Phil Cox

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Helping others - are we loving them or judging them?

10th August 2006

When we come to offer advice or guidance to other Christians, what is the attitude in our hearts?

We read these words in Ephesians 4:1-7:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Do you go to your brother or sister in Christ to offer them the benefit of your wisdom with this attitude: completely humble and gentle... patient, bearing with one another in love? Or do you feel that, really, if only they had the same maturity as you, the same understanding, the same level of spirituality, if only they saw things the way you see them, then everything would be fine? Maybe they're letting the side down? What pity they're not as wonderful as you are!

Listen. There is one body and one Spirit - just as you were called to one hope when you were called - one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. When you treat one member of the body of Christ as if they're a disappointment to you, or an embarrassment to the church, when you let them know (or even if you just feel it in your heart) that they're just not as holy as you are, then you're sinning against the body of Christ - the church. And there's only one church. And it belongs to Christ - not to you.

Romans 14:4 says: Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. It's not for us to criticise God's people.

But I would like to draw your attention to Ephesians 4:7, which finishes Paul's thought process (above) with the words: But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

There are some things that God has shown you (from scripture, or through another person, or by revelation from His Holy Spirit) that perhaps He hasn't shown your brother in Christ. There are some areas of your life that God may have touched with a gift of repentance, and you're now living in comparative victory in that area. And perhaps God hasn't yet granted repentance to your brother in that area (repentance is a gift from God - see, for example, Acts 11v18 and 2 Timothy 2v25).

Does that mean you can look down on your brother and wish he was more like you? No! To each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it! Those areas in your life that are looking comparatively good are only so by God's grace - it's not to your credit, but to God's. And there are areas in your brother's life where he is more repentant than you, where he has more understanding than you do. God has granted him different grace to what God has granted you. He grants grace as Christ apportions it. What He's done in your life is not identical to what He wants to do in someone else's life! The way He deals with you is not the way He deals with the other person! God treats us as individuals, with individual needs and individual potential.

In Matthew 7 verses 1-5 Jesus says:

"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? How can you say to your 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’s eye.

When Jesus talks about "judging" others, He's not saying that we shouldn't be wise about what different people are like, what they need, what they can receive, and how they're likely to react (see Matthew 7v6 for confirmation of this). He's saying that we shouldn't treat others as if they're somehow less worthy, less holy, less valuable, have less dignity, are somehow less "good" than we are. He's talking about the attitude of the Pharisee:

Luke 18:11
The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector'.

If we're secretly (or even openly) glad that we're us, and not like the other person, then we are judging the other person.

When Jesus says 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? How can you say to your 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’s eye, He's saying this: You want to criticise your brother or sister in Christ. You call it "helping" or "advising" or even "pastoring" but really you're looking down on your brother as someone less worthwhile than yourself. You think that he's the problem and you're the solution. But - if that's the way you're feeling - then you have a bigger problem than your brother, because you're guilty of pride - the greatest and most damaging sin of all. Compared to your brother's sin, you sin is worse, just as a plank of wood is bigger than a speck of sawdust. Repent of your pride before you try to help anyone.

Philippians 2:3 says in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Make sure you're obeying this before you try to correct/help others!

Here's a little rule of thumb that I would commend to you:

Never try to help anyone with their own sin problems unless you genuinely believe that they are a better person than you are.