The thought occurred to me today, how often I must be projecting my own judgments on other people, and believing them to be justified. This habit, while unchecked, is in stark contrast to the emotions I have when others judge me unfairly. Yet, I habitually tend to practice freely the act of judging others in the same fashion.
The feelings I have when I understand people judging me unfairly are usually ones of hurt, anger, and regret, or any combination of the three. In receiving what I perceive as unjustified criticism, my common response is to defend myself, and not always well, nor gently. These responses often are impulsive, lacking reflection on what the criticism is addressing. Only later do I often come to reflect on the points of critique and try to determine whether they were justified or not. I have had to accept true, constructive criticism for what it is. Though, it is more likely that unfair judgments toward my character are fewer than I realise, I also know that my ironic tendencies to judge others the same way only place me in the same hot seat in which I place them.
I understand the words of Jesus Christ in Luke 6:41-42 (New Living Translation):
And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Jesus also says in Luke 7:23-35 (NLT):
For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it so as not to break the law of Moses. So why should you be angry with me for healing a man on the Sabbath? Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.
So, what are these Scriptures saying?
I believe Christ’s words tell us that judgments can be placed unfairly, in two ways: if the one doing the criticism is practicing the same things, and if a judgment is not based on verifiable facts (a.k.a., a perceived “fault”).
I want to learn to let go of the things I typically want to call out on people unfairly. I want to “throw in the towel” so-to-speak and submit to Christ. I need to surrender to the fact that I do not hold righteous status apart from God and need to allow His Word to impress upon me. This means a few of things:
- Know what I’m claiming is legitimate
There are many times that I could count when I convinced myself of someone’s shortcomings, when I didn’t even know them or know their situation. There have also been times when my confidence in what I thought of a person was completely shattered when I was made aware of the exact opposite.
I should be asking things like: Is their behaviour, demeanour, or lifestyle based on some sin or carnal nature, factually? If one is abrasive or authoritative in nature, is it necessary to think he or she is trying to pull rank on someone else? If I perceive a person of legal age to be childish based on their behaviour and what I generally consider to be “childish,” does that necessarily mean that the individual is functioning at an underdeveloped level, in general? What if the given behaviours stem from some sort of emotional or psychological depth to which I am not privy. What right do I have to claim I know someone’s character when I don’t know them outside of a given environment or circumstance?
I really ought to abandon whatever possible misperceptions I may have of someone and look passed initial impressions to gain more acquaintance with my neighbour. This takes honesty, modesty and integrity. It also involves looking at others as persons under the same divine judgment as I am.
2. Reflect on my own brokenness
Recognising that I am under the same judgment as anyone I encounter should help me honour those around me. This is because of my brokenness. My brokenness is my innate inclination to rebel against God. Apart from the grace showered over me by Christ, I would be in the same state as those outside of grace, destined for an eternal separation from Him in a chasm of punishment. Therefore, I must remain humble, knowing that it is only because of Christ that I am in right standing with God.
Even though I am saved for eternal glory and sealed as a child of God (see 2 Corinthians 1:21-22, Ephesians 1:13-14), I still struggle with my inclination to sin. I must recognise where I am susceptible to sin in similar ways as others I encounter and must suspend judgment against them. It is only until I have broken free from certain patterns through fellowship with the the Holy Spirit, submitting to His work in my life, that I am free to bring correction to another.
This ties into what I perceive as sinful or flawed behaviour in another person. I must ask if there is anything in me that allows for the same perceived behaviour or attitude. I must be introspective first before I act on my perspective of someone else.
The bottom line to all this, I think, is that the Christian mandate is that love shall undergird judgment.
In love, I must forego any rights I feel I may have to assume I am right about any judgments I make about another person. I need to first verify that my perspective is accurate and then come with an open heart to the person, prayerfully asking for God’s guidance in how to direct them away from a destructive pattern and unto Christ.
When coming with an open heart, I must remain open to the fact that I am just as broken as the other person and without the grace of Christ, in the same standing. This should preserve in me a hope that there is a renewable mercy afresh each morning (see Lamentations 3:22-23) and I can afford to come to the person with introspection, offering to come alongside them as someone else who is broken.
Even if the other person is unreceptive to all this, at least Christ was honoured and that is worth so much.