“Judge not, that you be not judged….Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matt 7:1-8 (ESV)
I am reading the book, The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. The premise is to conspire with God to subvert evil with good. In it, he has some brilliant insights from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount.
Concerning the passage above, Willard notes that the first paragraph is about how not to get someone to change. This is to condemn them, tell them they how wrong they are and how right we are. There is inevitably an element of self-righteous that goes with condemnation and judgment. This will almost always cause a person to put their defenses up and not be open to what we are saying. And if they feel judged, this stimulates their creative juices to find things to judge and condemn us. Thus an ineffectual downward spiral is created. How much I used to do this with my teenage son!
Jesus’ admonition not to give what is holy to dogs or pearls to swine is because they are not ready to receive them. Even if we are trying to persuade people to do something that is good and healthy for them, if the timing is not right, they cannot receive it. On the other hand, there are many things the Father may want us to do differently or to grow in, but 1) he does not condemn us 2) he jealously respects our free will and 3) he waits until we are ready to receive something before he asks us to change. Because he does not condemn, we feel safe in listening to him and are more open to receive it.
Jesus does have a good suggestion for us to use when we see an issue in a person’s life that could be improved: ask. Ask respectfully, in the right time, and persistently. If a person knows that we love them and want their best, and we are purposeful and intentional about them doing what we know is the best for them, in time, there is a high likelihood that they will indeed change.
Willard says, “Asking is indeed the great law of the spiritual world through which things are accomplished in cooperation with God and yet in harmony with the freedom and worth of every individual…A request by its very nature unites. A demand, by contrast, immediately separates. It is this peculiar ‘atmosphere’ of togetherness that characterized the kingdom and is, indeed, what human beings were created to thrive in.” (pp. 232-3)