The world often stereotypes Christians as being overly judgmental and un-accepting/un-inclusive. In addition, we Christians (church-goers) are often characterized as hypocrites. Living the Christian life and standing up for Christian values requires a lot of prayer, discernment and Holy Spirit guidance. Unfortunately the world’s opinion is often all too true. We tend to judge rather than love and not only is judgment levied at those outside the faith, but even at our brothers and sisters in Christ who do not behave and believe exactly as we do. Jesus was very concerned about unity in the church and among His followers. John 17:21 (Jesus speaking) “I pray that they may all be one. Father!…..so that the world will believe that you sent me.” Jesus knew that if those who are called by His name were not in unity, the world would have no indication that Christ-followers were any different than anyone else. Paul addresses the issue of judging and unity numerous times in his New Testament writings. It was an issue then and it is an issue now. Today, more than ever before Christians need to heed Christ’s message about the way we treat one another and the way we represent Him in the world.

Scriptures – Mt 7:1-6; Jn 17:21; Ro 1:29-32, 2:1; Ga 5:15, 6:1

Verses
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way 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 or sister’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your sister or brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother or sister’s eye.” (Mt 7:1-5)

Thought
Yes, everyone is having fun until someone gets a plank in the eye (or points out the plank in your eye)! We often have pretty clear vision when it comes to dissecting the flaws and faults of others…or what we perceive to be wrong with them. However, our vision is blurry when it comes to seeing the sin in our own life. Our plank may be a belief or attitude we have about a certain culture, custom or creed. We may write off those who don’t believe in God, don’t share our political beliefs, don’t worship the way we do, don’t dress or act in accordance with our idea of appropriateness. The problem with many of our planks (hang-ups) is that they aren’t based on Biblical standards. They are rules or guidelines that we have elevated to the status of Biblical truth. We see others as sinful when they don’t obey “our” rule or live up to “our” standard. There is freedom in Christ. God allows his children to discern many things on their own. We should listen to the Holy Spirit’s guidance for “our” life and not be so concerned when other believers have a different idea about things that are not core to the Christian faith. Many things are not salvation issues! As witnesses for Christ in this world, we need to walk the walk. Christians must stand up for Godly values and live life in accordance with God’s standards, but with an attitude of love and concern for those who are lost. We need to love our brothers and sisters in Christ and live in unity with them so that the world will know that Jesus is the Son of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

Questions
What is the plank/issue that immediately causes you to discount an unbeliever? What is the plank/issue that causes you to discount a fellow Christian? What plank do you most want to be rid of? How do you begin to overcome a plank? How can you demonstrate that you love someone without approving of or validating their choices, lifestyle, beliefs, etc.? How difficult is it for Christians to witness in our culture? What is the biggest obstacle?

Response
In your family, work and relationships, are you discounting someone? If so, why? Ask God for guidance and take steps to remove the plank that is preventing you from loving and reaching that person.

Prayer – (from Prayer of St. Francis)
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. And where there is sadness, joy. Help me to emulate your love and concern for the lost and to support and love my fellow Christ-followers. Help us to serve you together with one heart. In Jesus name I pray, amen.