Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Who Am I To Judge?

A couple of recent news events has brought to my attention how easily it is to judge others when certain aspects of their lives become public. The most obvious high-profile example is from a few weeks ago when Mel Gibson's had a little run-in with some police officers. His drunken rant after being pulled over made headlines for days after it happened and has led many of us to determine, even when we don't know the man, whether he is anti-semitic or just an overall jerk.

Most recently the case of CNN reporter Kyra Phillips has been a hot topic in the news. While a video clip of President Bush commenting on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina was playing, Phillips made a little trip to the ladies room. Unfortunately for her, her microphone was still live and her conversation with a friend in the bathroom was broadcast to millions of viewers. Though her comments about her husband were positive, she did have some disparging things to say about her sister-in-law. We see things like this happen to Phillips or Gibson and we ask ourselves, "How could they do things like that!?"

I frequently find myself in the position of judge over others while engaging in one of my favorite pastimes -- reality TV. Whether it is a competition-based show or cameras following families around, I often find that I am judging how others act. I judge how they look, their intelligence, their discipline, their ability to get along with others, whether they are nice to people, whether they say stupid stuff, how they do their hair, what kind of morals they have and the list goes on and on. If I'm honest with myself, I think one of the reasons I enjoy watching reality TV or even picking up a People magazine from time to time to read the latest celebrity gossip is so that I can feel better about myself. Maybe if others' lives are so messed up and they act so stupid, then maybe I'm not so bad. My smug self-righteousness kicks in and I feel "better than" those I watch on T.V. or read about magazines.

But I have to wonder that if I were a famous movie star or professional athlete or even a well-known preacher if my actions would hold up under public scrutiny. What if my every word was put into print or captured on video for all to see? What if there were cameras throughout my house recording every time I was impatient with my kids or didn't serve my wife? What if I was on a reality show and you saw that I don't always act like a "professional" Christian should? Would you look at me as less than you or would you see my humanity?

I don't think that wrong behavior needs to be winked at or that we need to turn a blind eye to sinful actions. But remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount,
"Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
If the police wrote a report up everytime I said mean and hateful things about someone different than me or a microphone picked up my casual comments when my guard was down, I may think twice before passing judgment on others. Jesus told us that we would be judged with the same measure that we judge others. And God's standard for judgment is different than ours for:
"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, bu the Lord looks at the heart." ~ I Samuel 16:7b
Since we can't really look into the hearts of others, we probably need to be careful about rushing to judgment. We can hold others to a high standard, but we should remember that the same standard that we put upon them will be put upon us. We can judge others for their cursing, but God will judge us for our gossip (they both deal with the tongue). We can judge others for their sexual immorality, but God will judge us for our gluttony (they both deal with the body). We can judge others for their racism, but God will judge us for our Pharisaism (both deal with pride). All of our sin deals with the heart and only Jesus can change that. We can want others to conform to how we think they should act, but God only transforms the human heart.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
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