Non-judgement

 Joel 2:23-29

O children of Zion, be glad    and rejoice in the Lord your God;    for he has given the early rain for your vindication, he has poured down for you abundant rain,    the early and the later rain, as before. The threshing-floors shall be full of grain,    the vats shall overflow with wine and oil.

I will repay you for the years    that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter,    my great army, which I sent against you.

You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,    and praise the name of the Lord your God,    who has dealt wondrously with you. And my people shall never again be put to shame. You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel,    and that I, the Lord, am your God and there is no other. And my people shall never again be put to shame.

Then afterwards I will pour out my spirit on all flesh;    your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams,    and your young men shall see visions. Even on the male and female slaves,    in those days, I will pour out my spirit.

Matthew 7:1-3

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s[a] eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

 

Luke 18:9-14

Jesus also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax-collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax-collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax-collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

 

 

 

 

A rottweiler, a chihuahua, and a cat all die and appear before the Judgment Seat of Heaven. God asks the rottweiler, “Spike, why should you get into Heaven?”  The rottweiler says, “I protected my family for years, and died saving them from a crazed killer.”  God says, “Well done, boy. Come sit at my right hand. How about you, Mr. José” The chihuahua says “I didn’t die heroically, but I did provide love and comfort to an elderly lady in her last years.”  “Good enough. Come sit on my left.” God turns to the cat. “How about you Winston? Why should you get into Heaven?”  The cat looks up and calmly says to God who is seated on the judgement seat, “because that’s my seat.”

 

 

The Judgement Seat of heaven. Such a storied place. How many stories and jokes and ideas are there about the judgement, or the judgement seat, or judgement day.

 

And yet how little there is in scripture about how that works.

In Hebrews we read that is appointed for humans or mortals to die and after that the judgment.

 

Jesus said one time that if you are angry with a brother or a sister you will be liable to judgement.

 

But there is very little about what the mechanism of judgement is or by what standard people are judged.

 

Except maybe if you take that parable of the Sheep and the Goats, known also as the judgement of the nations.

 

You might remember that the Son of Man when he comes separates people, and he separates them by the criteria of whether they gave the Lord food when he was hungry, and water when he was thirsty… whether they welcomed him when he was a strangers and gave him clothes when he was naked; and whether they visited him when he sick and when he was in prison.

 

And when both the included and the excluded ask, when did that happen? The Lord answered.

 

Truly, I tell you just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.

 

But remember it is a parable, and parables are not literal representations.

 

Remember also the little line from Hebrews about it is appointed for us to die and then the judgement.

That is all in a big chapter about Jesus laying down his life for us and sacrificing his life and we don’t have to make sacrifice for sin. Christ has entered heaven to remove our sin. And to save us.

 

In fact, many years ago, when I was teaching confirmation class in Arthur, Ontario, and I took each teenager aside, I would ask them.

Why do you think God would let you into heaven? My theology is changed a bit over the years, but it wasn’t that I thought there was a chance they would be left out of heaven, but more wanted them to talk about their faith.

 

What I was looking for them to answer was not. “Because I am a good person.”

Nothing wrong with being a good person, and being a good person does count with God.

 

But what I wanted to hear from them was this: Because God loves me, or because Jesus died for me, or Because God forgives me, or because I am a child of God.

 

What I wanted to hear was grace.

 

I don’t know whether there is a literal judgment seat. Probably there is in cat heaven…

 

But if there is one… I believe Jesus is standing there next to God and saying.

“This is Harry, Lord, go easy on him, he is your child, and I died for him.”

I believe not so much in my goodness, but God’s goodness, Christ’s goodness, in the Spirit of God which is love and mercy.

The Grace of God mediated through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

 

Yes, there are verses in the bible about judgement, about choices, about good choices that bring life in its fullness, and bad choices that lead us into hell…

 

But strangely enough, one of the key things that Jesus talked about is what scholars and psychologists and religious people call non-judgement.

 

From Matthew 7:1-3

“Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s[a] eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

 

Or from the writings of Paul

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.

Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another.

 

You know when I talk to people who don’t go to church, one of the things they think the church is…

Is judgemental.

 

That average Joe Canadian or Susie Canadian, thinks that the church is about pointing fingers at sinners, and people who don’t go to church. Judging pro-lifers, gays, people who swear, drink, dance and have lots of fun.

Judging people who get divorced, or who have had affairs, or who have left their spouses.

 

When I took my yoga instruction to be a yoga teacher and I first said I was a minister in a church, far from getting respect for being a person of the cloth, there was this look of incredulity, or even fear….

Instead of representing love and acceptance to these young people, and they were young compared to me… I represented judgement.

 

I hope that changed as they got to know me. But a lot of people think that the church is about judgement.

They think it is about sending bad people, or non Christians, or people of other faiths to a literal hell.

 

And yet while there is talk of judgement, the way Jesus talked is that we should be living in a non-judgmental way.

 

And one of Jesus more interesting stories that Jesus told is that of the Pharisee and the Tax-Collector.

Let me tell it again, Harry’s edition.

 

A good Presbyterian Elder comes to church one Sunday and puts ten percent of her income into the offering place. She prays fervently and in her own mind as she prays, she tells God that she tries her best to participate in church and in committees of the church. And she tries to help the poor.

As she is praying a lady comes in from off the street. She is dirty and smelly and she known to come to the food bank regularly. She is also known for particular unacceptable behaviour such as drugs and prostitution.

The elder looks over and thanks God that she is not in the same boat as the street lady.

The lady off the street comes in to church, doesn’t sing, doesn’t particularly listen to the sermon, but at the end of the service starts crying because her life is hopeless and maybe there is nowhere else for her to turn but to God.

 

And Jesus says that the one that went home right with God was the street lady.

 

I am trying to tell the story in the way which will actually offend you, because that is way the original people heard it. When Jesus told the story, the Pharisees were good honest, loyal people of faith, who helped the poor and gave lots of money to their faith. They were the kind of people that most churches want. Dedicated and good givers.

And tax collectors were traitors, who not only collaborated with the Romans but also skimmed extra money for themselves. They were rich at the expense of their own people. They were despised.

 

This was an offensive story. The good person doesn’t cut it with God. the bad person in the story does.

 

But we have a tendency to see the Pharisee as the bad person and the tax collector as the good person.

 

But the reality is that the Pharisee was good and the tax collector was bad. Yet the bad person in the story goes home justified.

So why does Jesus tell the story?

 

Well one reason is that we are both the Pharisee and the tax collector.

 

It is a fallacy to think in some ways there are good people and bad people and it is an easy division.

Most of us here. Probably all of us here have done bad things.

The difference between criminals and ordinary people can be very slight.

A doctor of whom I know was hurt in an accident. He received pain pills to deal with the pain. Powerful pain pills that addicted him.

And he ended up doing some bad things, dishonest things to feed his addiction.

And it could have been almost anyone of us.

 

There is probably hardly a person here who hasn’t done something that could have ended them up in jail, from hitting someone, grabbing a spouse too hard, not reporting all their tips on income tax form, to driving so fast that it could be considered dangerous driving.

 

About 18 months ago a man driving a truck made the mistake of going through a stop sign. It caused the death of 16 people. He was sentenced to eight years in jail.

 

Which of us here hasn’t made the mistake of going through a stop sign.

 

It could have been us.

 

One reason we don’t judge others, is that none of us is innocent. None of us is perfect. All of us probably would be found guilty and embarrassed if looked at with a microscope and people looked at our pasts.

All of us fail to live up to the standard of loving as God loves, of doing unto others what we would have them do to us, of forgiving one another, and being reconciled to one another.

 

We do good things and we do bad things. We think good things and we think bad things.

 

None of us is without blame or sin. So we don’t judge.

 

But more than that Non-judgement is a way to live a life that provides more peace and happiness.

 

Let me explain.

 

Being Non-judgemental doesn’t mean that you never have to make judgements in life for yourself.

You will all the time. You will make judgements as a person, as a parent, as an employer…etc.

You will make choices that hopefully are in your best interest and in the interests of others.

 

But let me explain how the mind or the brain works. Your brain is like a computer, and this computer is running all the time, and in the part of your mind that isn’t conscious, (your unconscious) it is running and trying to sort things out and make suggestions and give warnings, and bring up things that are similar, and the mind is always judging, good or bad, right or wrong, dangerous or safe, important or non-important, urgent or non-urgent and so on.

All of this happens so fast like it is instantaneous.

And sometimes we react to things without thinking.

Often emotions bypass a thinking stage and we will have an emotional reaction to something before we have had even a chance to think about it.

 

But your unconscious even though it is part of you is not you.

Your brain will bring up all sorts of crazy ideas, and emotions and feelings, and whatever, but it is when you are aware that you and your thoughts are not the same and that through thinking you can choose which thoughts to pursue and which to throw out, that you become mindful.

 

Having a non-judgemental stance then is about not making immediate judgements, but just noticing, and trying to understand.

 

Imagine you were a zoologist and you were observing a new species of ape. You watched and chronicled their behavior. You were not judging good or bad, merely seeking to observe the nuances of their behavior and understand it.

This is just a dispassionate understanding.

 

That is in some ways what Jesus is saying. That you are a zoologist and the species you are observing is humans, and rather trying to judge everything good and bad, what you are seeking to do is to understand and be aware.

 

And instead of making automatic judgements about right and wrong, good or bad, you are seeking to understand, and know their story.

 

In fact one of the observations we make is how we react to the other, and what goes on inside us when we see behaviours in the species we observe, and try to understand why we react in that way. That is often not a clue to the other, but is a clue to our own unresolved issues.

If you meet someone who you think is negative in some way and you have a strong negative reaction, it is not about that someone you meet, even though that person might or even probably has their own issues, it is really about your unresolved issues that negative person triggered in you.

 

And all of this, mindfulness and non-judgement releases us, or frees us to focus on ourselves. We really cannot change someone else. Who we can change is ourselves.

When we focus on another, we get stuck in their crap, instead of dealing with our own.

 

Non-judgement frees us from emotional reactions and judgements to the other.

Therefore, it allows us to be more unbiased. It allows us to walk in another person’s moccasins and understand better.

It also allows us to better love, better care for, better help another person with whom we have differences.

 

Instead of judging them, we are learning to understand them.

It is a compassionate approach, because it is also about understanding their suffering and struggles.

Once upon the time there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.

“Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.

“Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune.

“Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.

“Maybe,” said the farmer.

 

What might it be like to free ourselves from judging everything as good or bad, and just to be content with every moment of the day as your life, as what is?

I think that God would say, that non-judgement is a way to a peace and happiness that doesn’t depend on others, or the situations we have in life, but a way to approach life which chooses peace and happiness above judgement.

Amen