Who are we to Judge?
September 13, 2020
Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.
Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.
We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.
Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,
"As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall give praise to God."
So then, each of us will be accountable to God.
Welcome to the story of our illustrious democratic political system. A system created by people who were dissatisfied with the way things were being run, the way people were being treated, people who wanted to get away and start fresh using their new ideas of how things should be done – the American way. People, mostly white men, from western Europe were unhappy with the governmental systems in England, France, Scotland, Ireland and more. The religious groups and the political groups were fighting back and forth and the people, mostly lower and lower-middle class people, were caught in the middle and usually were the ones who suffered. Suffered for the decisions made by the royal upper class and the financially sound religious leaders. The people who could afford to buy anything and do anything. And if they didn’t want to buy it, they took it. If someone of a lower class threw out judgments against someone of the upper class, the upper class would send out enforcers to make the problem disappear. Thus, casting their own judgment against the marginalized people, the widows and the orphans, the unemployed and the handicapped, those of different races or ethnicities, gender or even religious beliefs. Whatever the upper class and the high-ranking religious officials felt was becoming a roadblock toward their own survival they removed them or just walked over them. Now, we are talking about the later 1400’s when Columbus came over here to the later 1700’s when American’s fought against the British for freedom.
Now look at today. Upwards of 600 years later and the system that was started over here for the above-mentioned reasons is crumbling and we are starting to resemble them over there. In the old days religion was in the middle of all that took place over there and religion cannot seem to gain a foothold on anything over here. God has been kicked out of government building and schools. Prayer has been considered disrespectful for anyone who doesn’t want to pray. Setting up a manger scene around Christmas nowadays is offensive to those who do not believe in Jesus. So, we are forced to remove them or allow other religions to construct their own images for whatever religious holiday they are celebrating. I don’t know about you but I think it is wonderful if they want to celebrate their own religious holiday as long as it isn’t disrupting the others. They have every right to celebrate what and who they believe in. I’m sorry but if you don’t like looking at our manger scenes, don’t look at them. We are not forcing anyone to follow our beliefs. I’ve always said, “you don’t go to McDonald’s and complain because they don’t have the Whopper.” Don’t go in with the idea that they are going to change just because of one person. Unfortunately, that is exactly what our government is forcing us, Christians, to do. Political Correctness is ruining this country, this world. Because of a small percentage of people who are complaining about something that “offends” them, groups are forced to change their ways to appease the lesser groups.
America’s Presidential election day is less than 2 months away and the political accusations are flying across the TV screen like a flock of birds heading south for the winter. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. But I’m not talking about Florida. I’m thinking must further south to get away from all this craziness. It seems that every country that is, or was, governed by some political system other than democracy is fighting to become democratic. Looking at our wonderful system I have to ask, “WHY!” If they think the American system is so great then they must be in favor of anarchy and back-stabbing and fighting amongst each other – voting for a political party instead of voting for the right person for the job. Voting for someone for reasons other than being qualified for the job. It just doesn’t make sense. Please take the time to vote. Vote for who you think is the right person for the job. Study the candidates and pray to God to point you in the right direction. Say a prayer right before you enter the voting booth and let your Godly-fingers do the walking and the talking. And stand by your choices if you feel you have made a Godly choice.
Our reading today is a perfect example of disunity. Fighting among the people inside and outside the church for a variety of reasons. Mostly because someone thought they were righter than all the others. The Old Testament describes fights within the families. We saw that in our study of Joseph and his brothers. Fighting between Jacob and Esau, David and King Saul. And the New Testament is no different. There was fighting within the churches at Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia and Colosse that Paul spent so much time trying to stop. Look at the story in Philippians 4:1-3. 1 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! 2 I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, my true companion, help these women since they have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life. These two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were fighting between each other and it was causing the church to split. All because they were judging each other when they had no right or purpose to do.
It is difficult these days, in this crazy world, to be a follower of Jesus and yet, not to be judgmental of others. So many people today are working to different from everyone else, to be individualistic, that they make it easy to look at them with questioning eyes. We want to judge them by the clothes they wear, the houses they live in or even the cars they drive. Just last weekend Helen and I saw this fancysportscar – a custom-painted teal-blue Aston Martin with New York plates, well worth more than $150,000. It was being driven by a young girl. Our first thought was, “I wonder what she does for a living?” Unfortunately, not thinking Christian-like, we weren’t thinking a lawyer or a doctor. But there we were, judging her without knowing anything about her. What gave us the right to do so?
The first part of our reading talks about welcoming people of weak faith but not for the sake of judging them and trying to get them to convert to our ways. Should we spend much of our time and resources trying to convert Jews to Christianity because that is what we believe is the one true way to the Kingdom of God? No, we should be thankful they believe in the same God as our God and pray they end up in the same place as us one day, in eternal celebration of, and with Jesus, the Messiah. We also see people who eat anything (Gentiles) judging those who are vegetarians (sort of like the Jews) and vise-versa. To put this into context for that time period, we need to remember that the Jews, if they planned on being saved, really had no choice but to follow the ancient Mosaic laws when it came to what they could and could not eat. They had no choice but to follow the rules of the Sabbath Day. They absolutely could not perform any type of work on that day. The Gentiles, on the other hand, were not forced to follow strict dietary laws or laws of days like the Jews. If each Christian had kept their convictions to themselves, there would have been no problems. The Jews were sure the Gentiles were not spiritual at all.
So, for what reason would they be arguing? Just because one side thinks they are doing what is right and that the others are wrong? Sometimes it seems that arguments are over the silliest little things. And sometimes these are the ones that blow up into major battles. Like replacing the toilet paper roll. Should it spin off the top or off the bottom? FYI, I prefer it coming off the top. So does the dog. Or we argue over who is the most tired at the end of the day. One might say (and I am not being gender specific here), “I did 3 loads of laundry, fed the kids breakfast and lunch, ran the vacuum and now I am fixing dinner for the whole family”. The other might reply, “Well, that’s nothing. I did a complete tune-up on the car, mowed the lawn, gave the dog a bath and unclogged your mother’s toilet.” Meanwhile the kids are sitting there looking like they are watching a tennis match.
Here’s one from home. I hope Helen’s not listening.
Her: Where do you want to eat?
Me: I don’t know. What do you feel like?
Her: I don’t know. Pick a place.
Me: How about such and such?
Her: No, I don’t feel like that tonight.
Me: That’s why I hate offering up a suggestion.
Then we usually eat wherever she picks. Hey, I’m diplomatic that way.
The big question in all of this is, who are we to judge? It is not our place to judge others nor are we to make them feel belittled by what we think. God has received all of us into His heart because He created all of us and cares for all of us. Whether we eat meat or we eat vegetables. Whether we are left-handed or right-handed. Whether our hair is brown, black, yellow, green, purple, or grey. We are all the same in God’s eyes and God loves us all just the same.
Just look at our story. There was the argument between the Jews and the Gentiles but the fact of the matter was, God didn’t care who was who or who was doing (or not doing) what. God presented the Gentiles with the very same Holy Spirit He presented the Jews with many years prior. God’s love for all of us never changes. It is the same now as it was in the time of Moses.
Our world is divided. Our churches are being divided. Probably more so than ever. But the diversity of the world and the church displays God’s power to bring together different people in a loving act of unity. If we would only allow God to work in all of us from all over the world, we would see God’s mighty healing power at work. We would see unification flow in right before our eyes as brothers and sisters of all forms of diversity join together in love and support of each other. When will this happen? Hopefully before the Second Coming. All we have to do is open our eyes, hearts and minds to the needs of others and welcome them in.
One day Jesus will come back and He will be the one to take us before God for our final judgment. But do not be afraid because the greatest part about that will be when God asks each of us about our long list of sins and who takes responsibility for them and Jesus answers for us and says, “I am”. Jesus’s death on the cross wiped our sin-slates clean. What was once stained with the blood of sin was made white as snow by the blood of our Savior. Jesus made a dramatic trade while hanging on the cross. He gave us His forgiveness in trade for our sins. That is the grace of God in all its glory and sacrifice of a son by His Father. God is the only one who can be the judge of others and that day will come.