SOTM, part 15 - Kingdom Living in Community
Well, here we are. We’ve reached the last chapter of Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount, and it’s got some show stoppers in it, including America’s favorite verse right off the bat. Let’s read these six verses together here and see if we can grasp some of what Jesus is getting at.
Matthew 7:1-6 - Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
If you’ve been following along with these blog posts, you might be fascinated, as I was, with this passage coming where it does. It follows fairly strong encouragement from Jesus to invest all our lives in the kingdom of God. And I suppose for those of us that go down that path, something bad can happen. The more passionate we get about Jesus and the things of God, the easier it is to judge other people, especially other Christians, who don’t seem as committed.
I know early in my Christian life, I was pumped to open the bible, learn some things about God I never knew. I believe I thought I was the first person on earth to have discovered these things. Something else happened, though, that I didn’t catch on to for a while: a critical attitude towards others surfaced. I was all over them for what they read, listened to, or watched. If I shared the good news of Jesus, and they didn’t buy into it right away, I just wrote them off. I have learned some things over the years, but I’m pretty sure God wanted to beat that nonsense out of me before handing me a church to lead. Wise God, that One!
I am not a pastor that typically adheres to the standard three-part message formula. But, today I’m making an exception with three things from this text that I want to highlight for you to consider. These three things talk about the culture or the flavor of life in the Kingdom that Jesus is inviting his listeners, and us, to.
1. The Kingdom of God is a community of grace. “Judge not, that you be not judged.” Yep, everyone’s favorite verse to tell people to butt out, right? What in the world is Jesus trying to get across here? What He’s not saying is that we can’t make moral evaluations about other people’s choices. I mean, Jesus in this sermon has already gotten in our faces about anxiety, lust, lying, adultery, divorce. He’s got no problem making the call on right and wrong. We don’t have to affirm every choice everyone makes as “ok.” Jesus also isn’t saying you and I can’t distinguish between those who are in the Kingdom and those who aren’t. Jesus, again, already made such a call early in the Sermon, calling those who don’t seek the things of God and who live for the things of this world “pagans.”
So, what is he saying? The grammar will help us here because it tells us that the judging going on that’s to be avoided is a final condemnation, writing someone off as worthless and unredeemable. Basically declaring that a person deserves hell. Here’s the problem with that existing in Jesus’ Kingdom—if we do that, we’re forgetting something really important. We forget that we didn’t measure up and somehow have convinced ourselves that we did.
A church operating as a community of grace gets it that everyone who comes is a mess, is struggling, and is sometimes failing miserably—but failing right back into the arms of Jesus who died for that mess. And when we understand that, we’ll be slow to condemn others who don’t have it all together. Now, if we lived that way, wouldn’t the church, wouldn’t The Surge, be an oasis?
2. The Kingdom of God is a community of accountability. Yeah, you might agree wholeheartedly with the first section, but here’s where you might trip up. Because "judge not, that you be not judged” does not mean to just let everyone else in the Kingdom do their own thing. It doesn’t mean never to call anyone’s behaviors or attitudes into question. In fact, you and I, as Christians, have been brought into a family that God intends will help each other follow Jesus. And if you are in a family, you know that people are all up in each other’s business. Hopefully, we’ll do this better than some families, though.
Yes, we’re messed up. But, yes, God’s putting up back together, transforming us, bit by bit. And this transformation occurs through God’s master plan to use other Christians. Bottom line: You and I can’t fly solo. You and I need the church. Jesus inhabits His church, so if you don’t want His church, you really don’t want Him. The church is Jesus’ mechanism for accomplishing everything He wants to accomplish on planet earth.
This all comes out in Jesus' discussion of logs and specks. Truth is, don’t we all tend to minimize our sins and focus in on everyone else’s? I’m not angry—I’m just passionate. But everyone else around me, well, they clearly have some anger issues. Isn’t everyone who cuts us off in traffic total idiots? When we cut someone off, we’ve got really good reasons and should be excused, right? Jesus says, “How about this? Start being willing to admit you and I have junk that needs dealt with. People who refuse to go there He calls hypocrites. Why? They pretend they have no junk and only see everyone else’s. So, take our own sins seriously. And here is where we’re rubbed the wrong way—we cannot do this without help. We need each other. Take a fresh look at verse 5.
Matthew 7:5 - You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
You see it, right? Deal with your own mess and then you’ll be of benefit in helping others. There’s an expectation of that. Jesus doesn’t tell us just to worry about our own selves, even though we love to use that verse to tell people to mind their own business. Instead, we are to give each other permission to be all up in our business. Start with your stuff—and you’ll need others lending a hand—and then return the favor. We ought to be as passionate about others growing in Christ as we are about growing ourselves. We see this same principle in lots of other places in the bible. Here are two just to convince you I’m not making that up.
Luke 17:3-4 - Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”
Galatians 6:1 - Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
We have a responsibility to accept help from others to keep us on track, and a responsibility to give others help—all done in a spirit of gentleness. And notice that Jesus doesn’t say we should just point out someone’s junk. That’s easy to do, especially as we talk about that person behind his back. Man, here’s what that is—it’s judgmental, it’s condemning. No, we’re to take out the speck. That requires closeness, being face-to-face, walking with them, loving them through this. I shared a story about a friend who was very generous, at least we thought. But his wife confided that their family couldn’t make their mortgage payment, utility bills, or car payment because hubby had given all the money away. I walked through this mess with him, finally figuring out that everything stemmed from a trauma of rejection early in life that made him swear he would never experience that again. What we all thought was a spiritual gift was a deep-rooted hurt and accompanying sin issue. He needed more than someone to point it out. He needed someone to strap on a weapon and fight alongside him through this. That’s our call of duty as citizens of the Kingdom.
Isn’t this the truth? You get something in your eye. You can’t find it because it hurts too much to keep your eye open. You need help getting that puppy out. Now, I know you’re probably afraid of having that kind of accountability. If you do life together, close in, people are gong to get to know you, and your carefully constructed image of you might be found to be a facade, and that terrifies you. Get over it, ok? God, who is the only one who really matters, already knows you. And everyone you are going to be known by is also a mess, struggling in some areas of life just like you. We are all a work in progress. At The Surge, small groups are the place where this kind of knowing each other gets played out. Look, I know you’re busy or you’re in this “season of life.” I also know something else. You make time for everything that is important to you. Make time for small groups. God’s design is that this intimacy with other Christians will have benefits in the here and now that will carry on into eternity. Finally,
3. The Kingdom of God is a community of discernment. Catch verse 6 again.
Matthew 7:6 - Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
Dissecting this seemingly bizarre sentence, we’ve got things that are holy and “pearls" that are being given and thrown out. This refers to the gospel message. We know because, a few chapters later in Matthew, Jesus likens the good news of what Jesus has done to make a relationship with God possible through his death and resurrection to a pearl. Dogs and pigs were wild critters who might actually attack you. Jesus is making the point that we should, as Christians, citizens of the Kingdom, seek to get the gospel news to everyone we can. But there will be some who are steadfastly hostile to it. We’ve got to have some discernment as to when it’s time to move on to other people who are more open to it. Jesus sent his disciples out to share the good news with this instruction: “If you get to a town and are rejected, go out, shake the dust off your feet, and head to the next town.” The Apostle Paul also told his Jewish countrymen that while God had hoped they would be the ones to tell the world of the good news of Jesus, they threw it out like trash. So, God was now taking the gospel message to the Gentiles, the non-Jews, who were proving far more responsive to it.
The gospel is available to everyone because Jesus can save anyone. But you and I might have to refrain from knocking on the same doors once it’s obvious there is no receptivity. That doesn’t mean we don’t keep praying, don’t keep loving, don’t keep being friends. We’ll leave our doors open to them, but we might just stop banging on theirs. Why the need for discernment? Well, God’s intent is for everyone to hear, so make sure you’re not beating your head on a post when you could expand the gospel to other people in your sphere of influence.
We close with these reminders. One, don’t condemn people. Display grace that’s been shown to you. Two, be engaged in God’s ideas of how community plays out in the Kingdom, where loving each other and dealing with logs and specks gets done with gentleness so everyone grows to maturity in their relationship with God. And three, share the gospel. If you’ve not been doing that, start. If you are, be on the lookout for those who just want to argue or attack you when you share. Maybe it’s time to just love them in other ways and hold the gospel for the time they approach you with questions. In the meantime, be looking for others to share with.
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.