Last week I introduced Jesus’ next crazy Upside-Down Kingdom teaching. Simply put, he gave us two negatives that should be transformed into to two positives. “Do not judge and do not condemn” should change to “forgive and give.” Instead of being negative-minded about people, we need to be generous toward them, forgiving them.
So in place of negative judging and condemning, we should forgive and give. But how? It is so easy to say this stuff. “Oh yeah, I shouldn’t judge and condemn. I should forgive and give.” But in reality, it can be super hard. We judge so much. We have tons of opinions. They often come fast and furious without us even really thinking about it.
So how do we stop judging and condemning? Is it possible? How do we start forgiving and giving when we feel angry and upset? I think Jesus gives us a clue in two little, somewhat cryptic parables. Actually many of his parables can seem difficult to understand at first glance! So let’s take a look.
In Luke 6:39-40 he first refers to the blind leading the blind, which is a common analogy in our culture. Why do we use this phrase? It refers to one person lacking understanding acting like they can help someone else who also lacks understanding. We would call that ridiculous!
The second mini-parable says that a student is not above his teacher. A student is in lower position than his teacher. A student is unlearned. But he can get there. You have to go through training! Further, you need to think about who your teacher is, because you will become like them. This was said in a culture of apprenticeship. If you were apprenticed to a person who was bad at farming, you would learn bad farming techniques.
In both mini-parables, it seems to me that Jesus is talking about people who do not have a healthy self-awareness. If you’re blind, to successfully navigate life, you need to know your limitations. If you’re a student, to successfully learn, you need to know you’re not as learned as your teacher.
I say that because in verses 41-42 he explains his point very clearly. Examine yourself first! Have you ever been surprised to find out that the very thing you were so hard on someone else about, is something that you struggle with too? I coach my son’s U12 soccer team, and the other day we were working with the boys on taking shots on goal. One particular kind of shot is called a volley where you kick the ball while it is still in the air. It is difficult because it requires good timing and form. If you don’t hit the ball just right, you either send it way over the goal, miss it completely, or flub it like a foul ball in baseball. They were missing everything, so I decided to demonstrate for them. And what do you think happened? I sent it way over the goal, over the fence, and into the high school stadium adjacent to our field. That meant I had to take a run of shame way around the fence to go get the ball. A healthy sense of self-awareness for me would be the realization that my soccer skills are really rusty.
Jesus is talking about is the absolutely necessity of having a healthy self-awareness. This reminds me of my Old Testament professor Dave Dorsey who once said that at 19 he knew a lot more than he did at 60! And what happened in his life during the years since he was 19? He had earned his doctorate, got a teaching position at the seminary, wrote books and went on to be a world-renowned OT authority. How could he possibly have learned less?
He actually didn’t. He gained more knowledge, tons of facts and information, but in the process he also grew an important sense of how much he didn’t know. It was humbling, he said.
So here are some tips that can help us have a healthy self-awareness:
- Remember that we are all made in the image of God. All equally loved by God. All just people. Even our heroes. Even the people that we look up to are just people like us.
- Always leave the door open to the possibility of seeing things from a different angle.
In the movie World War Z, Brad Pitt’s character is attempting to find the source of the infection that is turning people into zombies. He travels to Jerusalem because they had built a giant wall around the city to keep the infection out. He asks the Israeli leader how they had the foresight to build the wall when the rest of the world was unprepared and thus devastated by the apocalypse. The Israeli leader shares with him what he calls the 10th Man Rule:
We need to apply the 10th Man Rule in our lives. Allow God’s Spirit to convict you. Read his word. Have a trusted accountability partner. Have a healthy self-awareness that includes self-doubt. All of these things can be our 10th Man.
We need to guard our hearts and minds because we can allow ourselves to get very, very stuck into a way of thinking that is very, very negative about people. There is always much more to people that we could ever imagine.
Have you ever read an email negatively, going down a road of final judgment (condemning as guilty from verse 37)? And then when you sit down and talk with that person, you realize they meant something very different? We need to apply the 10th man principle!
Use that vital Fruit of the Spirit called Self-control. Before passing judgment, assume that you are not fully understanding them. Strive hard to find the good motivation that could be there. Meet with them face to face to talk it over. Don’t talk with other people about them. Talk with them. And look hard at yourself. Are you actually guilty too?
Let us be a people that are aware of ourselves first!