Judging is unavoidable. We judge our children; a teacher judges her students; the employer judges her subordinate; a spouse raises critical issues against her husband; the church disciplines its members; we even judge when we vote.
Against the assertion of some, Jesus did a lot of judging Himself. However, Jesus insisted that judging has to be done with great care. For one thing, we first have to judge ourselves before we are in any condition to judge another:
· “Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log [blindness and self-deception] out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck [the smaller sin] out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:4-5; ESV)
Paul taught the same thing but in a different manner:
· Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:1-5)
Paul made it clear that, sometimes, judging or correcting is necessary. However, not everyone is in a “spiritual” state where they can judge. We have to be gentle! Where does this come from? From examining ourselves! What do we find? That we are “nothing” without Christ and His forgiveness.
When we examine ourselves, any basis for pride is eliminated. We find that we stand only by the grace of Christ. How do we acquire this necessary self-awareness? Through the Bible’s requirement that we love: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”
When we attempt to love others by bearing their burdens, we discover that we fall far short of Christ’s calling. This is why Paul wrote: “But let each one test his own work.” When we do examine ourselves with an un-blinded eye, we are humbled by our failures. However, our failures can reinforce our understanding of the mercy of Christ.
Notice that Paul didn’t write that we come to this self-awareness by comparing ourselves with others. This might just breed arrogance and pride. Instead, Paul wrote: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in [comparison with] his neighbor.”
This is not an acknowledgement that any of us have a reason to boast. Instead, boasting is our human tendency. We want to feel good about ourselves, even superior to others, and so we look for occasions to boast by comparing ourselves to others. We, therefore, tell ourselves, “I’d never do what he did. I’m better than that.”
Instead, we have to measure ourselves against an absolute standard – Christ Himself. This standard takes the air out of our sails, as it is intended to do. We see our spiritual failures, and this humbles us.
Does this mean that we are not “spiritual” and that we cannot judge? Of course not! We are required to judge. However, it does mean that only those who have been humbled by the truth and continue to confess their sins can judge. It is these believers who can judge humbly, gently, patiently, and redemptively.
But can we judge with confidence and boldness? Yes, we can! How? We know that we are in the light and, consequently, are judging by the light of God. We also know that our corrections or judgments are not of our own invention but come from Him.
Therefore, when someone accuses you of judging, you can respond, “My judgment is now my own. It is my Lord’s.”
You might also turn the table and rhetorically ask, “Well, aren’t you judging me?”