Mercy, Not Judgment
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged.”
It seems to be a strange law of the universe that gossiping about another person and dividing up their strengths somehow brings an inner sense of rightness or faux goodness that soothes the conscience and feeds the internal monster of self-righteousness. If it were not, judging other people would have fallen out of favor long ago.
But, judgmental attitudes abound and lead to casual acts of judgment every day. We see judgmental attitudes in our politicians, our religious leaders, our spouses, our friends, our children and, if were being honest, mainly in ourselves.
I think we so effortlessly judge other people because it makes us feel better about ourselves, at least for a little while, or about our circumstances. We often slip into a judgmental attitude as a means of comparison: “I may get in a bad mood every once in awhile, but at least I’m not a total jerk like that guy!”
Jesus could not have been more clear with his disciples when teaching them about the dangers of judging and condemning others: He simply said, “Don’t do it.”
Specifically, Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged” (Luke 6:36-37).
To stand over another person in an attitude of judgment or condemnation is to take the place of God, who is the only One in the universe with the ability to render an accurate judgement of a person with absolute righteousness and justice.
The Bible tells us we will all find ourselves one day before the judgement seat of Christ. “We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Everyone will be responsible to God for their own attitudes and actions, not those of others.
Human beings judging each other, with our finite and self-centered perspectives, will get it wrong every time. The right to judge a person is an activity that belongs to God alone.
Scottish author and pastor Oswald Chambers warned against the dangers of judging people when he said, “If you have been shrewd in finding out the short-comings of others, remember that will be exactly how you will be measured. The way you pay is the way life will pay you back.”
God desires mercy, not judgment. When judgment times comes around, “God will judge on the basis of the miraculous atonement by the cross of Christ.”
Since judging other people seems to come so naturally to us, what do we do when we get it wrong? The main remedy for the spiritual, physical and emotional damage done by judging and condemning others is to: 1) recognize it in ourselves; and 2) confess it to God.
Recognizing our own faults. Jesus used the image of a speck of dust and a plank of wood to drive home the point of how ridiculous it is for people to judge others while ignoring their own considerable faults. As one person noted, “If you find yourself pointing a finger at another person, remember you’ve got three fingers pointed right back at you.” When we feel to urge to judge others, we’re wise to take inventory of our own attitudes and actions before uttering a word about another person.
Confessing our sins to God. We are reminded in Psalm 103 (vv. 8-12) of God’s goodness and graciousness to those who acknowledge and confess their sins to Him:
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
Nor will he harbor his anger forever;
He does not treat us as our sins deserve
Or repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is his love for those who fear him;
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Forgive, and your will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. By keeping our focus on the mercies of God, which are new to us every day, our hearts will remain tender and responsive to the movement of God’s Holy Spirit, always leading us toward “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).