The Gospel lectionary reading for today is from Matthew 7:1-5 where Jesus says...
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.Swiss psychologist Paul Tournier once wrote,
Without being fully aware of it we mentally twist this commandment, as if Jesus had said: "Judge not unjustly." He said: "Judge not." He did not deny that there is a mote in my neighbour's eye, but he asks that I should first concern myself only with the beam in my own. This abdication of all spirit of judgment is extremely difficult for us, and seems like surrendering before evil.What did Jesus mean when he said, "Don't judge."? Leo Tolstoy, the great Russian novelist, believed that Jesus was saying we should not have any courts of law. But Jesus makes no mention of courts of law. He is addressing his disciples. He is addressing individuals, not societal systems.
On the other hand, Jesus' commandment not to judge is certainly not a command to do away with all personal discernment. After all, when Jesus says, "Do not give dogs what is sacred," he is asking us to show discernment isn't he?
I think the answer to what Jesus meant when he said, "Don't judge," is revealed in the meaning of the Greek word that is used here. What Jesus is talking about is condemnation, damnation. He is saying that we should not have a condemning attitude, a damning attitude toward anyone. However, as Paul Tournier says, getting rid of the spirit of judgment, getting rid of the spirit of condemnation, is very difficult.
A school teacher named Dodie Gradient decided to travel across the United States and see all the sites she had been teaching about for years. Traveling alone in a truck towing a camper, Dodie launched out across the country. One afternoon, while rounding a curve on Interstate 5 near Sacramento, California, in rush hour traffic, a water pump went out on Dodie's truck. He vehicle stalled, and she got out to examine the problem. She was tired, exasperated, scared and alone. In spite of the traffic jam her stalled truck was causing, no one showed any interest in stopping to help.
Leaning up against the trailer Dodie prayed, "Please God, send me an angel...preferably one with mechanical experience." Within four minutes a large Harley-Davidson motorcycle pulled up. It was ridden by a huge man with long black hair, a beard and tattooed arms. With a certain air of confidence, and without so much as glancing at Dodie, the man got off his Harley and went to work on her truck. Within another few minutes the biker flagged down a trucker, attached a tow chain to the frame of Dodie's disabled Chevy, and the trucker whisked Dodie's entire rig off the interstate on to a side street. There the biker continued to calmly work on the water pump.
Jodie was utterly intimidated. She was too afraid even to talk, especially when she saw the words on the back of the biker's jacket: Hell's Angels--California!
As the biker finished his task, Dodie finally drew together enough courage to say "thank you" and carry on a brief conversation. The biker, of course, noticed Dodie's consternation at his own appearance and, looking her straight in the eye, he said, "Don't judge a book by its cover. you may not know who you're talking to."
With that, the biker closed the hood of Dodie's truck and straddled his Harley. With a simple wave of the hand he was gone as quickly as he had appeared.
We all have a hard time NOT judging a book by its cover, don't we?
That's why I think we all need to pray and ask for Jesus' help with this....