Kindness and Deceit

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. (NKJV 1 John 1:8-10)

The consequences of denying sin are not good. When we fear that we don’t look the part of the good Christian, we begin to judge. We try to make ourselves look better by judging the motives of others.

When we start judging, we start worrying about the people we hang out with. We get anxious about our friends and coworkers. We even judge the people we go to church with. We judge them and on that judgment conclude that we have to be careful “lest we become like them.” (Prov. 26:4)

We might even try to control the people in our lives. That’s also part of our denial. We want to control other people so that we can control how we react to them. We’re afraid of our reactions. We’re afraid to appear sinful.

Some Christians are afraid to let their kids hang out with non-Christians kids, because those kids may not see things the same way. Non-Christian kids might teach Christian kids the wrong stuff.

Well, what if the opposite happens? Maybe your kids will teach them things. Maybe your kid’s non-Christian friends will go home and their parents will see them love and act in new and different ways!

Fearing people who are outside the faith looking in leads us to become judgmental. We come at them in fear and judgment, and it’s no fun. It’s no fun to be around anyone like that, Christian or not.

I think we’ve got the wrong idea about influence. I think you have to keep an even keel. Whether you have believing friends or non-believing friends, you have people in your life that you must witness to. You have lots of people in your life, believing and non-believing, who need you to be around them.

You’ve got to be okay with this. You need to be kind to everybody. You need to be kind to yourself! Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, so you can trust that wherever you find kindness, you find Jesus.

We aren’t perfect. Our salvation did not perfect us. It made us saints who sin, and saints who sin have a call to lovingly bring the kingdom everywhere.

The consequences of denying sin are very serious, because they lead to fear. That’s the work of the enemy. Let’s follow Jesus to freedom! Fearlessly, and without judgment!

So When Can We Judge?

The Bible tells us, “Do not judge.” It’s so easy to believe that we’re really good at this. We like to think that we are giving grace to everybody, but the truth is, judging is a really natural thing to do.

Here’s a great example. You hear somebody say, “Well, I don’t have a problem judging.” What’s the first thought you have? “I doubt that.” See? You’ve just judged them!

And you did it about whether they judge! Talk about irony. Judging each other is that natural.

Sometimes our discipleship makes it even harder. You’re trying so hard to be a good Christian that it heightens your awareness of your beliefs about other people. You’re so conscious of trying to be good that you might look at a guy and think, “Well, I’m good. He’s not.”

You’ve judged him, but really, you don’t know anything about him. You might think you do. You might even look at him and say, “I know he’s bad, because I know what he did.” But if he could look inside your soul, and if he could hear your thoughts, he could probably say the same thing.

If we really think about it, we’ll realize that we’re not better than other people, even if we think we are.

So is there ever a time when it’s proper to make a judgment call? When the Bible says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” is it really saying, “Don’t judge somebody?”

Or is it saying, “Be careful how you judge somebody?”

Or is it saying, “Judge only people in the church,” because of the fruit of the Spirit?

“Judge not.” It’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around this, even though it’s something I really want to live by. I really want to love my neighbor as myself, and that means not going around judging everyone. It’s the only way to get along. It’s the cure for most of the issues that come into play in relationships. And whether you’re fighting injustice, or merely dealing with people who think differently, things get a lot more clear when you don’t judge.

Jesus said there’s only two commandments: love me and love your neighbors. How simple this sounds! But it’s actually a very difficult thing to do. It’s all about being selfless. It’s all about not judging. It’s all about not doing the things that come naturally!

You know how people say, “Christianity is a crutch.” They say, “Christianity is the easy way out.” But Christianity is not a crutch and it’s certainly not easy. The Christian life is a very difficult way to live. It’s so easy to judge. It’s so easy to be hypocritical.

If I’m going to choose a crutch, I’m not picking Christianity, because Christianity is hard, man. It asks us to transform ourselves.

But it’s worth the hard work. It’s worth it. And so I pray about it. I say, “God, I want to understand what you meant when you told us not to judge. I want to understand it fully and completely.”

There’s never a good time to judge each other. The reason is that if we don’t judge each other, we will be better off.

We will live in peace and harmony.

The Last Christian?

“In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. . . . What has been called ‘evangel’ from that moment was actually the opposite of that which he had lived.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche said the last Christian died on the cross.

That is such a bold, yet powerful and piercing statement. Is it true? In some ways I feel that the threat is always there. It could always become true. That’s painful! And it’s not just how one man saw it. I think a lot of people see it that way.

Christians can change that now, just by changing how we do things. It’s so simple. We have to love, not judge.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. We judge other people. We think we’re better than other people. We think we’re better than others because we found Jesus.

Jesus wouldn’t support that way of thinking. No! Jesus would say, “You shouldn’t try to make yourselves look better in the eyes of others just because you found Me. That’s not how it works. You should love other people better because you found Me.”

Finding Jesus should help us love better, because love is just so good, man. I’ve seen the good that comes from loving people. I’ve been part of it. I’ve been there when someone does something wrong. They do it and then they look at me, as if to say, “Oh, you’re a Christian guy, you think you’re better than me.” They expect me to look at them wrong. They expect me to shake my head and judge them right there.

You know what? I want that to happen! I want it to happen because it gives me the opportunity to look at them and smile. And give them a hug. It lets me say, “I love you.”

When they see that I don’t judge them, they say, “But I just did something you think is wrong!”

And I say, “You’re right! I don’t agree with what you just did. I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t think it’s right. But that does not change my view. I love you. I love you so much. And I love your life! I hope that you will know the right and wrong way to do things one day, but brother, I will not turn my back on you. I love you.”

That heals the soul immediately. When you do that, people are blown away. They’re like, “Whoa, wait! That’s not how it’s done!”

Well, they’re right! That’s not how it’s done. We haven’t been doing it right! Jesus showed us the right way to do things.

The church’s calling is to love. We are called to love like Jesus.

See you Wednesday.

The Dialogue of Intimacy

(Note: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

Intimate relationships are different from other relationships. We want to replace judgment with grace and love in all scenarios, but when it comes to intimate relationships, there also has to be dialogue.

Our loved ones might do things that bug us, and when they do, we want them to change. The problem is, they’re never going to change!

Right now you might be saying, “There’s this thing that bugs me about my husband. And he needs to know that it bugs me.” Well, talk to him about it! Tell him, “This is what you’re doing that’s bugging me.”

Jesus built intimate relationships with His disciples. He talked to them, asked their opinions, and made them His confidants. And if one of them did something that bugged Him, He said something. The Bible tells us:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:31-33)

That’s amazing. Jesus looked at Peter, His dear friend, and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” He was in essence saying, “I know who is controlling your thoughts right now, and I know which way you’re acting, so you need to get away from me. You are not who you think you are.”

He said that right to Peter’s face!

Jesus was very comfortable with His intimate friends. I guarantee you He was not going to go to some random person and say, “Get behind Me, Satan.” He could have devastated people, and He understood that.

Obviously I don’t think your dialogue needs to consist of telling the people closest to you, “Get behind me, Satan.” You can’t see into people the way that Jesus can. Still, you have to talk to your loved ones.

Just remember, they cannot change without God. Unless they choose to accept God’s help, change will never happen.

You can’t fix a relationship. You, in your own power, cannot fix another person. But you can always ask God for help. You can ask God to show you what you need to do. You can ask God to show you who you need to be.

Why not ask God to show you how to change? Maybe your husband or wife bugs you because of something you’re doing. If you’re being a jerk, they’re going to respond to that. So quit being a jerk! Then maybe they’ll start loving you as if you’re the person God means for you to be.

Try saying this: “God, you know what? I need to quit telling my husband about all the things he does wrong. Instead, help me focus on doing my things right.”

Or try saying this: “Hey God, I need your help. I need to stop criticizing my wife. I need to encourage her instead.”

Do this, and then watch. You watch how that relationship changes, as God transforms you together in love.

See you Wednesday.

Praying off the Judgment

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:37-38)

There’s Jesus in Luke, telling us not to judge. But judgment is such a basic part of being human! Baseball is a good example. Baseball is full of judgments.

Think of the fans. Part of being a fan is being engaged with the players. They’ll tell you when you’re good, and they’ll tell you when you’re not. They’ll tell you why you should be traded. They’ll even question why the GM signed you!

Everyone is full of judgment because judging is a normal human thing.

You know what else it says there in Luke? It says,

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6: 27-28)

But that’s nearly impossible! Do we really pray for those that hate us? There is no way we do that. There’s no way that you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, you know what, this person hates me and I just pray that he or she is blessed today. Face it! We do not do that. Not without giving ourselves a little push!

But there’s more to this. As I study the scriptures on judgment, I realize that every time Jesus talks about judging, He immediately talks about hope and forgiveness. He immediately describes abundance. He says it right there in Luke:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.

I remember late September 2010. I wasn’t getting called into many games. In fact, I didn’t pitch for two weeks! I grew angry and frustrated, and then, I read this scripture. It really hit me. I mean, I knew these scriptures, and I knew these things, but did I really pray for those that hate me? I didn’t. It’s not a normal human thing to do.

But we’re Christians. We’re called to more, right? So I prayed about this. I said, “I know it’s normal to judge, and I know it’s not normal to pray for those that hate us. But God, I am yours. I am a child of the King! I am a new creature in Christ! I have been reborn. I have been remade. Now my spirit drives me, so truly, I have to strive to do these things.”

Then I really started listening. If someone judged a teammate, or something negative was said about him — by the media or any another person — I would walk over to that teammate and I would just speak the opposite over him. I would basically give him a positive in place of the negative.

I did this randomly. Sometimes he didn’t know why I was doing it, because he hadn’t heard the judgment. But that’s not why I did it. I was just trying to break up the judgments off of every player on our team. I was praying the judgments away.

I began walking the outfield, praying for every guy on the team. If I found myself accidentally judging again, I’d ask for forgiveness.

I am not the reason the Giants won the World Series that year. We won it as a team. No, that was the year I learned to replace judgment with prayer.

See you Wednesday.

Always More Grace Than Sin

It can be uncomfortable hanging out with Christians. I might feel like having a beer, but I don’t know if they’ll accept that. Sometimes I’m not even sure if my thoughts will be acceptable. I might literally say to myself, “Is it okay to have this thought? Should I admit to this frustration?”

Meanwhile, my non-Christian friends do not judge me. They don’t care if I have a beer or not. They don’t judge me for my thoughts or frustrations. If I’m feeling frustrated about something and talk about it, they really don’t care. They just accept it. They say, “I know what you mean. I’ve been frustrated that way too.” Their attitude is, “Yeah. You’re normal. Just like everybody else.”

I can sympathize with people who are struggling with something. We’re all human. So I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me. Believer or non-believer, I don’t judge them. I listen to them and love on them.

A guy can come to me in struggle and pain, and he can confide in me without fear of judgment. He can say, “Hey Jeremy, I’m struggling with something right now, and I want to tell my wife, but I’m afraid. I feel like a bad person.” I’m comfortable with this. I can say, “Yeah, I understand. I could probably go there too. And if I made the choices you made, I would be in the exact same spot.”

I don’t fear becoming like him in his sin. I think this is the mentality that Christians fall into sometimes, but it’s faulty. We have Jesus! He is with us always! There’s always going to be more grace than sin.

If I live by the Spirit, then I will act by the Spirit. So when someone confides in me, I can say, “Let’s figure out a way where we can help each other. I don’t want you to feel condemned around me. I want to love on you, man. I want to help you.”

I look at everybody, believers and non-believers, the same. We all sin. We all struggle. We all feel pain. I want to understand people’s pain. I want to understand their struggles. I want to be able to say, “You know what? I’ve been there, or I could easily go there.” And I want to help.

How many more people would feel comfortable around followers of Jesus if they were treated this way?

The night before Jesus was arrested, He celebrated Passover with the apostles, and then He washed their feet, telling them,

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (John 13:13-15)

Jesus is our judge, and yet He came as a servant king. When He knew His time with His beloved followers was ending, He did a job reserved for the lowest servant of the house. Why did He do that? He lowered himself in order to show humility. He said, “I have given you an example. Do as I have done.”

Humility doesn’t say, “I judge you.” Humility says, “I want to help you in your struggle and pain.”

That’s what He taught us. Let’s do that.

See you next Saturday.

Comfortable in the World

Have you heard comments like these?

“You Christian people think you’re better than us. Christians judge everything everybody does.”

“It’s the Christians who are always saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re doing this, you’re bad.’”

People who don’t even know me will look at me and say, “Don’t you make mistakes? Don’t you have flaws?”

Well, of course I do!

Obviously somebody along the way has told these people that if they become Christian, then they’ll be perfect in everything they do. Someone has told them that if they become Christian, then they’ll never make another mistake, and they’ll be better than all the non-Christians who do make mistakes.

I pity the people who think that way. As followers of Jesus, we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that we are better than other people in our flesh. That’s why we judge. That’s why we start saying things like, “Man, I don’t think you should be drinking. You shouldn’t have beer. You shouldn’t even have wine.” Or we say, “You know what? I heard what came out of your mouth the other day. You cussed the other day. That’s really not good. The Bible says no unhealthy thing should come out of your mouth.”

Well, you know what? Whether I cuss in anger or I say “Shoot!” in anger, it’s the same thing. Some believers think the sin lies in the actual word, but it doesn’t. It’s the emotion behind the word that is the sin. I was angry. That was my sin. Yet somehow we think we’re better than others because we say “Shoot” instead of its coarser cousin.

I hang out with believers that are really comfortable in the world. They’re totally comfortable hanging out with everybody. They can hang out with people that aren’t Christian and feel totally fine around them. They’re comfortable because they aren’t judging everything people do or judging every motive.

The believers that have problems with judging are the ones that tell me, “Oh, you’re not supposed to hang out with outsiders, because they probably don’t live like you, and they probably don’t think like you.” They’ll say, “I don’t want to hang out with outsiders or non-believers, because they’re not good to be around. It’s evil.” I hear that and I say, then what was Jesus doing? That’s all he hung out with!

Christians have just got to quit judging. We have to stop. As long as we are judging, we will never be comfortable in the world. People in the faith will always have outsiders in their lives, and we can’t live comfortably with them if we’re always judging.

You know what else? When we’re judging them, we can’t witness to them.

Worst of all, we certainly can’t love them.

See you Wednesday.