Tuesday, October 15, 2013

By Judging We Condemn Ourselves

By Colleen O’Sullivan
You, O man, are without excuse, every one of you who passes judgment.  For by the standard by which you judge another you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, do the very same things… Do you hold (God’s) priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?  (Romans 2:1, 4)

The Lord said:  “Woe to you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God.  These you should have done, without overlooking the others.  (Luke 11:42)

Only in God is my soul at rest; from him comes my salvation.  He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be disturbed at all. (Psalm 62:2-3)

A few months ago, I was watching the evening news with my family when my sister suddenly declared that the world had become a terrible place and she hoped her kids wouldn’t bring any children into it.  I was a little startled, not only by what she said but also by the vehemence of her words.  I’d agree to some extent that life doesn’t seem to be as much fun as it used to be.  No matter what arena we’re talking about – families, church, politics – people seem pushed to the extremes and unable to dialog with one another.  Such polarization leads to fear, suspicion and condemnation of those we perceive to be “on the other side.”

Judging and condemning others is nothing new, though.  Jesus pointed out that the Pharisees hypocritically condemned others for infractions of the Law, however slight, while refusing to see that they themselves were spiritually empty.  In Paul’s day, Jewish Christians often looked down on and criticized Gentile Christians, saying they came from pagan backgrounds and weren’t versed in the Hebrew Scriptures. 

Paul writes to the Christians in Rome that such condemnation does nothing but bring condemnation on ourselves.  That still holds true today.  Who are we to put others down?  When God is the center of our focus, we see the truth about ourselves.  We have no room for pointing fingers at others, for we are sinners, too.  Rather than judging others, we become gratefully aware of God’s redeeming mercy at work in our lives.  It’s when we put ourselves at the center of our universe that we forget our need for forgiveness and redemption and feel entitled to point judgmentally at others.

So, back to my sister’s comment.  Yes, often the world is a painful place to be, but only because so many of us forget to put God at the center.  When God is at the center of our being, our outlook is transformed.  No longer do we see our brothers and sisters as “others” to be feared, ridiculed, or condemned but as fellow sinners to be embraced and loved as we move together through life.  The playing field is leveled and we no longer find ourselves on opposing teams.


Spend some time with Jesus today.  Notice how he looks at you with love and compassion, in spite of your sinfulness.  Share with him the remorse you feel at judging others, when you are so culpable yourself.  The world can only be healed and made a better place one sinner at a time.

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