|Games People Play | Operation|
|August 13, 2006|
Part 8 of 10 | August 13, 2006
This is the eighth message in our series that we’re calling Games People Play. Today we’re talking about the classic children’s game, Operation. Milton Bradley has been marketing Operation since 1965. The idea came from an old-fashioned wire loop electric game that was popular at fairs and carnivals. In the game, everyone tries to successfully operate on a patient known as Cavity Sam. You have to try to remove all of Cavity Sam’s ailments, such as Butterflies in the Stomach, Broken Heart, Wish Bone, and Water on the Knee. If you touch the metal sides with your metal tweezers, the circuit is closed and Cavity Sam’s red nose lights up and you lose your turn.
Operation is a fun children’s game because it allows the players to pretend that they’re doctors and surgeons. But Jesus gives us a pretty stern warning about trying to play this game in our lives.In Matthew 7, starting in verse 1, Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way 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.” (Matthew 7:1-5, NIV)
Jesus warns us about playing a spiritual game of Operation. This game that people play goes like this: I see you as the patient. I, myself, am the surgeon. You have something that we need to remove: some sin or shortcoming or flaw in your life. You’re not perfect. In fact, you’re far from it. But lucky for you, Dr. Edmisten is on the case. I will come to your rescue by helping you remove this spiritual flaw from your life. The only caveat is that I will always be the doctor. I’m a self-appointed surgeon whose mission in life is pointing out and operating on the flaws of others. But I myself do not need such medical assistance because, after all, I’m the doctor. You’re the patient.We’ve got a word for this kind of game: judgmentalism. For better or worse, rightly or wrongly, this is the most popular label that our world slaps on Christianity. Those Christians are nothing but a bunch of self-righteous, judgmental people. Jesus must have known that this kind of stereotype would plague his followers because he addressed the issue head on.
This morning we’re going to spend a little bit of time unpacking what Jesus taught us about judging others. He told us, first of all, that we all have to be patients. Jesus uses wood as an example to illustrate his point. We see a person who has a spiritual flaw that Jesus illustrates as a speck of sawdust. Now, before we see it as our mission to point out this sawdust sin, Jesus tells us to look in the mirror. We have a sin in our lives that Jesus describes as a great big beam of wood.
Jesus intentionally exaggerates his illustration to make his point. The point is that it is absolutely absurd to point out the flaws of someone else when we have more serious problems in our own lives. This is why we’ve got to be patients ourselves.
But this is where a lot of us run into problems. It’s a lot easier to recognize the sin in someone else’s life than to take a look in the spiritual mirror. If we follow Jesus’ words and take an introspective look at our own lives, it will automatically slow our criticism and judging of other people because we’ll realize what kind of mess exists in our own lives.
But it’s much easier to try to hide behind a self-righteous mask, because then we can try to fool other people, and maybe even ourselves. It’s much easier to avoid being authentic with others and with God. Authenticity is a frightening thing. It’s hard to be real with ourselves, with others, and with God because the depth of our sin and the reality of our imperfections is not something we want to face. So a lot of us are content to dwell in a false faith that is ready and willing to jump on the perceived sins and shortcomings of someone else, but avoids facing our own. Oh, we may claim to know that we’re not perfect. We may give lip-service to the fact that we’re sinners. But in reality, we’re not willing to rip off the mask and look at how ugly and messy our lives really are. So we keep everyone, including God, at arms length. If we don’t let them close, if we’re never authentic with them, then we don’t have the face the messiness of our own lives.
We convince ourselves that the truly holy people are the ones who revel in their own perceived righteousness and condemn perceived sin wherever it may dwell. It seems more spiritual if you are part of the sin police rather than extending God’s grace. It just feels spiritually superior to condemn anyone that even has a hint of being less than righteous. But this is not holiness by the biblical standard. The people who are truly holy, godly people are the ones who are willing to do honest self-evaluation. They’re willing to face their own sinfulness in all its unvarnished ugliness. And because they recognize themselves as patients first, they run to God’s grace to perform the necessary spiritual operation in their lives.Mike Yaconelli said, “The power of the Church is not a parade of flawless people, but of a flawless Christ who embraces our flaws. The Church is not made up of the whole people, rather of the broken people who find wholeness in a Christ who was broken for us.”
Most of us have a mortgage on our houses. Suppose, all of a sudden, you were no longer able to make your house payment. The bank is threatening to foreclose. You don’t know what you’re going to do. Then a friend comes to you and says, “I don’t want you to lose your house. I’m going to pay off your mortgage for you. You don’t ever have to pay me back. It’s a gift, and it’s all yours.” You did nothing to deserve this gift. You didn’t earn it in any way. The only reason you have a house at all is because of the generosity of someone else.
Now, how much sense would it make for you to go around, bragging to other people, “I paid off my house. Yep, she’s paid for. It’s all mine. Oh, your house isn’t paid off yet? Too bad. Yeah, it’s too bad you’re not more like me.”
That would be an insane reaction. But isn’t that exactly what happens when we pass judgment on other people? What gives us the right to believe we are better than somebody else when our only hope is God’s grace? How can we look down on somebody else when we couldn’t pay off our own debt? Jesus had to do it for us.
But even though, this doesn’t make sense, that doesn’t stop it from happening. There are countless Christians who still find a way to appoint themselves as judge. They judge a person when they deem that this person’s sins are somehow worse than their own. Sometimes they even judge a person on things that the Bible says absolutely nothing about. I heard a guy named Rick talk about growing up as a preacher’s kid. Rick is now in the preaching ministry himself. As he was growing up, his parents would often have all kinds of people in their home. One night, they were hosting a couple from their church in their home. This man and his wife decided they would try to impress the preacher with their spirituality. (By the way, most of us preachers really hate it when people try to impress us.) So this couple started railing against all these things that they thought were “sinful” and “worldly.” The whole thing just got out of control. These people claimed that it was a sin to have mag wheels on your vehicle. How could anyone who is a Christian have such a worldly possession as mag wheels on a car? Rick’s dad simply smiled and said, “Come with me.” He led them outside, opened his garage door, and pulled out his tricked-out Ford Mustang, complete with…you guessed it…mag wheels.
That is an absurd example, but this is the danger in judgmentalism. When you appoint yourself as the judge, you become the arbiter between right and wrong. It becomes an exercise in self-righteous arrogance. And it makes a mockery of Jesus’ payment for our own sin. That’s why the Bible says that, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, NIV)
I can’t think of anything more humbling that having someone else pay off my debt because I couldn’t do it myself. And yet somehow, people manage to twist this into a forum for judgment.
I eventually want to have lasik eye surgery so I can get rid of my glasses. We can’t afford it right now, and I’m a little hesitant to have eye surgery at one of these “pay for one eye, get one eye free” places. I look for buy one get one free deals at Kroger, but not for eye surgery. So I’ve got to be content to just wait for a while until we can make it happen. But, when the day does come for me to have the lasik procedure, I want to know how good my doctor’s vision is. If he needs lasik himself, I want him to take care of his own eyes first. After that, he’ll be able to see clearly to work on my eyes.
This is Jesus’ point. If we are not willing to thoroughly examine and judge ourselves, we’ll never see clearly enough to help someone else treat their spiritual wounds. We all have to be patients before we can be surgeons. Let’s go back and look at what Jesus said again. 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.” (Matthew 7:4-5, NIV)
Jesus doesn’t say that it’s wrong to help someone remove the speck from their eye. He simply says that we have to be able to see clearly to do it. We have to do serious self-evaluation first. But after that, it is a good thing if we can help someone else in their spiritual struggles.
That does mean that we should be able to recognize sin in someone else’s life. Now, whoa! Wait a minute! You need to go back and read the first couple of verses again.Ok, let’s do that. Jesus said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2, NIV)Do not judge, or you too will be judged. This verse is better known by many people in the King James Version of the Bible: Judge not, that ye be not judged. This has become the most frequently quoted saying of Jesus. The popular interpretation is that Jesus is calling us to a permissiveness and tolerance that overlooks sin in someone else’s life.
Actually, there is a translation problem with Jesus words in most of our English Bibles. Larry Chouinard writes that this verse is “best understood as, ‘Don’t get into the habit of being judgmental’ or ‘Don’t make judgmentalism a part of your lifestyle.’” Jesus isn’t calling us to avoid recognition of sin; he’s calling us to avoid an attitude of self-righteous judgmentalism that is more than willing to see sin in other people, but tries to ignore our own shortcomings.
In fact, the New Testament specifically instructs us to help each other in our spiritual struggles. Galatians 6 tells us, “if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1, NIV)
Did you notice that Paul’s words in Galatians follow the exact same pattern of Jesus’ words in Matthew? Watch your own life. Constantly guard against your own temptations. And then, and only then, can you work to help another person. And when you do that, it’s not done in a critical, judgmental way. It’s supposed to be handled gently.Jesus words in Matthew 7 are not a call for us to take a wink wink, nod nod approach to sin. It’s not something we’re supposed to ignore. First and foremost, we have to recognize the sins in our own lives. We’ve got to be authentic with ourselves, with other people, and with God. This authenticity means we drop any notion of self-righteousness or spiritual superiority. We can help others in their spiritual struggles only if we’re willing to admit and deal with our own. And the only way we do that is by allowing Jesus to perform his work of grace in our lives. We can help one another with spiritual wounds and struggles, but in reality we’re not even surgeons. We’re simply medical assistants working under the Great Physician. There’s not a sin-stained life that has ever existed that he could not cure. If you’ve never accepted his free gift of grace, we invite you to come to Him today.
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