I find this command so difficult, don’t you? It is particularly difficult because of how close the sin is to the heart. But isn’t that just like Jesus to get to the heart of the matter? It is so much easier to not steal, or kill someone than it is to not judge them. I think it is because, in most circumstances, to steal or kill requires effort and a plan. Not true with judging. All I have to do is see someone for that to happen. Besides, judging someone can make me look better than the one judged and it gives me a sense of control.
Obviously for me to really see any progress I need a change in heart not just more rules. In fact, my rules have most likely contributed to this problem. It’s not the rules necessarily that are the problem. But my indwelling sin typically takes all my man-made rules and uses them as the standard for why I have the right to judge others. Never mind the fact that I am breaking one of God’s laws in judging them because they aren’t keeping my laws.
Until we put to death the reason we judge, we will never really see any progress in this matter. There can be a host of reasons for why we judge. But the root is always pride. So how can we put pride to death? Does the Gospel really have any transforming power concerning such a seemingly small sin and yet such a common one?
A practice I started a few years ago was whenever I was dealing with any trial or sin in my life, I would ask myself, “what does the Gospel say concerning this?” The Gospel helps me re-orient myself to where my reference point is. (what is your reference point?)
As I rehearse the Gospel in my mind or out loud I can often find the help needed for the circumstance (however, as sin and pride tend to blind oftentimes I need others to help me in this endeavor).
“The Gospel tells me that God is Holy and demands flawless holiness. The Gospel also tells me that there is not one who meets this standard. Not even me. In fact, the Gospel informs me that no one person is particularly closer to God in righteousness than another. All my good deeds are as a filthy used menstrual rags, to put it as graphically as the Prophet Isaiah does. The Gospel warns me that the judgement that is due me is God’s fury, wrath, and hatred because of my lack of true righteousness. The Gospel teaches me that I have no hope of ever being right with God other than trusting in Jesus and His righteousness. The Gospel calls me to exchange all my filthy deeds for Jesus’ perfect deeds. The Gospel promises all who repent of their righteousness and trust in Jesus’ will know God truly. The Gospel promises to grant me full acceptance of God should I only cling to Jesus!”
Do you see what happened while I rehearsed what the Gospel taught me? It freed me from self-righteousness because when I believe it I see that I have none. I begin to realize I have no footing for judging another because I am no different.
Paul, realizing this powerful truth, stated, “But by the grace of God I am what I am…”
This is what the glorious Gospel does to us. It humbles us and puts us in our place. It makes us poor in spirit. Then it makes us mourn over our sin. And then it comforts us and strengthens us. We realize we have been loved like never before by the One we need love from most. And it really frees us, over, and over again, even from judging people.