Sunday, March 16, 2014
We need to stop judging other people. It's time for some unity and respect.
Judging Other People
What does the Bible say about judging other people? This goes way beyond mere physical appearances, mannerisms or idiosyncrasies. It surpasses all concepts of right and wrong, although that can play a part. The Bible defines judging others as having contempt for, or a hatred of people. It means considering ourselves better than others for racial, moral, economic, age, religious or gender related reasons. It is morally wrong to do this because we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and God bestows his gifts and attributes to us on an equal basis. Therefore, we are all equals in God's sight, and I could write a whole sermon on that topic alone. There are several good quotes from the Bible that I am going to use to make my point. The first is from the gospel of Matthew in the New Testament, chapter 7, verses 1 and 2.
“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.” (NIV)
What this verse also says is the more harshly we judge other people, the more harshly we will be judged when it is our turn. Make no mistake, every one of us will get his or her turn to be judged by God when our lives are over. The only exceptions will be those who will be caught up in the rapture of the Church during the Great Tribulation that is prophesied by the book of Revelation, as well as by the apostle Paul in his letters to the Thessalonian church. And that, my dear readers, will only be a select few people. So what is the criteria for this? It will simply be how we treated other people, and by how good we made them feel. It's going to be about how much unconditional love, kindness and patience we show others. That's why Jesus said during his sermon on the mountain, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matt. 5:7). We are to be practicing gentleness when making discernment about others, otherwise our harshness and being judgmental will come back around and bite us in the tail.
“I will deal with them according to their conduct, and by their own standards I will judge them. Then they will know that I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 7:27 NIV)
This Old Testament quote from Scripture is the basis for quotations from the New. The more mean we treat others, the meaner God will be towards us when our lives are over. If we treat people gently, God will be gentle with us to the point where it shows up in the lives of those who habitually perform this good deed. How then should we be living? We should be living as if God is watching everything we do and listening to everything we say. This means we should be taking care of others, nurturing and encouraging instead of criticizing and rejecting others just because they don't meet our lofty standards. We are not at the center of the universe! Remember that for every person who seems to come up short as far as we are concerned, there is another that feels the same way about us whether they tell us or not. People who are in the habit of acting this way toward others are always people who dislike themselves. They see something about themselves that they don't like in someone else's personality or character and they go after that person tooth and nail. As long as they are attacking someone else, they don't have to look at themselves.
The next 2 quotes are from the book of James in the New Testament. They take judging of others a step further by getting at the roots of passing judgment.
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 3: 11-12 NIV)
Well said, James, my dear brother. Who do we think we are? Since everyone is a sinner in God's sight, God can only save us if we are merciful towards one another. Jesus said, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice”. The Bible commands us to love one another, and Jesus taught us to “love your neighbor as yourself”. We cannot simultaneously judge others and still be merciful towards them. We can't claim to love others while sitting in judgment of them. Judgment and mercy are exact opposites, they are mutually exclusive of one another. The same goes for slander and love. There is no way to talk badly about your neighbor, friend, co-worker or relative and then profess your love for them. This bring me to the final verses of this lesson.
“Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” James 2: 12-13 (NIV)
True judgment gives freedom according to James. Restrictive judgment says to those around us 'I think I'm better than you'. That is not from God. It is man-made and it is derived from excessive pride. Being merciful towards others no matter what they have said or done tends to motivate most people to want to do better. Judging, on the other hand, implies that they can't do any better, so why not just write them off? It's taking the easy way out, and that is never God's way.
There is one more aspect of passing judgment that I think I should mention, and that is the often controversial subject of racism. Hatred, bigotry and intolerance directed towards others are the polar opposites of being merciful. The best way to achieve peace on earth is for everybody to start showing mercy and tolerance towards one another (provided that that mercy and tolerance is not abused by its recipient). The Bible says any time we display racism, intolerance, bigotry and prejudice towards one another, it is the same as hating God who made them all. Who are we to question the handiwork of the Lord? Besides, when we devalue others we ultimately devalue ourselves since God sees everyone as equals. These are simple truths, yet they seem to elude us the majority of the time. Imagine a world without hate or harsh judgment that is filled compassion and mercy for everyone. What a wonderful place to live that would be! The Bible already tells us how. It's just that too few people are putting it into practice.
God has given each of us the responsibility of not being so quick to pass judgment on each other. Instead, we are to be merciful towards each other because “mercy triumphs over judgment”. Ask yourself this question right now. Am I too judgmental? Am I a prejudiced individual? If you are it's time to repent, to turn away from this behavior pattern, and to turn to God, he can provide all the answers you need. If you feel that you may not be strong enough to change, pray to God and ask Him to help you change into a better person. You will be surprised at how willing He will be. Let's practice together to not be judgmental towards one another, and to be merciful instead. It's a better way of life.