Judging Ourselves

“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? 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? 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.” (Matthew 7:3-5)

As we continue through the 10 Days of Awe before Yom Kippur, we should be reflecting on our lives to see what we need to correct.

1 Corinthians 11:31-32 tells us that if we judge ourselves rightly then we won’t be judged by G-d. Yom Kippur is the Day of Atonement, the day that, in the teachings of the sages, G-d is expected to judge the world. By judging ourselves rightly against His Word now, we won’t come under His condemnation later.

Matthew 7:3-5 speaks about judging ourselves instead of judging others. It gives us a way to correct our own life so we may better serve our community by encouraging a brother or sister to live a holy life.

The first thing our Messiah questions is why we are even doing this. What are the motives for seeing sin in the life of our brother? Is it because we’re a busybody? As mentioned last week, we are not called to judge critically or harshly. Rather we do so with mercy and for the purpose of turning someone from sin to repentance and restoration.

We are not being commanded to not see the faults in our brothers and sisters, but to look for the right reason. It should be with the purpose of building the ekklesia and restoring a member of the community who has fallen into sin.

We need to restore that person gently (Galatians 6:1). Proverbs 15:1 tell us that gentle words turn away anger but harsh words stir up wrath. We need to speak gently, or without anger and malice, when dealing with a fellow believer. They deserve that respect and care from us. To spew out hateful words may only push them away.

But we should not be blind to sin no matter where it lies. Especially within the community, in our family, it affects each of us. Joshua 7 tells the story of Achan who brought sin into the community. He caused Israel to lose a battle because he coveted and stole the spoils from the Battle Jericho. These items belonged to the L-rd and were consecrated to Adonai. Achan’s sin resulted in the defeat of Israel and the death of some of her warriors. That sin had to be purged from the camp before Israel could continue the conquest of the Promised Land.

When looking for sin, we are to look first into our own lives. As said before, we are to be our own worst critic so that neither G-d nor man will have to judge us. Scripture is given to us for teaching, correction and training in righteousness. We can use that to correctly identify sin and error in our life (2 Timothy 3:16).

James 1:23 tells us to use the Word as a mirror than can point out blemishes we need to correct. To look into the Word and be a doer of what it says will lead to blessings from Adonai.

If we refuse to take care of ourselves first then we have no authority to care for someone else. This does not mean that we have to be perfect in order to approach someone about sin. But we must recognize and admit that we are also sinners. This is what keeps us humble when dealing with someone else. We realize that we are not far from their position.

But to keep sin in our own lives and try to remove sin from someone else is fruitless. We may be able to convince them to turn because the Ruach HaKodesh will turn their hearts. But it could also open you up to charges of hypocrisy if your sin is brought out while counseling someone with the same sin.

Our sin may even be bigger than we recognize but we can be so intent on finding sin in others that we don’t realize it. This verse speaks of a small speck of dust in or brothers eye but we’re so consumed with their fault that we can’t recognize the beam that is in our eye.

King David found himself in this position after his transgression with Bathsheba. G-d confronted him by sending in the Prophet Nathan who, in 2 Samuel 12, informed him that one of his subjects had stolen a lamb from his neighbor.

David was greatly angered. He was ready to impose the death penalty on an act that, according to Torah, would only have required restitution. His sin had caused him to act unjustly and harshly condemn another while he, himself, was guilty of something far greater.

Nathan told David that his actions gave the enemies of the L-rd occasion to blaspheme. They could point at David as talking about living holy and trusting in Adonai while rejecting His Word and commands. They could claim that G-d was not real since His followers could get away with not obeying Him.

David had become a hypocrite. The term refers to the actors in the Greek and Roman plays that had speaking parts. They were just actors that pretended to do and know about other things. They had no real commitment to the role they played. When the show was over, they became someone else.

In order to remove the beam from our own eye, we must be concerned first with ourselves and our own walk with Adonai. We cannot be like the Greek play actors who had no real knowledge of their part. We must be authenticate. We must be faithful and truthful with Adonai and each other.

Only after confessing and dealing with sin in our own life will we have the proper perspective to approach a brother or sister about the sin in their life.

Once we recognize that we are also sinners in need of forgiveness then we can restore a brother with a spirit of meekness. This should be done first in private and then before the community (Matthew 18:15-17).

We are called to be our brother’s keepers. We are called to live in community and be accountable to our brothers and sisters. Our Messiah died to bring us forgiveness and expects us to forgive and restore others.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who judges us with justice, righteousness and mercy.

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Pardon, and You Will be Pardoned

Luke 6:37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned;  pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Luke 6:37 is probably one of the most well known verses in the Bible. At least the first three words are. Many people use it to judge and condemn others that they accuse of being judgmental.

The problem, to put it bluntly, is a common desire for us to poke our nose into other people’s business.
As the Reformist John Calvin puts it, “This vice is attended by some strange enjoyment: for there is hardly any person who is not tickled with the desire of inquiring into other people’s faults.” (Calvin’s Complete Bible Commentaries, Kindle Edition, loc. 294499)

Our Messiah warns against this. It is tempting to watch the news and see what is happening in the latest scandal. But we shouldn’t be gleeful when we find someone caught in their sin.

The Compact Bible Commentary puts this a lot simpler. 

“The point of this verse is that the Christian should not have a spirit of carping criticism and fault-finding.” (Compact Bible Commentary, 2004, Thomas Nelson, pg. 671)

It’s true that there may be times when we have to call out a brother or sister for their sin. Scripture has a way to do this that shows respect and discretion by approaching the person on-on-one in order to correct them. Only when correction is refused does it escalate within the community, and never in a public forum involving unbelievers (Matthew 18:15-18).

But instead of seeking out faults in others, we’re called to a higher road. Instead of judging and condemning, we should try to pardon when we can. Pardon, and you will be pardoned.

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon defines pardon in this verse as releasing a debtor. To not press one’s claim against him.

We are meant to pardon freely when we can. To give up our right to repayment for the offenses another has committed against us.

This falls in line with Matthew 6:14-15:

“14 For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.”

Here it’s made clear that our willingness to forgive others is a sign that we’ve been forgiven. If we refuse to forgive then we have no forgiveness from our Father.

What is forgiveness? What does it mean to you?

It humbled me when I looked up this word. I always thought I knew it’s meaning but this really surprised me.

According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, forgive in this verse means to let go, give up, a debt by not demanding it.

This is a valid debt. It’s something legitimately owed. It’s something that belongs to someone and they have every right to claim it.

But, instead, they simply give up that right. For little or even no reason, they decide not to pursue the justice due them.

When we ask friends and family for forgiveness, we’re admitting we owe them something, but we’re simply asking them give up that claim over us.

With that in mind, we should use the words “forgive me” with a lot more care. It shouldn’t be a flippant phrase that comes out of our mouth with little thought. We should consider carefully what claim we’re asking someone to give up on our behalf. 

Imagine a dinner party with 20 of your closest friends. Appetizers, drinks, dinners, desserts, the food is ordered without any concern.

When the waitress presents a very large tab, you look at her and say, “Can you excuse us from paying this bill?”

That’s what we’re doing when we ask someone to forgive us. For whatever reason, we are throwing ourselves on their mercy.

And it’s what we’re commanded to do.

Matthew 5:24 says we need to make things right with our brothers before we come before G-d to seek His forgiveness. This is the way to keep peace and unity in the community. 

Since we’re asking them to release us from a real debt that we owe, we seek forgiveness with humility, sorrow and regret for the wrong committed. We match the request of the tax collector of Luke 18 who cast his eyes down, beat his breast and simply said, “G-d, be merciful to me, the sinner.” 

Not only are we commanded to seek forgiveness from others but also from Adonai.

The prayer that Yeshua taught His disciples asks G-d to forgive us from our trespasses. He is ready and willing to abundantly forgive a penitent heart. He delights in the turning of the wicked towards His path. 

Walking free in the pardon from Adonai brings a peace to our lives knowing that we are not under the condemnation of death. This is what we have asked G-d to take away. It is the bill we have asked him to annul.

And He has taken away the payment of death that we owe Him. That was done through the death of His Son, Yeshua. Since the payment had to be made (not all debts can simply be wiped clean) our Messiah gave His life for us.

The Bible marks this as the greatest love. Laying down your life for another so that they may live.
But to continue receiving G-d’s forgiveness, we must practice forgiving others. This is not to place a condition or work on our salvation. It is a foundational act for a true follower of the Way. One who loves Adonai will forgive.

A mark of all true believers is that we show love for each other. While laying down one’s life for another is the greatest way to show love, forgiving freely is a consistent and obvious way to demonstrate love to others in our community.

This shows the world that we are united in our Savior and committed to each other. It builds up the ekklesia and brings a testimony to a dark world in need of repentance and forgiveness.

As we enter the Ten Days of Awe, let us reflect on acts of forgiveness. Freely we have been forgiven, freely we should forgive.

Blessed are You, O L-rd, our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who pardons us by the death of Your Son, Yeshua, so that we might have life everlasting.