June 8, 2017
“By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship
One of the skills I developed early in life is that of judging others. Whether it was a friend or relative or neighbor or fellow student or teacher or coach or leader in our church or a leader in government, if they had a fault, I was sure to find it. I could even identify their motives and the state of their hearts – hidden as that was to the naked eye! And I especially specialized in making sure someone around me knew of my latest insights into someone else’s character (or lack of). Sadly that skill (or vice actually) is at an all time fever pitch in our culture today. Our cable networks even pay people to do it daily as a profession. Few seem able or willing to grasp the seriousness of the poison they are spewing, much less the seriousness of the judgment they are bringing upon themselves as a result of their own unrighteous judgment.
Unrighteous judging is one of many vices that Jesus Christ began to gently but firmly deal with as I began to finally respond to His pursuit of me in my early twenties. It wasn’t easy to overcome, and sliding back into it is always a temptation. Thankfully He has extended great mercy to me over all these years, and has granted me grace time after time to repent when I gave into the temptation.
It is out of that mercy and grace that I want to exhort each of you to run from this destructive sin, and then I want to exhort you to be more mercifully forthright to those whom you have any influence over who are stuck in this mire – as to their need to flee from it at all costs. And one of the primary reasons for my exhortation is because those of us who judge others unrighteously will be judged unrighteously by others and will be judged righteously by God Himself. Jesus spoke to this when He said in Matthew 7:1, 2 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.”
There have been times in my life where I have been rebuked and corrected for sins I have committed, and while I may not have immediately received or appreciated the said rebuke – I soon grew to see its value, and became grateful for someone willing to speak the truth to me. There have been other times where I have been unrighteously judged and that was not something I would wish on anyone. And yet especially in my first 30 years of life, I kind of had it coming.
But as painful as that was, being under the righteous judgment of God is far worse, which is what James speaks to in ch. 4 vs. 12 & ch. 5 vs. 9, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” & ch. 5 vs. 9 “Do not complain brethren against one another, that you yourselves may not be judged; behold the Judge is standing right at the door.” The apostle Paul sought to remind those he had influence over in Rome of this same danger, “But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God.” Romans 14:10
Thankfully Jesus is very practical, and His teaching in Matthew 7 and in Luke 6 has helped me immensely over the years. I’m speaking of the log in the eye principle as layed out in Matthew 7:3-5, “Why do you look at 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,’ and behold, the log is 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.”
The best way to overcome unrighteous judging of others is to develop a lifestyle of daily dealing with the stuff in your own life as the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, which He is more than faithful to do when He can get our attention. The great Catholic divine, Thomas A Kempis put it this way, “In judging others a man labors in vain; he often errs, and easily falls into sin; but in judging and examining himself he always labors to good purpose.”
A prayer that I have learned over the years God is quick to answer is the prayer of David as recorded in Psalm 139:23,24, “Search me O God and know my heart, try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”
Once you and I get an unrushed and clear look in the mirror of God’s word as to how far we have fallen “short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), we will be far less likely to zero in on someone else’s faults.
I end with these wise words from an anonymous author, “There is so much good in the worst of us, and so much bad in the best of us, that it hardly becomes any of us to talk about the rest of us.”
May the Lord pour out godly sorrow that leads to repentance on our nation, and may it start with me!