When Someone Has Fallen (Restoring Others)
Have you ever tripped and fallen in public? That can be really embarrassing! If you see someone else fall, what’s your first instinct? Some may jokingly admit they’re first instinct is to laugh; but hopefully it’s really to help the person who has fallen get back on their feet. No doubt, that’s what we would hope others would do for us!
During His Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 7:1-5, Jesus teaches about what to do when a fellow Believer falls, not physically, but spiritually; when they make a poor decision, take a wrong turn or choose a wide, destructive path in life.
“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. Matthew 7:1-5
Breaking News: People are not perfect! And that includes Christ-Followers! Sometimes people behave badly, they fail, they stumble and fall. So the question is: How do we respond to a fellow Believer who has fallen?
To understand what Jesus means with His prohibition to not judge, we need to have a clear understanding about what He is not teaching.
Jesus is not teaching to abolish laws, courts and judges. When we consider the context of Jesus’ instruction, it’s clear He’s not teaching about governance, but about relationships, community and our responsibility to one another.
Jesus is not teaching to turn a blind eye to another’s faults and failures. We don’t just close our eyes or look the other way when a fellow Believer is clearly behaving badly or making poor choices that obviously do not honor Christ.
Jesus is not teaching to refuse to discern between right and wrong or good and evil. Jesus is not instructing us to suspend criticism to the detriment of another who has decided to take a wide and destructive path. There is absolute truth; there is a clear difference between right and wrong, good and evil, Christ-honoring or not, and that difference is not difficult to discern with the aid of God’s Word and the Holy Spirit.
While Jesus’ followers can be discerning, we can’t be censorious. Censorious doesn’t mean to assess people critically or discerningly, but rather to judge them harshly. This is what Jesus is forbidding here. Maybe you’ve been censorious in the past, or you have been around people who are. A censorious critic is a fault-finder who enjoys seeking out other’s failings. They can be negative and destructive toward others. Jesus wants us to steer clear of this kind of behavior.
Judgement is a role reserved for God alone. (Romans 14:4a; 1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
We do not judge, because we are among the judged! When we judge others, we will be judged with greater strictness. (Matthew 7:2; Romans 2:1)
We don’t judge because judging another is hypocritical. Jesus makes clear with this brief, but powerful parable how hypocritical it is to point out the minor failings of a fellow Believer without addressing our own greater failures. (Matthew 7:3-4)
Yet let’s be brutally honest, we all have a tendency to exaggerate the faults of others and minimize the gravity of our own. The caricature that Jesus paints for us here is outrageous; imagine trying to get the speck out of someone else’s eye while you have a plank in yours! That is ludicrous and Jesus knows it. It is hyperbole at it’s best. Who said Jesus doesn't have a sense of humor?!
Yet, as I read in one commentary, when the joke’s on us, and our own outlandish fault-finding, we don’t always appreciate the humor. There is often truth in jest and Jesus shares a powerful truth here that we can’t miss or dismiss. Jesus gives us more insight about this type of hypocrisy with His parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. (Luke 18:9-14)
So what does Jesus want us to do with those who have fallen? Jesus wants us to first repent of our own failures, then lovingly help restore others who have also failed. (Matthew 7:5). Jesus forbids censoriousness and hypocrisy, but that does not relieve us of our responsibility to graciously, generously, and lovingly help a fellow Believer who has lost their way. (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1). Maybe you know someone who has fallen. Will you help them get back on their feet?
For much more, click here to listen to: Sermon on the Mount - Part 11 - Restoring Others.