Romans 2: 1-11, Matthew 7: 1-5
On Learning Not to Judge:

"On Learning Not to Judge: Worshipping a God Who Shows No Partiality"

July 7, 2024 - Northwood United - Rev. G. Scott Turnbrook - Romans 2: 1-11 & Matthew 7: 1-5


Last week, we had the honour of receiving insight into Barbara Fraser's story. The sermon portion of the service was an opportunity for us to hear Barbara's story. Her journey of realizing her sexuality through life. We heard about the judgement and oppression a transgender person experiences. The place where God was found. And glimpses of grace throughout. We are so indebted to you, Barbara, for your bravery in sharing your story and opening our minds to the challenges you so capably navigated. After church, conversations ensued. I heard many conversations about judgement. We heard the call to not judge; however, we also realized that judgement is our default. We live, we breathe, we judge... it is what we do. People wondered... how do we avoid this part of our human nature? How to avoid judging and lead with love? 


A brief story... The owner of a manufacturing plant decided to make a surprise tour. Walking through the warehouse he noticed a young man leaning up against some packing crates. He had his hands in his pocket and seemed to be doing nothing. The boss walked up to him and angrily said, "Just how much are you paid a week?" The young man's eyes got rather big, and he said, "Three hundred dollars." The boss pulled out his wallet, peeled off three one-hundred-dollar bills, gave it to him, and said, "Here's a week's pay. Now get out of here and don't ever come back!" Without saying a word the young man stuffed the money into his pocket and left. The warehouse manager arrived shortly after this exchange. The boss inquired, "Tell me, how long has that guy been working for us?" The manager responded, "He doesn't work here, he was just delivering a package." 


The initial challenge for us in not judging is what are we, then, to do? Last Sunday, the text we explored was the challenging call to shift our ways from judgement towards love. The Psalm focussed our perspective from viewing people with judgement towards viewing them with "wonder and awe." To be in amazement and wonder over the beauty of each part of God's creation. To view them in love, rather than judgement. A perspective shift, indeed, but a good shift for our faithful living. The particular section of Matthew that I chose for us to explore this morning comes from what scholars refer to as "deeds of loving kindness." The section corresponds to the third of the Three Pillars of Judaism. It begins in later part of chapter 6 with trusting and serving God with one's material possessions and carefully builds towards the Golden Rule (just after the section Pam read). Deeds of "loving kindness" are a radical perspective shift from that of deeds of judgement. 


One area of application of "loving kindness" in our world arises from Mindfulness Meditation popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. In the meditation, we hold our awareness of another person and offer them loving kindness as we breathe through this meditation: "May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live in peace, no matter what you are given. May your heart be filled with love and kindness." Can you imagine shifting our offering of judgement towards the offering of loving kindness? It is, indeed, a shift. It is a challenge. And it is the call of the faithful follower of Christ to offer loving kindness... nothing more and nothing less.


I think this is the reason Jesus gives such a silly example in the Matthean text. A log in my eye and the splinter in another's. This silly example is a deep call for us to do the work on ourselves; to make the shift and challenge our reactions away from judgement... towards one of love. A log in my eye obscures my vision; the log in my eye takes away my ability to see another; the log in my eye disables me. We can never know another's journey. We can never fully sense their pain. We can never know their 'why'. The log in my own eye disables me from seeing fully. Only God can see fully; only God can know fully. Jesus challenges us, instead of judging, to do the work on ourselves ~ to tend to the log in our eye ~ the work that is so dearly needed. Jesus teaches: 4Or how can you say to your neighbour, "Let me take the speck out of your eye", while the log is in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour's eye."


One speaker I heard shared their approach to how this shift might look. He confessed to feeling judgemental, at times, and offers a simple formula on how we might begin to shift away from that pattern. He said that when he feels judgement crop up in his heart, he shifts towards loving kindness. In the example he offers, he saw someone in a grocery lineup wearing one of those boom microphones you might see commonly in broadcasting. He immediately felt judgement cropping up. He judged... How silly that man looks; who does he think he is to be wearing a microphone out at the grocery store; (you can fill in the blank of how you might have reacted). While he quickly felt judgement crop up, he encourages us to stop, and instead think of three kind things about that person. What a nice smile they had. What a colourful t-shirt he was wearing. What a nice selection of groceries he had chosen. His family will be very happy when he gets home. The shift from judgement towards kindness, he reports, gets easier and easier the more we do it. 


Have you ever been around people whose kindness you admire? If you were to ask them about it, I would be willing to bet that it didn't happen by accident. Their loving kindness came out of an ongoing practice of tending to the log in their own eye. They have learned it from others; they have practiced it through their life's journey; they have chosen to be kinder and gentler. These are the people who have listened to Jesus and attuned their focus to the log in their eye before beginning to consider the splinter in others. 


Another approach you might consider is called the DUAL method. DUAL is an acronym that invites us to shift away from judgement, moving towards love. D..."don't pass judgement." When we experience judgement seeping into our approach, immediately stop it. Observe the thoughts entering your mind. The next step is U..."understand." Instead of judging someone for what they have done or how they look, try to understand the person. Put yourself in their shoes. Be curious. Try to shift towards understanding, rather than judgement. The next step is A..."acceptance." Once we begin to understand, or at least think we kind of understand, then try to simply accept. Accept the person for who they are without trying to change them. The world will continue to be as it is long after we are all gone. We can choose to live in a world of frustration or in a world of love. This brings us to the final letter... L which stands for "love." Once we have accepted someone for who they are, try to love them. Even if you don't know them, even if you have hated them in the past. Love them as a sibling. One of God's children... someone God made who we revere with wonder and awe.


As we come towards a close of our morning reflection, perhaps we might close with a guided meditation practicing loving kindness. I will begin by inviting you to hold in your mind's eye someone in this room. And as you hold them in your mind, draw a deep breath in and out. Another breath in, holding it a little longer, and out. And a final breath, and out. And as you continue to hold this rhythmic breath cycle, to practice together the discipline of loving kindness that Jesus teaches. Holding that person in your mind's eye and offering this prayer of loving kindness: "May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live in peace, no matter what you are given. May your heart be filled with love and kindness.