Have you ever noticed just how much of life feels like a competition? It’s like we all abide by unspoken measures of ranking one another….There’s comment sections at the end of every news article, and most of the comments are negative. Many of us criticize others for trying to do things—anything from Olympic sports to American Idol—that we ourselves couldn’t even do if we tried!
This is a little habit we call…judgmentalism. Clearly it’s on the rise in our society, but sadly, the church isn’t really doing much better in a lot of cases.
We all know what judgment is like….Sometimes we get unfairly judged by others. And all of us have passed judgment on others in our hearts.
It’s like we value ourselves based on how much we dislike somebody else.
What Jesus teaches puts us in a sleeper hold when it comes to this attitude.
You see, in his word, he teaches us that judgment is an irrational disposition of the heart.
It’s irrational for three reasons. One, because God has not given us the judge’s seat. So every time we judge somebody, we’re acting as if we are God. But as the apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 2, only God has the authority to act as the right and just judge. In our fallenness, we forget that we are not God.
The second reason it’s irrational is that it causes us to be blind to our own issues. At the end of Luke 6, Jesus uses a hilarious picture to demonstrate this idea… a person carefully reaching over to remove a speck of sawdust from his brother’s eye when he’s got a plank stuck in his own eye. Ouch! You know what a plank is? It’s a 2×4. It’s a whole lotta tiny little specks of sawdust held together as a massive solid piece.
You know what I’ve noticed in this day and age in which we live, when there’s so many people with so many opinions? It seems like the people who are the most critical of others are the least self-reflective.
And when somebody’s got an issue that really bugs us, it’s probably because it’s something we’re also guilty of doing! I’ve heard it said this way: “My sins look really bad when YOU do them!”
It’s so easy to stand in judgment, isn’t it? But it’s so hard to look in the mirror.
The third reason being judgmental is an irrational disposition of the heart is found in Luke 6:38, when Jesus teaches us that whatever standard we erect, God will apply it back to us…That’s a powerful statement from Jesus, isn’t it?
In many ways, Jesus’s teaching there is the opposite of how we think. What I’ve found from years in pastoral ministry and in talking to lots of people, is that people will almost always give themselves the radical benefit of the doubt, but give somebody else the most strict standards: I get mercy; everyone else gets justice.
Do we realize that when something happens and we ascribe to somebody the worst possible motives, that means that our own worst possible motives are going to be ascribed to us? Every time your heart is moved in critical judgment, self-righteousness, or ideas about someone that lack mercy or love, you have to remember that that is exactly what you’re setting yourself up for as well.
God allows us to set the standard. It’s amazing that he does that. He allows us to set the criteria by which we ourselves are judged. With that being the case, this is a powerful motivation for us to be generous with love, forgiveness, and goodness. If you’re a loving, forgiving, kind-hearted person—if you give people the radical benefit of the doubt, then that will also be applied back to you.
That changes how we look at people, doesn’t it? Jesus is calling us to a more excellent way.
So is there a way to address issues in someone’s life without standing in judgment over them? Because Jesus didn’t say there’s no flaw. Someone may indeed have a speck in their eye and need a little help getting it out!
Humble concern is the way to confront sinfulness…Concern, yes. Judgment, no.
We need to be on guard against being someone who condemns others, even slightly, in our hearts. When we notice a flaw, we simply pray, “Father, I notice the speck there. Will you search my heart and help me work on my own planks?”
Judgment is transformed into compassion when we realize that we are just like the person we are seeking to judge. We have flaws and blind-spots. We are in process, just as they are. Then, out of that compassion, we pray for them and we help however we can. Do you see what a simple yet absolutely transformative way of thinking that is?
And finally, if you feel judged, forgive… and give grace just like Jesus does. Not just a fair measure, but with radical, generous love. Don’t just give an eye for an eye, but treat people way better than they treat you. That’s what it means to be a follower of Jesus, being able to say to somebody, “You give me a hard time, I give you blessings upon blessings.” Because that’s exactly who Jesus is.