Many years ago, I was invited to speak to a group of medical doctors who were all interested in missions. I was excited to share with them about the many needs in Asia—until I walked into one of their homes, where the meeting was taking place.
To my mind, the house was nothing less than a king’s palace. I was so angry and upset that I spent half of my speaking time attacking materialism. Anyone who heard me could clearly understand that I was condemning the brother who owned this house.
Would Christ have done this? I think not. I should have used all my time to cry out on behalf of those around the world longing for hope and ask for prayer. God didn’t need me to pronounce judgment over my brother. I should have remembered that the Word of God alone was powerful enough to help him see if there was anything about his lifestyle that the Lord wanted him to change in light of the multitudes who had never experienced God’s love.
Why Do We Judge Others So Quickly?
As believers, it seems that all of us have our own paradigms, views and convictions. Many of them are the result of God’s dealings with us in certain areas of our lives or His gracious opening of our understanding to His Word. But somehow we forget the time and effort it took for the Holy Spirit to bring us to that point, and we begin to judge others by the light we have received.
When others fail, or act outside our convictions, some automatic mechanism seems to go off inside us. Unless we are careful, we will judge others without mercy.
Even the apostle Paul failed in this area when he was dealing with John Mark. This young man had left Paul’s team when things got rough on their first missionary journey. In his zeal and absolute commitment to Christ, Paul had no room for someone who didn’t share his radical lifestyle and willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of the Good News.
Later, when John Mark asked for a second chance, Paul refused. His reaction must have greatly discouraged this young brother. It was not because he had sinned, but because he was not able to measure up to Paul’s standard.
It’s the Final Moments that Count
While Jesus was with the Father, He watched Abraham trying to substitute Ishmael for the promised son, Moses killing the Egyptian, Ruth the Moabitess worshipping idols and David committing adultery and murder. But He reserved His judgment, because from eternity past He could see their entire life—past, present and future—all at the same time. He knew that by the time they reached the end of their lives, each of these people would be counted among the heroes of faith.
I believe one of the reasons Jesus didn’t judge others during His time on earth was because He remembered that the final stretch of their race was still ahead of them. They hadn’t crossed the finish line yet, and between now and then much could still change. Jesus knew that Peter’s denial and Thomas’ doubting of His resurrection were not the last chapters in their apostleship. He could see ahead in time, when both of them would lay down their lives as bold witnesses and martyrs.
In the eyes of God, it’s the final moments, the way we cross the finish line, that counts.
Instead, Rekindle Their Fire
Isaiah 42:3 says this about the Lord: “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.”
Jesus deals so gently and sensitively with those who have failed or can’t seem to measure up. His goal is never to finish them off but to help them succeed. That’s our calling as well.
John Mark ended up succeeding in the ministry and later becoming the writer of the Gospel of Mark because one man showed him mercy when he failed. Barnabas left the company of Paul in order to sustain and mentor this young brother and bind up his broken heart. He understood that what John Mark needed was not further judgment but someone who would rekindle the fire that had almost been snuffed out, correcting him with love and patience.
The next time we are tempted to judge others, let us see beyond today and remember that the final chapter of their life has yet to be written. How we treat them may determine whether or not they will finish their race victoriously.
SI Moderator - Greg Gordon