Luke 6:37-49

Learning Not to Judge

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned.”

This is a tough one, as a teacher. Dallas Willard clarifies that there are two separate meanings of the word “judge,” and the one translated here does not refer to legitimate evaluation of a person’s work or actions. That part I need to do as a teacher all the time – it is an essential part of my job to determine (judge) what a student has learned and understands.

The tough part is that often the legitimate judging turns into judging their character. This leads to condemnation: “You’re a bad person and you do bad things.” Sounds awful when you say it like that, but this past winter as I was reading Luke and reading “Divine Conspiracy” (Dallas Willard), I was convicted that, too often, this was exactly how I was treating my students. I would work my way through a pile of marking, and would find myself developing contempt for my students. “How could you get THAT wrong?” “I can’t believe you made that same mistake AGAIN!” “I solved one just like that in class – can’t you follow 3 steps?!” Even though these thoughts were only in my head, I realized they would spill out once I was back in the classroom. Jesus says, “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.” (v 45)

It is pretty hard to help someone learn if you harbor contempt for them in your heart. Once I realized this was happening, I asked God to show me where this attitude was coming from. What he showed me was that I was basically expecting the students to be perfect students – to learn every little detail of what I was teaching and apply it correctly every time. And I think the root behind this is my own pride and self-worth. It is hard to accept that I might be doing everything I can as a teacher and still have students who don’t understand. So if they really don’t get it, it must be because I’m not a good enough teacher. The contempt was a protection mechanism – they’re not learning because they just aren’t trying hard enough, or they don’t care enough, or something – anything to avoid having to admit that once again I need to smarten up and try harder (remember Nathan’s sermon a few weeks ago?).

The reality is that, even if I do everything I can, not everyone is going to learn everything I’m trying to teach them. I even have this reminder posted for myself in my classroom – “There is more to life than Science class.” This doesn’t mean they’re bad people.

As I go through tests and assignments now, I intentionally look for all the things they’ve done well. I deliberately write comments about the positive parts of their reports. The things that are incorrect? I point out the opportunity to improve and indicate what needs to be fixed, rather than just give an “X”. I’m trying to treat the students as Jesus would if he was in my place, seeing them with his eyes and heart. If they learn about science, great! If they don’t, but they experience love and acceptance and a teacher who cares about them beyond the grades they get, that is much more significant in God’s Kingdom. In the end, I want to be like the one Jesus talks about at the end of this passage:

“I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built.” (v 47-48)

—Tim Lehman

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