Jesus said (Matt 7:1-3, John 8:7) if I want to judge others I must point the same accusing finger at myself. I know for sure I don’t want to do that; I have far too much to ask forgiveness for. I live only by the grace He has gifted.
Not judging doesn’t mean I ignore, or am deliberately unperceptive to, the sins of others (a head-in-the-sand attitude is what has led to so many travesties, esp. in abuse cases). Not judging others means being aware of the nature of love and of the nature of evil, and of rooting out, by grace, the seeds of evil in myself, so that the seeds of love blossom and bear good fruit (and so that evil is less able to disguise itself as ‘good’).
God didn’t ask me to be accountable for the sins of others, but I am accountable for myself – and judging is God’s business, not mine. Don’t get me wrong, I still catch myself thinking judgemental thoughts from time to time, but I’m learning to recognise them for what they are and to give them what they deserve – inattention. This applies backwards, too, for those of us who would over-accuse ourselves. To feel guilty over things beyond our control is wrong, and hence a ‘sin’. If God doesn’t point the finger at me for something, who am I to point it at myself?
Some beautiful words from Paul’s letter to the Galatians (who were presumably experiencing problems in this area and wanted his advice on how to address it):
‘My friends,if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. All must test their own work; then that work, rather than their neighbour’s work, will become a cause for pride. For all must carry their own loads… Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.’
Galatians 6:1-7 (NRSVA)
The old men used to say, “there is nothing worse than passing judgment.”
They said of Abba Macarius that he became as it is written a god upon earth, because just as God protects the world, so Abba Macarius would cover the faults that he saw as though he did not see them, and those which he heard as though he did not hear them.
——sayings of the desert
Some may think that the monk’s way of handling the faults of others is pure denial. I find that idea very realistic, but allow me to add a few layers to this saying on judgment. How much time do you spend agonizing over the faults of others? Do you use the faults of others as an excuse for your own bad behavior? Would admonishing others bring you any closer to God?
A wise person once said, “Become the change you want…
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