Who am I to Judge?

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)

In a day and age where the Bible is increasingly dismissed, it is strange to hear so many appealing to Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. “Judge not, that you be not judged,” is one of the most quoted texts in the whole of the Bible. It is often quoted and misunderstood from within the Church. Likewise, it is frequently cited and misused by those out with the Church.

There are many who have misinterpreted the meaning of these words. For instance, Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, grossly misapplied the verse by stating that Christ is forbidding judgement by law courts, “take no part whatever in the administration of the law.” The common usage within the church today tends to be, “I’m not judging,” or “who am I to judge?” Similarly, out with the church, we are likely to hear “don’t judge me,” or “is that not you judging?” Effectively, when framed as such, the implication is a prohibition against asserting that any specific course of action is wrong, whatever it may be, as that would be “judging someone.” We should never judge, we should never condemn any action, as tolerance is one of the highest of virtues. Is that the correct understanding of these words?

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Christ or Chaos

“So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27)

There was cause for widespread outpouring of grief at the brutal killing of a black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of a white police officer. The officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes whilst Floyd begged him to stop as he repeatedly said, ‘I can’t breathe.’

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Virtual Church

“I joyed when to the house of God’” (Psalm 122:1)

As the world attempts to come to grips with the Coronavirus pandemic, a new term has thrust itself into our vernacular. “Social distancing” – the maintaining of a physical distance between people and the refraining from gathering together in groups – has become commonplace throughout the world in a way that few could have predicted. Word(s) of the Year, referring to the most important word(s) or expressions(s) in the public sphere during the course of a year, have in recent times boasted such selections as “selfie” in 2013 and “fake news” in 2017, with social distancing no doubt a likely contender in 2020.

Social distancing, however, is by no means a new concept. Almost 700 years ago the Bubonic Plague, or Black Death as it later came to be known, originated in China and spread west along trading routes, eventually arriving in the British Isles in June, 1348. As the overwhelmed doctors and health workers fought against this devastating outbreak, the implementation of some of the world’s first anti-contagion measures were put in place, foreshadowing today’s social distancing practices.  

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Minimising the Great Commission

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:20)

W. Robert Godfrey noted that one of the tendencies of the modern church, borne out of an essentially good desire to see the church revived, is to be persuaded that the way to advance evangelism is to pursue a minimalist Christianity. The motive, he says, may be commendable, but it is a fundamental betrayal of the Great Commission. He states, “the Great Commission was not, “Figure out the minimum number of things you can say about me and get people to believe those.” The Great Commission was, “Teach them to obey all things I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20). There’s maximization to the Great Commission.”

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Thoughts on the Coronavirus

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you” ( Isaiah 43:1)

At the moment, it is difficult to avoid hearing about the Coronavirus (Covid-19), a new flu-like virus, which was first encountered in Wuhan, China in December 2019, and has since spread all over the world. In total, there are 590 confirmed cases in the UK, sadly with 10 deaths. America has seen infections pass the 1,000 mark, with deaths rising to 33, as President Trump has today suspended travel from European countries for 30 days. Italy has the highest number of cases out with China, with more than 12,000 confirmed cases and 827 deaths, and in is in a state of lockdown, as travel is restricted and public gatherings are forbidden.

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Cultivating Suspicion

“Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)

First Corinthians chapter 10, verse 12, is a powerful passage. It is seldom applied within the church today. It concerns the danger of spiritual pride and sin. For those of us in the Reformed church, do we not sometimes look at ourselves collectively and say, despite numerical weakness compared to former days, that we are spiritually strong? We have been privileged to sit under sound preaching for many years where the Lord has blessed His cause.

May we not also be tempted to look at ourselves individually and say, “I have taken a difficult stand in the church,” or, “I have sought to be faithful. By God’s grace, I am knowledgeable in the Scriptures, active in the Lord’s cause and spiritually strong.”

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The Church in Europe

“And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”” (Acts 16:9)

The account of the birth of the church at Philippi is one of the most extensive accounts of church planting in the New Testament. Paul had intended to devote his second missionary journey to Asia. However, when Paul and his companions had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were “forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia,” and when they tried to go into Bithynia, “the Spirit did not permit them” (Acts 16:6-7). As they came to Troas, “a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”” (Acts 16:9)

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Serve Others

“For even the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

Service is not a uniquely Christian concept. The language of service is something engrained throughout society. Politicians are expected to serve their constituents, businesses serve their customers and teachers, social workers and many others spend their lives serving others. In some cases, great acts of valour are carried out in the service of others, by those who put themselves in harm’s way, even to the point of death. Continue reading “Serve Others”

29 Years

“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…their works follow them” (Revelation 14:13)

David Brainerd (1718-1747) was an 18th century American missionary to the native American Indians of New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) was a 19th century Scottish minister in Dundee. These two men lived in different centuries, were born in different countries, ministered in differing circumstances and therefore, in some senses, had little in common. However, in another sense they had much in common: each were called to be ambassadors for Christ, gave much in His service, died at 29 years of age, yet were to greatly influence generations to come.

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Holding the Rope

“I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

A slate engraving and a stone cairn were recently unveiled in Stornoway as the first in a series of events to commemorate the centenary of the Iolaire disaster (Here). Before being used by the navy in anti-submarine and patrol work, the Iolaire had been a luxury yacht prior to the First World War. It was 31 December 1918, the war was over, peace was restored amongst the nations, and, after four long years, the men who had served King and country were on their way home.

The Kyle of Lochalsh quay was crowded with servicemen, and the steam ferry, the SS Sheila, was soon packed to the rafters. The Iolaire was sent for from her berth in Stornoway to transport the extra men back home to Lewis. She was kitted out with only two lifeboats and 80 lifejackets as 283 servicemen made their way up the gangplank and onto the ship.

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