Monday, September 16, 2013

Judge Not!

Judge not, that ye be not judged. ~ Matthew 7:1, KJV ~

In my 4 dozen plus years on this planet, I have seen today's verse used to justify every sort of deviant behavior known to mankind.  Sexual sins of every kind, "lifestyle choices", and abhorrent behavior of public figures are expected never to be called into account or evoke outrage.  As the culture circles the drain and slips ever more into depravity, this Bible verse tends to only be misquoted with increasing measure.  Yet, one place I never seem to see the "judge not" mentality applied is to the judgment of those with special needs or their families.

Sometimes it seems that raising a child with remarkable qualities is like a sidewalk into the most personal parts of your life.  People often judge your child with every manner of misguided perception, never caring how it wounds, hinders or destroys.  I have told the story in the past of the stranger who felt obligated to tell me, when my son was an infant, that she had to put her dog down from the same diagnosis that beset my newborn.  I still have a sister-in-law who refuses to believe that our youngest has any official diagnoses, and instead makes unkind remarks about our inadequate parenting.  And don't even get me started on the arrogant assumptions some of our doctors have made repeatedly over the years.  They never seem to back off until they have me in tears. 

If you are parenting children like ours, you have stories no less painful.  Relatives, neighbors, medical professionals, school staff, and even complete strangers think it is their God-given right to give a full airing of their opinion on how they judge your life.  Never mind if it is true or not.  They are going to tell you how it is, and if you don't embrace it, you are to be demeaned.

While some days are better than others, I can only seem to get through these erroneous value judgments by remembering that I was also once the same type of fool.  Since the words, "Judge not," from the book of Matthew 7 are so often misquoted, the perfect remedy for our foolishness is to look at Jesus' words in their entirety.  His full statement from this Sermon on the Mount is,

"Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For the way you judge others is how you will be judged — the measure with which you measure out will be used to measure to you. Why do you see the splinter in your brother’s eye but not notice the log in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when you have the log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First, take the log out of your own eye; then you will see clearly, so that you can remove the splinter from your brother’s eye!" (Matthew 7:1-5, CJB)

This in no way implies that we are not to discern, evaluate, or seriously consider a person's behavior.  Only a few verses later, in Matthew 7:15-23, our Lord talks about carefully weighing whether a person is offering the truth or falsehood.  What God IS saying in Matthew 7:1-5 is that he alone is God, not us.  It is not our right to usurp his authority and decide who is a "bad kid" and who is a "good" one.  We are not the appointed arbiter of who is a good parent and who is a bad parent.  We have absolutely no right to decide who has a valuable life and who has a life that is not worth the oxygen they take up in this world.  Each of us bears the image of God, but we are most certainly not the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, Ruler of All.
The truth set forth in Matthew's gospel finally got through my thick head when I became the parent of a child with special needs.  I have no doubt in my mind that I judged others in ignorant, unfair ways prior to our children's diagnoses.  Most definitely there were times where I deemed other parents to be over-protective, permissive or incompetent when I briefly processed what I thought I was seeing.  I made big assumptions with little information.

Now, as I am on the receiving end of so much of this, I find myself defensive.  "Don't judge me, man!", I internalize with indignation.  How easy it is to forget, I was once the unfair, shoot-from-the-hip accuser.

These words of Jesus definitely open our eyes to the underlying law of reaping what we sow.  Although oh-so-painful to endure the unkind ignorance of others, it is to our benefit to move through that hurt by remembering the Lord's unqualified command and who we were when we were on the other side of these judgments.  Offer mercy, educate when you are able, be gentle in your admonitions, and judge others the way you would have them judge you in that same position.  And when you can't, scream into your pillow, take a deep breath, take a vigorous walk, and begin again.

PRAY:  Father, I confess that I am harsh in how I view others who are not like me.  Rid me of my foolishness when I am indignant about how others judge me or those I love.  Holy Spirit, make us one, just as Jesus prayed on his final night before death.  Soften my heart, and increase my wisdom.
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