If I want mercy when I sin, then why is it so hard for me to be merciful? No, seriously. If I want God to treat me with care and forgive me when I sin, then why do I have such a difficult time extending mercy to those I feel have wronged me?
One day at work, I was at my desk stewing over some people who’d hurt me. I was so angry with them; I wanted them to get what they deserved! God cut right through that thought and said, “But what if you get what you deserve?” That question stopped me cold. Immediately, I become defensive and said, “But, Lord, I am a good person.” Right then I knew I had to let it go because I am not a good person. How could I sit in judgment of these people and withhold forgiveness when I had been forgiven of so much?
The bible makes it very clear that we are to forgive one another, and the command comes with a condition. "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37. I mean could it be anymore plain?
Growing up in the church I found that judgmental behavior practically came with the territory. It was not uncommon to overhear one christian criticizing another because they were not living right. What an oxymoron. This type of talk was and still is widely accepted. Thing is, none of us are living right. It is very easy to grow pompous in one's self-righteousness. Once a person has done that looking down on others who do not rise to his or her standard of righteousness is a natural progression.
Judgmental behavior only harms. I have never seen anyone change his or her mind or lifestyle as a direct result of being judged by others. That person is more likely to cut off and never speak to someone they feel judged by than to make any positive change.
As followers of Christ, we are not called to condemn but to love. All we are is found in Him, our strength and wisdom are drawn from Him. This does not mean let other believers continue doing wrong. It means check the motivation. We are to be as wise as a serpent but as harmless as a dove. If someone we love is going down a destructive path, we have a responsibility to talk to them, in love, and to pray for them. But to leave the decision with them. We are not held responsible for the decisions other people make. But we are responsible for the decisions we make. That includes the contempt we may or may not be holding in our hearts for someone who appears to have rejected our advice.
“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. This verse is a tough one. The word judge in this verse comes from the Greek word krino. Krino means to distinguish, to decide (mentally or judicially) to try to condemn, punish, avenge, conclude, damn, decree, determine, esteem. To go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think. This type of judgment is propelled by malice. This is one of the reasons love is the greatest of all the virtues because it is the fuel for correct action.
True love does not force people to make its decision—Jesus doesn’t do that. Love is not coercive or manipulative. And it does not set out to make people uncomfortable. Judgment makes people uncomfortable. It’s interesting because you can feel it. You know when someone is judging you, and it doesn’t feel good. Some of the most hurtful things people have said and done to me they called love; but it wasn’t love, it was judgment. Some of the most hurtful things I have done to others, I called love; but it wasn’t love, it was judgment.
Who has judged and hurt you? Who have you judged and hurt? It’s a cycle we can break with love. Dr. King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I believe that. I believe that love conquers all as it has already conquered death.
Let us think of ourselves soberly and remember, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," Romans 3:23. None of us are what God intended us to be. We should not look down on others because they are not who we think they should be.
Neither you, nor I have the wisdom, capacity, or even the ability to pass judgement on anyone else. We are all in need, daily, sometimes moment by moment, of God’s love and forgiveness. Let us throw off the sin that so easily entangles and run the race set out for us. Stop judging your neighbor. They are a sinner just like you. And just like you they need time and patience. Just like you they may or may not make a change. And just like you they are accountable to the Father.
So, I ask that we endeavor to stop with the judgmental behavior and let the love of Christ shine through us.