This is Day Thirteen of Christ Church Manchester’s lent devotionals, where we are breaking down the book of John. Written by Andrew Dowdeswell.
John 7: 1 – 24:
As a young boy who was obsessed with sport, particularly football, it was a regular ritual in which my friends, anyone else and I who cared to kick a ball about would have to pick the teams.
It was a dreaded occasion. One where the favourites and shone; one where many fights occurred; one where many tears were shed; where strops were had and tantrums enjoyed. Rather than be fair and take the anonymous route of picking numbers to decipher the seemingly incomprehensible formula to depict two sets of players, we would select two captains, who would then pick the players, in turn, that they wanted on their team.
A simple and harsh concept for whoever was last. However, when playing with other kids of whose qualities, or lack thereof, was hidden, the selection was based on pure judgement. Do they look like a footballer? Is he tall? Does he look fast? Is he fat and slow or short and sharp?
Decisions were made on sharp judgements.
Sadly, though, such judgemental approaches are not restricted to the football pitch. In fact, we judge people all the time. We judge people on their talents, their looks, their wage packet, their social standing, the way they speak, their nationality, their skin colour, their sex.
And Christians are the worst for it. There are numerous examples of the ‘holier than thou’ Christians lambasting the actions and the behaviours of those around them.
Now, this is not to say that we are not to judge people. There is a time, a place and a person; a context to do so in. But finding that is not all that easy.
In today’s passage, Jesus sneaks his way into a Jewish festival after telling his disciples that he would not go. When teaching to the Jewish crowds there, He is accused of being ‘demon possessed’ because of the recent miracle – where he healed the invalid at the well – that many had seen.
After a rather strong riposte, in verse 24 Jesus says:
“Stop judging by mere appearances, but judge correctly.”
As I was reading and praying over this passage on Wednesday morning, it was this verse that poignantly stood out. It is a challenge: to judge correctly, but also an invitation.
Jesus invites us into the work of the Father. That is how we judge correctly. We do not judge as we see fit, for the traits that we deem valuable. Rather, we look to God and act in accordance with His perspective, for only God looks at the heart.
1 Samuel 16: 7: “Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Written by:Andy Dowdeswell