Over the years I have often heard Jesus words “judge not lest ye be judged” quoted, sometimes along with the question he posed “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?”, and sometimes these have been directed at me. In our new tolerant, politically correct age, judging others is frowned upon (even though the pc brigade can be the worst culprits). I often think of friends in the past explaining the reason they preferred to frequent a pub rather than a church is because they found in the former people who weren’t so judgmental (sadly, I concur Christians are often guilty on this score). The reason for me pontificating in this manner is, as often happens, certain events and exchanges have caused me to think along these lines.
One of the stories before me today has the title: “Saudi ambassador: We won’t take lectures from UK”, who has warned of “potentially serious repercussions of a breakdown in relations with the UK and complained of a lack of mutual respect“. My guess is that UK authorities are worried because of the financial implications to the UK economy if the threat was carried out. Yet it seems to me, there is a time to call a spade a spade and respectfully declare that some of what goes in Saudi Arabia, sanctioned by its ruler: Nayef bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is evil. The Hebrew prophets did no less, and surely God wants to speak into the situation. The UK government, under the guise of diplomacy that can so easily cover over a lack of spine, will likely adopt the same approach towards Saudi as they recently adopted with China (discussed in an earlier blog).
While the relationship may be tenuous, I would like to cite a link I recently posted on my Facebook page, with the title: “Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic . . . It’s anti-racist”. It gave rise to some lively, in the main helpful, discussion regarding Israel (and help inspire me to post further on the subject). It became evident that peoples’ views on the matter depended, at least to some extent, on who it is we allow to influence us. Two names cropped up: Stephen Sizer and Gary DeMar. Sizer I have dealt with elsewhere but DeMar, up to that point, I knew hardly anything about. His Wikipedia entry makes for interesting reading: “Gary DeMar is an American writer, lecturer and the president of American Vision, an American Christian nonprofit organization. The think-tank has a vision of an America that recognizes the sovereignty of God over all of life and where Christians are engaged in every facet of society.” Given my job title – Community Activist (as well as Gospel preacher), this particularly resonates. I have undertaken to study his teaching (and there is a lot freely accessible online) and report back my findings in due course. A further reason for doing this is the polarization, often seen when discussing subjects like Israel, began to surface in our discussion, with one person declaring much that LeMar said was found to be helpful and the other that it was tantamount to dangerous heresy. Given the amount of false teaching being propagated by professing Christians and the warnings of Jesus to beware of deception, I feel I cannot ignore such challenges even at the risk of offending others, including being labeled judgmental.
The good book also tells us that: “there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1), and as far as this blog posting goes that means there is a time to speak out, even at the risk of being branded judgmental. It is perhaps easier for me to do so more than many, as I might be deemed by those who might otherwise be threatened as a harmless old eccentric few listen to, that it is better to humour and ignore. Others have been less fortunate and history is full of people being done away with for saying much less. When it comes to the words of Jesus, one picture that springs to mind is of a straight and narrow way that few walk along even though it leads to life, contrasted with the broad way the majority walk along that leads to destruction. Given there are many false teachers and prophets, leading people astray, the urgency is all the more greater for a timely speaking out against those and that which might divert people from the straight and narrow path.
Given the stereotypical judgmental Christian image that people recoil from, it is well to note that Jesus attracted the so-called worst of sinners, who clearly were not put off by the only person who could rightly claim to be perfect. I suspect what they saw in Jesus, was that while he did not mince his words regarding what was right or wrong, when he spoke and acted, he did so in truth and love. As a preacher of the gospel (check out here for what this amounts to in my own practice), it would be wrong for me to pick out some sins and not others, as if some are worse than others. It is not my place to judge, but it is to love. I must declare God’s righteous expectations to nations and individuals (knowing the tendency to rebel), to seek out that which is true (knowing the tendency to embrace error), and to point others to the one who alone can save us – the Lord Jesus Christ (knowing the tendency to reject Christ’s claims on their lives).