“She will take the hand of the believer / Wash the feet of a deceiver / She knows how to speak the language of love / She will cry with the crier / Lay down her life for the liar / She has become the language of love” – Jeni Varnadeau, Mercy, from the 1998 album No Hesitation.
In the past, I have judged others. I have put myself in the place of God and handed down a verdict about them, their life, their motives. As the Christ wraps up his Sermon on the Mount, he addresses the subject of judging others by saying we shouldn’t do it because the manner in which we judge, we in turn will be judged by it. What He really seems to be saying is that I should judge myself before I judge others, and then lovingly forgive and help my neighbor. I realize that often the traits that bother me most in others and causes me to judge them, are traits and habits I have myself. Someone, somewhere, once said, “Everything we judge in others is something within ourselves we don’t want to face”, and there may be something to that. Jesus is right – it’s often easier to point out the spec in my neighbor’s eye than to look in the mirror and remove the plank from my own.
Then there’s the point that in all my years of judging, I rarely did it from a position of love. Dr. Wayne Dyer said, “Judging a person does not define who they are…it defines who you are”. I was definitely not a loving person, and sometimes am still not. We like to say that we are not being judgmental, but discerning, which for too many of us is a smokescreen. It’s like saying we are talking about a mutual friend behind their back strictly for the purpose of informing each other how to best pray for that person. What a bunch of hooey; we’re gossiping! There is a time and place to be discerning in our lives, but most of the time we are secretly being judgmental.
I once saw a meme that said, “Never judge someone because they sin differently than you” and it reminds me that I don’t have the authority to judge others. Jesus isn’t hiring for that job. As the late Billy Graham once said, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love”. Dr. W. E. Vine, in his Exposition Dictionary of New Testament words, says the word “judge” means “Primarily denotes to separate, to select, to choose, hence to determine, and so, to judge or to pronounce judgment.” Love, on the other hand, unites and uplifts. And mercy enables love. As followers of the Christ, we are not to be hypercritical or hypocritical. Max Lucado once wrote, “It’s one thing to have an opinion. It’s quite another to pass a verdict. It’s one thing to have a conviction; it’s another to convict the person.”
“The most generous and merciful in judgement upon the fault of others, are always the most free from faults themselves” (James H. Aughey). “God’s mercy to us is the motivation for showing mercy to others. Remember, you will never be asked to forgive someone else more than God has forgiven you” (Pastor Rick Warren). “All of us who have received mercy from Jesus have an obligation to be the hands of mercy back to hurting people” – Duke Tabor, 18 Christian Quotes on Mercy.
So, let’s step down from the bench and rise to the occasion. Let’s leave the judging to the One who judges justly and let mercy flow from us. As Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” We are encouraged not to judge. We are commanded to love one another over and over and over. Let’s work at doing that.