Monday, February 11, 2008

The Danger of Judging Others

I'm preaching on Romans, and have come across two compelling reasons in chapter 2 to leave the judging of others to God.

Reason One: We lack perfect truth and perfect character. Compare how God judges people to how we tend to do it. Verse 2 states, "Now we know that God's judgment against those who do such things is based on truth." God judges people based not just on truth, but on absolute, perfect, all-encompassing truth, with no mixture of error, and no mixture of selfish motives, or imperfections in His character. His judgments are always on the mark, perfectly.

I, on the other hand, usually judge on the basis of "me," not on perfect truth. (Thanks to Rick Mckinley of Imago Dei Community Church in Oregon for that thought.) We tend to judge people based on who we are, and what we want, and how well this person matches up to what we like, what we think, etc....not a great basis for making judgments.

Read the post below, which I wrote before this one, for more on how prone we are to commit "fundamental attribution errors" when we judge others.

Reason Two: When we judge others, we can, without realizing it, hold God's kindness, tolerance and patience in contempt. To hold something valuable in contempt is to treat it as if it has no value. This reason to withhold judgment is much scarier than the first. In verse 4, Paul writes, "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Think for a moment what would happen if God carried out His holy judgments right when we messed up? McKinley paints a great pictures of what a world would be like if God inflicted painful boils on us at the moment of our sin. Everyone would be lying on the ground in pain most of the time.

God is waiting, however, to allow people to realize who He is, and how judgment can be avoided (through Christ!). Paul is writing about judgment to everyone, to the "obvious" sinners, and to the us all. No one gets a free pass. When we pass judgment on people now, we're, in a way, telling God He's wrong in waiting, in being patient, kind and tolerant as He works to draw people to Him. It's like we're saying, "God, we have a better way of dealing with sin than You do."

As an aside, some may say, "Why should God judge anyway?" Well, can you imagine a world without consequence? What if the world operated where everyone could do anything they wanted to do with no consequences? People could drive as fast as they wanted, steal what they wanted, kill who they wanted. Actions have consequences. It's how the universe works. It's how God works, but He withholds the ultimate consequence of man's rejection of Him...He waits to give people the opportunity to know the truth, and to know Him.

What does God want us to do when people hurt us, betray us, or disagree with us? Simple. He wants us to be kind, patient and tolerant, praying for them, loving them, and doing good to them. He wants us to put their need for Him before our need to be right, or comfortable. If you've forgotten how this looks, just read how Jesus treated "sinners." Funny thing is that the only people Jesus REALLY got angry with was those religious people who took great pleasure in condemning people. The Bible is clear that even with regards to our enemies, we are to forgive them, pray for them, and even do good to them.

So the next time you're tempted to judge someone, take a little time to reflect on a more appropriate response, one that honors and imitates God's way of dealing with people, and one that communicates His patience, His kindness, His tolerance and His love.

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