic you begin to realize you haven’t been right in what you believe? What do you do then? Suppose you realize that you have been wrong one something that is at the very core of what you stand for in life. How will you react to learning such a thing? First, spend time in prayer asking God for wisdom so that you can look honestly and with an open mind at the subject. Second, talk with someone you respect who holds the same view you have held before and are now wondering about. It may be that you have missed something that needs correcting and you hadn’t recognized it. Third, if you see you have been wrong, change. Fourth, if what you realize you’ve been wrong about and you change on the subject, correct any mistakes you’ve made with others while you believed you were right. Finally, keep studying. You may learn that your new conclusion isn’t altogether right either.
In examining ourselves it is hard to be honest and not go to one extreme or another. Sometimes we want to be too soft on ourselves and make everything on which we have been wrong into a minor issue that doesn’t really matter anyway. At other times we want to be too hard on ourselves and determine that we haven’t been honest about any of our beliefs. It is vital that we walk the line between the extremes. If you haven’t changed your mind on anything in years, you have been too soft on yourself. Everyone makes mistakes that need to be corrected. If you see your mistakes everywhere you look you are being too hard on yourself. Lighten up.
Whoever you are and where ever you are on the growth scale, keep growing. None of us have reached perfection yet.