One of the strongest themes of the Bible is about God's judgment. Judgment cannot be separated from the Gospel. [Romans 2:17] God has lovingly provided two important things in this regard: first, the means through His Son for a resurrection so that we may be judged favorably. And, second, the teachings of His Son which actually tell us what we need to do in order to be declared "righteous" in the resurrection. It will be helpful to briefly consider just two of these teachings.
Perhaps one of the most important matters we need to learn and apply is recorded for us in Matthew 7:1, 2. Note our Lord's words of warning: "Stop being judgmental so that you are not condemned! Because you will be judged by your own standard of judgment." Now that is something to make one sit upright and pay attention. We all create our own standards for others, and many often express this in their conversation with others, often amounting to gossip, or even slander. [Proverbs 11:13; 16:28; 20:19] Jesus made it clear that we would be judged by such careless words. Compare Matthew 12:37, "For by your own words you will be acquitted and pronounced innocent; and, by your own words you will be found guilty and condemned."
Two of the Nazarene's inspired disciples also wrote in the same manner. Paul echoes Jesus when he writes at Romans 14:4, 10, 13, 19 "Who do you think you are to be judging another Master's servant? To his own Master he fails or succeeds, for surely the Lord himself is strong enough to make him succeed. ... Why do you judge your brother? Why do you look down on your brother? For everyone of us will appear before God's judgment-throne ... and give an account. ... Therefore, stop judging one another. ... Let us follow a course of peace." The knowledge that we will stand before Christ and give an account, ought to make us less judgmental of others. Whether we realize it or not, the standard of judgment we use for others will be turned on us. Does it not seem, then, that the course of wisdom is to develop a merciful, kind, and loving attitude toward everyone else? [Colossians 3:13]
James also writes in a similar vein when he says: "What are the reasons for the fights among you? Do they not result from your own selfishness? ... Brothers, stop speaking against each other! Whoever speaks against a brother is judging him and thus sets himself up as judge and law-giver. There is only One judge and law-giver who is able to save or destroy! So, who do you think you are to be judging your neighbor?" [James 4:1, 11, 12]
Such warnings ought to make any Christian cautious when speaking privately to others. It is usually through speech that we are in danger of creating a log with God that will reveal our tendency is to be habitually negative when it comes to our opinions on others. Such a "wicked treasure" will ultimately lead to great shame before Christ's throne. It is very possible that t will turn out to be a "resurrection to ageless shame and reproach." [1 John 2:28; Daniel 12:2] If a disciple of the Nazarene discovers -- or has it kindly brought to their attention -- that they tend to be negative, adversarial, or confrontational in their speech, it would be better to strive to learn to remain silent. We all have opinions -- and few of us think our opinions wrong. However, is it always necessary to express them?
When we find ourselves defending a cherished hope can we present our convictions in an apologetic tone? For example, Peter advises, "Hold the Christ dear in your heart ever ready to give a defense [Greek: apologian] to anyone who demands a reason for your Hope, but do so mildly and respectfully." [1 Peter 3:15] And, Paul agrees when he counsels: "Let the words you speak always be gracious, seasoned with salt, and know it is binding you learn how to give a proper answer to anyone." [Colossians 4:6]
The second matter Jesus stressed a great deal was the need to be charitable and hospitable to others, including enemies. [Luke 6:30-35] In the famous parable of the sheep and goats -- where the sheep are declared "righteous" and the goats "cursed" -- Jesus made it clear that those who would "inherit the kingdom" [Matthew 25:34; 1 Corinthians 15:50] were those who treated even the lowliest and humblest Christian in this manner: "Because I was hungry and you [sheep] gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a visiting stranger and you treated me with hospitality. I was ill-clad and you gave me clothes. I was sick and you cared for me. I was a prisoner and you came to visit me. ... I tell you [sheep] this truth: Based on how you treated one of the most insignificant of my brothers, just so you treated me." [Matthew 25:35, 36, 40] Mother Theresa dedicated herself to caring for the dregs of humanity and taught, "See in the faces of the poor our Lord Jesus Christ."
The force of our Lord's parable thunders when we realize that the "goats" were "cursed" - not because they treated others harmfully or inhumanely -- but, because they DID NOTHING WHEN THEY SAW THE NEED! [Matthew 25:41-46] James gives his own pronouncement regarding the sin of omission: "If one knows what is good and right to do and does not do it -- it is a sin!" [James 4:17] Among these sins James surely would have included two things: slander and failure to show charity. He writes: "If any person thinks he is a 'true worshipper' and yet does not bridle his tongue, he deceives himself and his 'true worship' is completely worthless. ... If a brother or sister is ill-clad and without sufficient food -- and you say, 'Good luck and I hope you find something!' -- and you do not give them what they need, how are you benefited [before God]? And so, conviction without works is completely dead!" [James 1:26; 2:15-17]
How we should pray that our Father will give us the wisdom to guard our tongue, and the love to always show charity and hospitality to those in need. Then, before the judgment-throne of Christ at his Parousia we will be able to speak freely in his presence without any shame or embarrassment. [2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 John 2:28]
Nazarene Commentary 2000© by Mark Heber Miller
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