Have you ever passed judgement on someone, only to notice that same trait/behavior in yourself some time later? Or, have you ever judged someone, only to cause that person extreme pain, because there happened to be a deeper layer of truth behind the trait/behavior you were criticizing? Well, both situations have happened to me.
This is probably why Jesus said the following in Matthew 7:1-5:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?”
Then he goes on to say:
“Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?” Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Wow… those last two verses set me straight every time.
But seriously, why do we judge others? We judge others in our own thoughts, we’ll even judge another explicitly and maliciously in anger, or we may just carelessly point out what we presume to be a crack in another person’s foundation. Yet, the thing is, even when we find ourselves in a situation where our goal is to help the person, we do have to be aware that the truth can only take root in love.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. – 1 Peter 4:8
But, what does it really mean to judge?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines judgment as, “the process of forming an opinion or evaluation by discerning and comparing.” Clearly, this is a normal process for all human beings. Therefore, when it comes to forming an opinion or discerning something about another individual, it is really how we use that information or our intentions toward that person that make it either offensive or acceptable. So, please note that I am not referring to constructive criticism or conviction, but condemnation.
Judgement or condemnation is oftentimes associated with self-righteousness. However, if we truly examine ourselves, we’ll see that it is really just the result of (as the definition above states) unwarranted discernment, as well as a habitual comparison with others. So it may be safe to conclude that we pass judgment when there is either a false sense of superiority over others, an existence of unacknowledged feelings of inferiority to another, or when we simply find difficulty with embracing each others’ differences.
These supposed differences are evident in the physical, in our talents and gifts, the way we behave and even in the way we think. In fact, there are many theories on human behavior and why we differ. One of which is the the theory of left-brain or right-brain dominance. In Psychology, this is based on what is often referred to as the lateralization of brain function.
According to this theory, each individual is said to prefer one side of the brain over another. For instance, if a person is said to be “left-brained”, then they are supposedly more analytical, logical and objective. On the other hand, an individual who is “right-brained” may be more intuitive, subjective and thoughtful.
Many have disputed the accuracy of this concept, because they have reason to believe that it is when both hemispheres of the brain are working together that it is really functioning at its best. However, if the “left-brain or right-brain dominance” concept is at all accurate, then I would imagine that this would also affect one’s experience of God. For instance, in my exchanges with people, specifically fellow Christ-followers, I’ve observed that there are some of us who see God as more orderly and precise (which is very necessary); then, there are some who are a little more enthusiastic in the way they express their encounter with God (which is also quite necessary).
Unfortunately, we often judge each other based on these differences and it is not one-sided. The judgement often goes both ways. Yet we have to constantly remind ourselves that while we are all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27), we see but a dim reflection (1Corinthians 13:12). Therefore, one thing that He is and that we are not at this time, is perfect.
As imperfect human beings, the greatest gift that God has given us through His son Jesus Christ, is the gift of Grace; commonly defined as “the unmerited favor of God.” One of the main things that Grace allows us to do is to discover who we are in Him and to use that to glorify Him. Yet, unfortunately, some of us do not understand that by condemning others, we are denying them the opportunity of fully receiving and utilizing this precious gift. For the Bible tells us that we are all perfected in Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:27-28).
A lot of times we forget that even the life of a Christ-follower is a journey, and “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 KJV). Somehow, we conveniently file away all the things in our past that God has forgiven us for and given us the grace to get past. Then, instead of exhibiting love by testifying to them or by just praying for that person to receive that same freedom and unmerited favor that we received (this is so they can move past whatever we perceive their “issue” to be—because sometimes that’s all it is—perception, not reality), we just judge and condemn them, and then leave them to rot.
Yet sometimes the revelations God has given us are for our lives, are not necessarily for others. In fact, the Bible tells us that imposing our own beliefs on others can cause them to stumble (or in other words lose faith). This is why judgment should really be left in God’s hands.
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way. As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean. If your brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died. Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. – Romans 14:12-17 (NIV)
I also find God to be a little humorous at times. This is because I think He knew exactly what He was doing when He created us with so many apparent differences. The Bible tells us that God is Spirit (John 4:24) and that we were all made in His image (Genesis 1:27). Yet, we continually allow the outward appearance of things to prevent us from seeing to the heart of our brothers and sisters.
Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. – John 7:24 (KJV)
Loving our neighbor as our self is the second greatest commandment, next to loving God. But, in many ways than one, a critical spirit is among the main deterrents to us growing in love.
The truth is, I have never met a person that was just totally comfortable with being judged, even those who claim they are never affected by it. Most times those are the people that will never admit that they are hurt (even to themselves), and even worse, often deal with it in an unhealthy way. Admittedly, sometimes all it takes is a quick moment of perspective, but there has to be some type of clear acknowledgement.
The bottom line is, there is a straight forward way to get around this—Jesus said it plain and simple in Luke 6:37: Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.
This is definitely one of the most difficult truths to accept, but if you examine your own experiences, you’ll see that there is surely a lot of validity to this…
Getting Deliverance from a Critical Spirit
Two common characteristics of love, is that it is patient and kind. So when we discern or observe something about someone else and we are led to dissect that individual, use it for our own benefit or against them, or even when we just simply have difficulty with respecting another person’s differences, we are really operating from the spirit of fear.
Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of [his] brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou art not a doer of the law, but a judge.
There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another? – James 4:11 – 12 (KJV)
And again, condemning others is a temptation that is not foreign to any individual. In fact, as mentioned above, I have learned the hard way with regard to harboring a critical spirit. So, I am speaking from experience. Basically, what I have learned is that as children of the most high God, it is just wise to always be conscious of our judgement toward others. In fact, for many of us, it is where the core of our healing begins.
Putting on Love
Sometimes what we see in others is just an indication of that person’s level of faith at the time. But the Bible tells us in Romans 14:1 that, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” And yet condemning them may be an indication that there is something going on with us. For remember, the word also tells us that “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour” (Romans 13:10). Therefore, in those moments when we perceive or discern something unfavorable in another and are tempted to give into condemnation, it is wise to first examine our intentions and get an understanding.
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” – Proverbs 4:5-9 (KJV)
If it is determined that you may not have the right intentions toward that person, then take a deep breath, remind yourself of God’s love for you and them (1John 4:15), repent, then bless that person and walk away. However, if you believe correction is necessary, and you are genuinely led to (and in some cases qualified to do so), then by all means warn and/or teach that person with God’s truth and wisdom, in Love:
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: – Colossians 1:27-28 (KJV)
Now, when we warn or teach someone, the truth may be a little difficult for them to accept, initially. However, it is not Love when we have deeply hurt that person or if our actions have caused them to lose faith. In fact, Jesus gave us a warning for anyone that causes a believer in Him to stumble:
And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. – Mark 9:42 (KJV)
I don’t believe Jesus was trying to scare us with this; but, He was definitely trying to make sure that we understand the seriousness of it—just how important it is to apply His grace, forgive others, and to allow love to put a covering on their sins (1 Peter 4:8) until they have been delivered. The Holy Spirit will teach us how to do this if we are willing to learn.
Finally, Romans 14:10 tells us that we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. The Bible also reminds us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). However, the truth also is, without love, we can’t say we know God (1 John 4:7-9). For God is Love, and so it is Love that allows us to glorify Him in the world. His Word tells us in 1John 4:18 that “perfect love casteth out fear.” Therefore, when we abide ourselves in His Love, His Spirit, His wisdom and His Grace will teach us how to walk in Love with others (as His Son, the Word made flesh, our Savior Jesus Christ, did).
May God bless us all!
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. – John 3:17 (KJV)