From the desk of Steve Shultz:
One of the more sober yet clearly true statements by Jesus, the Christ is this:
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.—Matthew 7:1-2
One of my favorite things to say about Scripture is, “What if God wasn’t joking when HE said that? What if HE was serious?”
Sure we should discern, and there are times when a sin is so great that for a time a person in ministry should “sit out for a bit” and be restored. Yet, more than two decades ago, I heard a well-known prophet tell how he was chastened by the Lord. He had gotten it prophetically correct when he saw a major ministry fall, but he nearly “gloated” over this “getting it right.”
God corrected him and said something like, “You should have been praying for this ‘dread champion’ of Mine, instead of being happy that you got it right.”
I’ve never forgotten that.
God has given me dreams as well, where I was being critical of the fall of this ministry or that person. The most dramatic was in 1989. In this dream, God had an old time minister from the 1800s stick a mirror only a few inches from my face and demand of me that I EXAMINE MYSELF! It literally changed my life. It’s not that I don’t judge people anymore, but it does turn out that I judge them less than I used to, and I try to judge myself (examine myself) to see if I’m walking “in the Faith.” Once in awhile, I get burned because I believe the best when I shouldn’t, but I’d rather err on the side of grace and mercy than on the side of law.
With that said, this is a very sobering, true, and wise word from Garris Elkins on how to NOT live in the judgment zone.
In a recent meeting with pastors a prophetic word was given in the form of an image. The image was of a person who was trying to stand in the midst of opposition. As the hand of accusation pressed on the chest of this person, their heart was so tender and open to God that the accusing hand passed through without finding anything solid upon which to push. An offense of the heart gives the enemy something to push against. Because this person’s heart was so tender and open to God, they were not pushed over. A tender heart allowed them to stand. A hardened and judgmental heart would have caused them to fall. Our effectiveness in God’s Kingdom is determined by the condition of our hearts.
We have all heard the statement, “Who are you to judge?” This statement is usually made against someone who stands for holiness in the public arena. Sometimes those asking this question have a valid point. At times the Church has been good at pointing fingers at others while our own house is in need of repair. But, there is a righteous judgment we must know how to make. Sin is still sin and we need to deal with it honestly or we will not move into the higher levels of anointing God has planned.
We are coming into a season of an outpouring of God’s presence that will not abide with unrighteous judgment. What God is about to do will be a revival that will be released through hearts of mercy.
The Presence of Mercy Over Judgment
There are two kinds of judgment. The first judgment is a judgment of quality—a discerning. We are free to look at the fruit of a person’s life and discern whether their actions are holy or not. If there is a trail of sin following a life, then something is wrong. This evidence is given to us to help us pray and help when needed and to even be cautious, but never to demean and destroy another person.
The other kind of judgment is one that we don’t get to make. We can’t assume that we fully know the heart and motives of someone and we never get to judge the eternal destiny of another human being. These kinds of judgment belong to God alone. We judge fruit—God judges hearts.
Jesus spoke in a strong and clear voice in Matthew 7 regarding unrighteous judgment:
Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, “Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,” when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.—Matthew 7:1-5
The word “judge” used in Matthew 7:1 means “to pass judgment.” This kind of judgment declares that a failed life and ministry is over because of what has taken place. In the eyes of the one doing the judging, the failed person is now viewed as stuck in their sin and nailed in a place of judgment. The accuser then begins to view the one who has been judged by their failures alone and not in the light of God’s transforming power.
The greater danger is not for the one who sinned and was judged—the greater danger lies with the one making the judgment because they are now walking in spiritual blindness because of the log in their eye. The one whom they judged can actually experience transformation in their place of brokenness and move on, but the judger can only see them as nailed in a place of judgment. The one making the judgment cannot move forward because they have linked themselves to unrighteous judgment. Our ability to see any situation clearly stops at the place of unrighteous judgment. We can actually become what we judge because that is all we see.
When we pass judgment on another person, by assuming we know their heart, according to Jesus, we will be judged by that same standard of judgment. This doesn’t mean God lowers His standard of judgment to our level—it means my judgment will become like a vicious dog I turn loose upon the guilty party. When my judgment and accusation mauls the victim, it will turn and come back and bite me. We get to choose the standard of judgment that will be used against us based on the kingdom we choose to partner with.
When Jesus said the one making the judgment had a log in their eye, the word used for a log can be translated to describe a piece of lumber the size of a ceiling joist. It is a large piece of wood. What is unique in this illustration is the speck in the eye of the one being judged, and the log in the accusers eye, are of the same substance—both are wood. This verse is telling us that the one being accused and the accuser both have the same sin, but the one making the accusation is in greater danger than the one who actually sinned openly.
God made all His judgments against sin when Jesus hung on the Cross. The Cross was an act of mercy. This is why the Scripture says, “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13). Mercy triumphs over judgment because the judgment of God was not the end but the means to express mercy. The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a visible representation of God’s mercy when Jesus rose from the grave and in resurrection power triumphed over the judgment that was meant for us. The evidence the Holy Spirit is at work in the people of God is the presence of mercy, not judgment.
The Cross and the Tomb of Christ are both empty for a reason. Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. We are seated in Him as a visible representation of what God’s mercy can do. Mercy changes our position. We can forget that the ones we judge unrighteously are now seated with us in Christ at the right hand of the Father.
There are some practical reasons why we should choose to live in a judgment-free-zone.
None of Us Have All the Facts
When the story broke awhile back that professional baseball player Mark McGwire might have used steroids, I got upset at him. I didn’t say anything; it was something that took place in my heart. Here is a man who was always the best hitter on his team, even as a kid. He didn’t need any enhancement to be great. He was destined for greatness from his birth. God gave him a gift that had always enabled him to hit a baseball out of the ballpark. Mark McGwire is like many of us who see our personal dreams in the distance and we want to hurry things up. For McGwire, his destiny accelerant was steroids. In the ministry, our destiny accelerant can be self-promotion.
I watched a recent television interview with Bob Costas and Mark McGwire. Costas was asking McGwire about his now admitted steroid use. Mark was no longer denying his use of steroids. As I watched the interview I saw a genuinely broken man trying to hold back true sobs of regret. He was broken over what he had done to his family, the sport of baseball, his fans and his legacy. As I watched the interview I was reminded of my own judgment against him when the news first broke. In my heart I harbored the word, “Cheater.” I had passed judgment on him and nailed him in the place of my judgment. My heart broke when I realized this because I knew, in my own way, that I had added to his pain. During the emotional interview I was now hearing a man’s heart and wanted the mercy of God to be extended to him. I asked God to forgive me and I let Mark McGwire go. I had stepped into a judgment-free zone.
During the sad events of the late 1980s when the Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker scandals were taking place, a wise man told me, “Believe the best and never be surprised by the worst.” Over the years there have been times when some of us have chosen just the opposite and believed the worst and were then surprised, and eventually ashamed, when the best showed up.
None of Us are Impartial
We all have personal agendas. Part of growing in Christ is bringing these agendas to the Cross and putting them to death so that the will of God will rise and have preeminence. Our personal agendas can become the only lens through which we view life and other people. If we are not careful we can begin to think we actually see the bigger picture with clarity.
In the Greek culture when the courts had to hear a controversial case, the judge, jury and witnesses would convene court at night in the dark. They would hear the evidence in the blackness of night—in order to not to be influenced by anything but the evidence. One of the symbols in our court system is a statue of Lady Justice who has her origins in Greek culture. Lady Justice stands with a blindfold upon her eyes as she holds a set of scales. She weighs evidence in the purity that only blind justice can provide.
I wonder how it would work in the Church if we couldn’t see each other’s tattoos, designer clothes, bank ledgers, cars, recreational toys, nose rings or the homeless person’s rags. What if we could only hear the evidence of the heart? The evidence is not fully presented until we have heard the heart of another person. Sin and failure is never all the evidence of a life. A single point of failure is not the total definition of a person. God always has something more planned and His plan is filled with goodness.
None of Us is Without Fault
Only the faultless One can find fault. In John 5:22, Jesus said this of Himself, In addition, the Father judges no one. Instead, He has given the Son absolute authority to judge.
The reason Jesus has absolute authority to judge is because only He was completely pure and only He paid the full price for our sin. He went to the Cross having lived in a body like ours, subject to all our temptations and brokenness, and yet He remained pure to the end. The Word says that Jesus was the second Adam accomplishing what the first Adam failed to do (see 1 Corinthians 15:45-47).
We are not called to defend each others’ words and actions. Each of us is responsible before God for what we say and do. What we are responsible for as the Body of Christ is to provide cover for each other. To cover another Believer is not a place where we white-wash sin. To cover means that I stand between the fallen person and their accuser to provide a place of protection. Jesus is doing this right now as the accuser of the Church is hurling accusations about us.
In this judgment-free zone, the fallen ones are free to hear the transforming words of God they missed the first time around. A judgment-free zone is where both the accused and the accusers can find wholeness. A judgment-free zone is where the power of God is manifested.
Garris Elkins, Senior Leader
Living Waters Church – Medford, Oregon