Thank you to Kimberly Wyse for this guest post! Check out Kimberly's bio and website below!
How do we live a godly life in an ungodly world? How do we manage to sort out sinful judgment of others from the Scripture’s command to “know their fruit?”
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve caught myself thinking,
“I can’t believe she did that. What was she thinking?”
“I will NEVER let my children behave that way.”
“My husband may not be perfect, but at least he doesn’t do THAT!”
And as soon as those thoughts hit my lips, I remember that my friend would never do some of the things I do, would never let her children get away with some of the things mine do, and doesn’t exactly think my husband is perfect either. (How dare she?)
Surely it breaks the heart of God when we compare ourselves to others, judging them in a way we hope to never be judged. Let’s look at Paul’s letter to the Romans for some guidance.
THE PROBLEM IS WITH THEM?
Paul begins the book of Romans with a very straight-forward and specific list of things that Christians should not do. Throughout the next few chapters, he emphasizes grace over and over – clearly stating that salvation is a gift, not a reward for our good works. But in Romans 1-2, he addresses those who are already following Christ – clearly calling us to live holy lives, set apart from those who do not claim Christ as their Savior. He is especially emphatic that those who lead should do what they know is right and not become fools in their efforts to be wise.
Romans 1:28-32 is a list of “things that are not fitting”:
"And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality,wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them." (NKJV)
Deserving of DEATH! This list is pretty harsh and clear. But, then we have another issue.
THE PROBLEM IS WITH ME?
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things." Romans 2:1
YIKES! So first Paul tells us all the things we are not supposed to do, and then he tells us to be sure not to judge another because we do the same things. Ouch. It appears that I made the list, too.
As I consider my own actions, I find myself just as guilty. I haven’t murdered anyone, but have I been guilty of gossip, lying, or even allowing undiscerning entertainment into my home and heart? Are there places in my heart where I still struggle with pride? Still?
I recently saw a hateful comment on a pastor’s social media post. A woman commented under his post that he was the worst thing to ever happen to their church and he should be fired. My breath caught in my throat in shock at the spite and anger she voiced so openly. Another commenter reposted her profile picture under that comment, in which there was a frame that said, “I choose to be kind.” Truthfully, I had a very hard time not judging her.
As mature and committed Christians, we should know better.
Let’s look at 2 Timothy 3 now (also written by Paul).
“But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.” 2 Timothy 3: 1-5
This world is going to continue to get worse. Sometimes we see the vileness of this world because there is simply no way to avoid it. The ugly things of this world are always in our view! We can easily see and judge the one who gossips, commits sexual immorality, or any of the other outward things in the list above. This passage calls us to avoid such people?! How can we avoid such people, Paul, if we aren’t supposed to judge?
I’ve really struggled over this question. I am “such a person”, according to Romans, according to my own admission, and according to my sinful pride. My friends and family are “such people” as well. How can I avoid these people, and live a godly life, if I’m not supposed to judge them?
THE SOLUTION IS GRACE.
As I’ve gone to the Lord about this question, the answer that has come is so sweet and simple. Philippians 4:8 (again, Paul) answers the question so beautifully:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." Phil 4:8
Judging others is not my job. Changing my life choices and attitude is. I need to start there. It’s easy to focus on the negative and a lot more challenging to notice the good! When we look at our family and friends, when we look at ourselves, and we focus on what is TRUE (not slaves to gossip, slander, or the negative voices in our head), what is HONORABLE (not seeking out the dishonor of another), what is PURE, LOVELY, COMMENDABLE, EXCELLENT, and WORTHY OF PRAISE – everything changes.
We change and grace is born.
As committed followers of Christ, should we spend most of our time with people who unrepentantly go against all that God commands? Probably not. But as followers of Christ, we are to seek out the beauty in one another and draw it out with a heart of grace. We are to let our lights shine in a very dark world. Grace isn’t what the world offers, but we can! Let’s press the reset button and change our default settings, to see where others are worthy of praise, and stop searching for the ways that people are failing. Let’s watch the darkness lift from our own faces as we focus on the good in others. What we are supposed to avoid is pretty obvious. So, let’s start by changing ourselves first and let’s look for the things that should draw us into godly relationships with one another by extending grace.
Guest Post Author: Kimberly Wyse from www.kimberlywyse.com
I am a mother, a farmer’s wife, a minister, and a writer. God has blessed me with the ability to work from home so I can focus my attention on all my loves, but it hasn’t always been this way.
At the age of 36, I got married and left my city-life in Nashville, TN, to move to the rural Midwest. After 13 years of building a career and earning a master’s degree that eventually led to my ordination and position as a staff pastor at a large church, I am learning the new role of housewife and mother. It’s an adjustment, but I’m so thankful for the life God has given me.
God graced us by filling our home with the sound of children’s laughter. Our Eliana Rose joined the family just 11 days shy of our one-year wedding anniversary. She brought so much joy into our lives that we immediately did it again! Charlie Dean was born just 15 months after his big sister and is living up to the meaning of his name – a friendly, free, responsible man.
Just to add a cherry to the top of our little family, we decided to go for it one more time! Baby #3, Redmond Samuel, was born on March 1, 2017. He brought some surprises with him, giving us a very challenging first six months of his life. We made it through though! He’s our miracle baby, rockin’ an extra 21st chromosome, delighting our hearts every day.
God constantly encourages us through Scripture to remember the miraculous and amazing things He has done. It’s what keeps our eyes on Him and off our circumstances, building faith and courage, and setting us free from fear. God commands us to share our testimony with others, to remember His goodness, and through the ability to speak and write, I hope to fulfill that calling.