Summary: There are appropriate and inappropriate times and ways to judge others. Christ though instructs his disciples to pay more attention to their own faults than to the judging the faults of others.

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GUILTY AS SIN the headline read just a few years ago. The banks in New Jersey had been robbed systematically, one after the other. What made the robber stand out was his politeness. He just gave the tellers a note which said, “Please place your money in this bag. Thank you.” The newspapers called him the Gentleman Bandit!

The widespread publicity led to a very unlikely arrest – the suspect was a Catholic priest. His church was appalled but stood beside him, saying they knew he could not be the bandit. They signed petitions, held protest marches and came up with his bail. But the police were certain they had their man. All of the eyewitnesses positively identified him. And the news media dug into his past, to find that in a previous church he had left under a cloud because of financial irregularities in the parish. For a priest he had a pretty expensive lifestyle – his own apartment and a fast car. People whispered his church was probably standing up for him because otherwise they looked like dupes.

As people across the country watched the story unfold on the news, they were positive this priest had pulled a fast one. He probably had a sociopath personality so he could rob banks during the week and preach the next Sunday without feeling any guilt. No one outside his congregation was standing up for this guy. But then a funny thing happened. The real Gentleman Bandit was caught red-handed. As it turned out, he was the spitting image of the priest. It’s just that he wasn’t the priest. The priest was released, his church threw him a big party, and the news media and those who had prematurely judged him moved on to the next story.

Unfortunately, that true story is all too common. Without knowing all the fact we all make judgments about people confident we are correct. We spread rumors about them under the guise of telling the truth as we see it. We destroy their character, throw questions at their integrity without real proof of guilt. And unfortunately we find that to be true even in the church.

For right and wrong reasons the Christian church has a bad reputation as a bunch of judgmental hypocrites. I’ve had too many conversations with people who have been hurt by the church because of unfair judgments and condemnation they have felt from the members inside the church. There are way too many people out there who have vowed to never set foot in a church because they don’t want the first thing to do with such people. (from a sermon on Sermon Central

“Judge not, lest you be judged.” Is probably one of the better known verses to the unbeliever. And it is used by all sorts of people Christian and non Christian alike to accuse individuals of wrongly being judgmental. “How dare you say my actions, my lifestyle, my choices are sinful? Didn’t Jesus say “do not judge”? Is the teaching of Jesus, judge not lest you be judged, really meant to keep us from saying anything is right or wrong? And what is Paul trying to tell us in this morning’s text when he says, you will be judged by the way you judge others? What is a proper biblical understanding about judging others? What and who does Jesus expect us to judge or not judge?)

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