As we walk through life the temptation and opportunity to judge those around us can be so obvious that it can almost feel destined to be. After all, we make judgments all the time: the difference between right and wrong, what to wear, whether to stick to that diet or stray, or in the political arena as we attempt to decide which candidate would best represent us. Judgment for decision making purposes is an inevitable thing.
However, what of the human element? When is making a judgment of another person right or wrong? People are very good at pointing out the things that offend or disgust them in another person. Unfortunately, all too often the emphasis of judgment becomes the person instead of the action. Human nature causes us to scrutinize our fellow man. As petty as it sounds, there are those that feel better about themselves because of the unenviable circumstances of someone else. “At least, I'm not as bad as that meth addict.” “Well, I have never slept around.” Whenever the temptation to judge another arises we must ask ourselves, “What would God want me to do in this situation?” The Bible talks a great deal about passing judgment.
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the same measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.” -Matthew 7:1-5
In this passage Jesus warns us not to look at the sins of others in a hypocritical way. No matter how one chooses to look at it, we are all sinners. God does not put a hierarchy on sin, only human beings do that. If we go back to the examples used above, those with addictions who lie and steal in order to feed their habit are not more guilty than the one who speaks in jealousy and anger. Those with a promiscuous past are not more condemned than shoplifters or domestic abusers. There is no minor sin in the sight of the Lord. He takes all of our mistakes very seriously. It is important that when we are tempted to pass judgment on another, to remember not only that we too have sinned, but also that in many cases, we do not know why others have ended up in the situations where we have found them. That is why it is so important to always try to approach each situation as how God would: with grace and kindness. An often used quote illustrates this well: “Be kind. For others may be facing a battle you know nothing about.” We may not always know the reason others have made the sinful choices they have. After all, as a wise pastor once said, “No little boy ever says, 'When I grow up I want to be addicted to drugs,' and no little girl ever wished to be find herself controlled by a pimp and prostitution.”
So what is the consequence of judging others based on their mistakes when we too are just as guilty of a sinful nature? The passage from Matthew is pretty clear. If we judge others, the Lord will judge us with the same level of scrutiny that we have shown. That consequence seems pretty straightforward. However, there is another consequence to passing judgment that most people do not consider. Recently, there has been a story floating around the internet that exhibits this other consequence so well it would feel negligent not to pass it along here. It is unclear if the story is true or merely anecdotal, but the core purpose highlighted in the story is undeniable regardless of the story's origins.
One night, a young woman found herself at the doors of a church. She had never felt lower in her life and entered the church during the service with a heart filled with despair and desperation. As the service progressed, her anguish melted away as God tugged at her heart. She answered God's call and accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. The young woman had a very rough past that involved alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. Yet, from that moment on, the change in her was evident.
As time went on, she became a faithful member of the church. She eventually became involved in the ministry teaching young children. It was not very long until this faithful young woman caught the eye and heart of the pastor's son. The relationship grew, and they began to make wedding plans. This is where her problems began.
You see, about half the church felt that a woman with a past such as her's was not suitable for the pastor's son. The church began to fight and argue about the matter. So they decided to have a meeting. As people made their arguments, tensions increased and the meeting began to get completely out of hand.
The young woman became very upset about all of the things being brought up about her past. As she began to cry, the pastor's son stood to speak. He could not bear the pain it was causing his wife-to-be.
He said, “My fiancee's past is not what's on trial here. What you are questioning is the ability of the blood of Jesus to wash away sin. Today you have put the blood of Jesus on trial. So does it wash away sin or not?” The whole church wept as they realized they had been slandering the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Too often, we will use a person's past or mistakes as a weapon or means to pass judgment on our fellow man's worthiness. Forgiveness is the very foundation of our salvation. It is essential. If the blood of Jesus cannot wipe away the sins of others completely, then it can not cleanse us of our sins completely either. Without this purifying forgiveness we are all doomed. What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! It is so important for us to remember that the Lord's forgiveness is forever, He will not snatch it away the first time we make another mistake.
Thus lies the other consequence of judgment. If others are undeserving of compassion and forgiveness because they have sinned, we too are undeserving. So how are we to respond instead? We can again turn to the Bible for the answer.
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” -Ephesians 4:29
It is not our place to condemn each other for our errors. Ephesians tells us to build each other up so that we may all experience the Lord's grace. We do this by loving, forgiving, encouraging, and caring for one another. Quite simply put, it comes down to unconditional love. With unconditional love and God's forgiveness there is no need to pass judgment on those who have sinned. The Lord loves us no matter what our mistakes. We are to love others as the Lord loves us. We should not love someone simply because we think they deserve it. We should love others because we do not deserve it either. We are all sinners, we are all flawed, and we all have the same potential for redemption. Do not mistake the showing of unconditional love as condoning the behavior. Rather, it is the acknowledgment of the power of the blood of Jesus to conquer the curse of sin in others, as well as in ourselves.