I often cringe when people suggest that we should all stop “judging.” Sometimes my cringe is because I feel bad for the person who feels that others are passing judgement on their actions. Sometimes I cringe because I feel that the person is seeking to justify actions that are certainly not worthy of praise. Sometimes I cringe because I simply do not know what to do with the emotions I feel when someone hurts someone else. If I judge that someone has made a judgement upon someone, do I have enough knowledge to know why that person has made the judgement? If I condemn the judgement, am I also guilty of judgement? Sometimes my cringe is because I sense that people are continuing to hurt others with words meant to correct a fault.
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Romans 2:1
This passage tells us to treat others with the respect with which we would want to be treated. It is a recognition that we will see the sin in others’ lives but may not recognize the same type of sin in our own life. For example, I may see the lifestyles of those who earn large salaries and judge that they are living excessively and that they should live their lives differently. I may judge that they have succumbed to the sin of greed. I may not see that I have chosen a lifestyle in which I use more resources than I need and that others may see my lifestyle as excessive when compared to theirs. An appropriate reaction would be for me to live with generosity and model a lifestyle in which I seek to use wisely the resources that have been entrusted to me. I can also pray that others might wisely use the resources with which they have been entrusted whether those resources be small or large.
I may look on the sexual lifestyles of others and recognize sin without seeing the sinfulness and brokenness of my own sexuality. As Robert Burns wrote, “O wad some Pow’r the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!”1 Might we begin to see, not only the sin of others, for we all know that there is sin in our world, but, might we also see ourselves as others see us.
Might we see that we too are broken and in need of rescue from ourselves. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.”2 If I choose to do so, I can pray for others who sin against God and against people and ask God to be gracious toward us all. Might we seek to see ourselves as God sees us.
1 From “To A Louse, On Seeing One on a Lady’s Bonnet at Church,” a 1786 Scots language poem by Robert Burns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/To_a_Louse
2 Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship; http://www.goodreads.com/work/quotes/2723088-nachfolge