James 4:11-17 (NRSV) Warning against Judging Another
11 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?
Today’s scripture begins with the familiar strains of James’ warning us about speaking evil against others. James goes even further in these verses and says when we speak evil against others we are judging them. Why do we have to be warned against judging others? Shouldn’t we know within our hearts that judging others is wrong?
I believe we do know that talking against others is wrong. Perhaps we feel empowered if we can make others view a person as less than they are. Maybe it makes us feel better about ourselves if we can bring someone else lower. Yet, we continue to defy God’s instructions, which, if we would take the time to pay attention, are for our good as well as those around us.
Do you know that judging others almost always begins with gossip, spreading rumors that may or may not be true. It is so easy for Christians to fall into gossip, because in the church it is often disguised as “prayer chains.” God forbid that we turn our prayer requests into a gossip session.
So what is the answer? For quite some time, I have prayed John Wesley’s “Three Simple Rules,” which are to (1) Do no harm, (2) Do good, (3) and Keep the ordinances of the Church. Doing harm to someone else is most often a deliberate choice, so if I begin my day by purposing that I will not harm anyone, then I must be intentional about my efforts. When I decide I will do good, I must look for ways to help others. And when I choose to keep the ordinances of the church, I will pray, read my Bible and perform acts of mercy toward other people. When I engage in these activities during the course of my day, I have no time to harm others.
Let us become so intentional in our discipleship that if we even think of uttering an unkind word or spreading a bit of gossip, the Holy Spirit will so convict us that we would have to ask forgiveness of both Him and the person harmed immediately. In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
Father God, you know our hearts. Today we pray that you will soften our hearts so that only love lives there. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
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