It was an argument between a man and wife about a special advertisement offer which seemed too good to be true. ‘The trouble with you is that you have no judgement. You believe any old rubbish. You swallow any old sales pitch’, said the man. The woman replied ‘That’s because I’m a Christian. I don’t judge people because Jesus said that it was wrong’. ‘Judge not, for the judgement you give will be the judgement you get’.
‘That’s a load of rubbish’ the man replied, ‘you can’t go through life like a nodding dog in the rear window of a car, agreeing with everything. That shows you’ve no judgement. That’s the trouble with you …’ And so it went on.
You can imagine the rest. Another argument raged which had nothing to do with the sales talk and shifty salesmen. The problem was a confusion between two vastly different things, but each using the same word, ‘judgement’.
When Christians are commanded not to judge their fellow man, they are not being ordered to be gullible idiots, swallowing any old propaganda – they are not being told to suspend their critical faculties, and have no opinions, and be taken in by every trick in the con-artist’s book. The command not to judge should mean one thing to Christians. You are not permitted to set yourself up as God. You are not the judge of all the earth. You don’t know the secrets of other people’s hearts, so you are forbidden adopting fault-finding, superior, critical attitudes about them. Perhaps we should reserve the word ‘condemn’ for what we do wrong in judgement. We are not to be self-righteously critical, except about ourselves. That’s what Paul meant when he said, for example, when at the Lord’s table, each one should judge, i.e. critically examine himself to avoid coming under the judgement of God. As for using your capacity to exercise judgement. Then never blame the Bible if you choose to be a nodding dog, mindlessly accepting any old pack of lies.You are to judge between anti- Christian behaviour, and what is true and good. You are to recognise a tree by the fruit it grows. You are to test the spirits to see if they be of God or not, for false prophets are always plausible. Christians are commanded to have their wits about them, and also to remember that they may reject the ’sales pitch’ but never the salesman. Jesus said in Matthew 7: 1-5, 15-16. : Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
A Prayer: Lord, this day guard me against a prejudiced, critical lovelessness which judges unfairly. Grant me this day to be as wise as a serpent but as harmless as a dove.
Now read Colossians 3: 12-17
Church-going is not fashionable in Britain.The strange thing is everybody has a set of opinions about worship which will pour out in conversation as soon as you turn the tap. ‘You don’t have to go to church to worship you know’, and everyone seems to nod approval at that, as if it were the whole truth. ‘I can worship God in the open air on a Sunday’, say millions of folk who are never asked ‘Yes, you can – but do you?’. ‘Well, there are too many hypocrites in church’ say millions, and thereby implying ‘of whom I am not one’. ‘Thank God I’m not like some people I could mention’, is about as valid a thought as ‘I’m an atheist, thank God’. ‘Oh I’m not so positive as that’, says another, ‘I’m an agnostic’. ‘What’s an agnostic? ‘Someone who believes that nothing can be known for sure’. When asked ‘Are you sure of that?’, there is no blush to accompany the reply ‘Course I’m sure. I need proof’.
Well, for one thing, Jesus of Nazareth said that worship is for God, not for us. It’s not what God gets out of it, but what he longs to give us, when we open up, forget about ourselves, and do what all true worship is meant to do – to enthrone God. When we do, we are connected to the main supply of living, sometimes described as ‘living water’. “… but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14
A Prayer: As a deer pants for springs of water, so my soul longs for you, O Lord.
Now read, as one psalm of three stanzas (as it is in the original), Psalms 42 and 43, each stanza ending in ‘My Saviour and my God’.
‘Next year in Jerusalem’ – is a wish, a prayer, a resolution and a longing, spoken by millions of Jewish folk for the best part of 3,000 years. I have been at the Waiting Wall in Jerusalem during Passover, a number of times, and to this day the very place exudes an electric atmosphere. It is like the heaviness before a summer storm.
When Jesus of Nazareth was a boy of twelve years old, his parents took him with them on their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem. At that age boys were made ‘Sons of the Temple’. After the festival, the company of friends and relations returned to Nazareth, but after going north for a whole day, they discovered that Jesus was missing. After a frantic search they turned back to Jerusalem. It took three days before they found him – and by then they were worried sick. It is a terrifying ordeal to lose a child. Normally it is even more terrifying to be a child who is lost. They finally found him in the Great Temple, listening to the nation’s wisest teachers, and asking them questions. [Oh, I wonder what he asked them - wouldn't you love to know?]
The account in Luke’s Gospel Chapter 2 tells us that everyone was amazed at his understanding and his answers. His parents were relieved and cross – ‘We have been out of our minds. Why have you done this to us? We’ve been looking for you everywhere.’ “Why”, said the boy Jesus, “Didn’t you know I’d be in my father’s house?”
Of course they didn’t understand, but as they went back the 80 odd miles north, his mother stored it, with all the other things about him, in her heart.
Today, what questions would you want to ask of the world’s wisest men?
Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them.Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you, love her, and she will watch over you. Proverbs 4: 5-7
A Prayer: Lord, to reverence you is the beginning of all wisdom. Put into my heart a holy fear of you so that there is nothing else to fear.
Now read Luke 2: 21-52