Sermon on the Mount

Criticism

This devotional is written by Jeannine Boulter.

Matthew 7:1-6

7 "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 "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? 4 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? 5 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.
6 "Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.

Reflection


I wonder what the headlines are on the day you are reading this. On the day I am writing it (very much past the deadline I have to admit) there is this:

Boris Johnson rolls eyes at BBC's Laura Kuenssberg as pair lock horns - 'Load of claptrap’

... amongst other such gems. Our culture encourages us to criticise, to judge, from all angles: we watch as contestants on The X Factor are criticised and found wanting; we watch as politicians in Westminster are criticised and found wanting; we watch as women’s bodies on Instagram are criticised and found wanting. Criticism, it seems, is the norm. A national pastime. Part of our cultural heritage.

The act of criticising others temporarily solves the problem of seeing ourselves as we really are: destitute without the love of God. This is such a difficult reality for us to grasp, it requires such a letting go of the ego, that it’s much easier to hide behind the temporary feeling that criticism brings: It’s alright - I can’t be that bad - I can’t be as awful as him/her/blah...

Jesus commands us to love.

The Sermon on the Mount is radically and brilliantly counter cultural. (It was when Jesus first gave it; it is no less so today.) In it, Jesus lays bare the ways in which our inner worlds - the thoughts and attitudes of our hearts - are the real sources of our problems. (Not other people, then.)  If we allow our hearts to become full of criticism, negativity and judgement it is not only those we criticise who suffer (if it is they who suffer at all). It is us. Perhaps it is not so much that we are punished for our sins, as that we are punished by them.

Love is our true nature.

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