The Right to be Right
Breaking free of judgments.
Recently God has been challenging me on the subject of judgments. (Not to be confused with eternal judgment, an entirely different topic- everyone take a breath out)! The dictionary definition of the phrase ‘to pass judgment’ is: “to criticize or condemn someone from a position of assumed moral superiority.” This is something we all do, even without thinking. To put it plainer: judgments are decisions or statements we make about people, out of feelings of anger, injustice and offense. Here are some of my own personal favorites:
- You always have to be right. You can never admit that you’re wrong.
I want to draw your attention here to the words ‘always’ and ‘never’. Rather than forgiving, and therefore forgetting, and no longer choosing to revisit past sins, I have allowed the repetition of every offence to build a case against this person and form a judgment about their character. If you use these words in an argument they are a very good indicator you have made a judgment.
- If I truly loved God I would never have_______. (You can insert any sin here.)
It’s very easy to make judgments about oneself. In fact this is something I find very hard to resist. Rather than merely acknowledging the sin, I have here attached a judgment about the condition of my heart and my relationship with God.
- Men are always unfaithful.
Yes judgments, far from being lonely, isolationist beasts, happily include entire groups of people. In fact, they form the root and basis of prejudice and racism the world over.
Hmm, I don’t know about you, but I have the sneaking suspicion that judgments are more powerful than I previously considered.
But judgments are such natural and, dare I say it, commonplace responses to offense that it’s easy to think there are no consequences to be experienced after making them. However, the Bible makes it clear that this is not the case. Judging may seem ordinary and unspectacular, but it has devastating eternal consequences.
Matthew 7:1-2 says, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (NIV).If we condemn someone else, we too will be condemned. Wow. This is a powerful statement, but also somewhat grandiose and alienating. It is a sentence to which I might respond by nodding sagely with a serious expression on my face, secretly unsure as to what I should actually do about it. I mean, how does this apply practically to my daily life, to our lives? Why is judging so serious?
"The redemptive power of Jesus’ death on the cross is nullified in any area of my life that I have chosen to condemn another."
To understand this we have to delve a bit deeper into scripture. Paul says this in Romans 14:10: “Why do you criticize and pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you look down upon or despise your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God” (AMP). In other words, we’re all in the same boat. We have all sinned. Judging is God’s prerogative.
But, hang on a minute, let’s think about this for a moment and consider what exactly Paul thinks will occur when we stand before the judgment seat of God. He’s talking to brothers and sisters, those who have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. What will God pronounce over them, “guilty” or “not guilty”? Paul has already given the answer, six chapters earlier, in Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (NIV). Why? This is because, as we all know, although we are truly guilty, an innocent man died in our place and took our judgment upon Him. Jesus stood before the judgment seat of Pilate, was pronounced innocent of any crime, but, despite this, punished with a cruel death. He was judged so that we might go free. We no longer live under the law, punished and condemned for our sins, but under grace.
Great! Ah, but here’s the rub. If I live under grace, I cannot simultaneously live under the law. In other words, I can’t pick and choose. If I pass judgment over my neighbor, I am evoking the law and all of its consequences for myself. Boy, that’s irritating!!! This means, to return to Matthew 7, when I judge, I simultaneously sign myself up as a candidate for judgment. The redemptive power of Jesus’ death on the cross is nullified in any area of my life that I have chosen to condemn another. Why? Because I have stepped out from under the banner of God’s grace, opting instead to live under the law. As such, I won’t see the fruit of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace etc) in that area of my life. I’m not saying that I’m no longer a Christian if I judge, but I can’t live in the good of what Jesus has done for me. Ouch. Yes judgments are BAD. VERY BAD!!!
"Judgments are the glue that bind us to negative and destructive patterns of sin and struggle."
Worse, in Romans 8: 2 we read that, “the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” In other words, grace, distributed via God’s spirit, empowers me to live free from sin. Great again! But this grace can no longer be extended to me if I choose to live under the law. So in any area I judge someone, I increase my own risk of falling into the very sin or temptation they are guilty of, because I cannot receive the grace needed to overcome that temptation. VERY VERY BAD. This happens all the time. Children who have alcoholic parents, promise themselves never to behave similarly, and become alcoholics later in life. If you feel compelled towards sin in a certain area (for example: “I always lose my temper when this happens”) or see negative patterns repeated in your life (for example: “people always reject me”), these are also good indicators of judgments at work. Judgments are the glue that bind us to negative and destructive patterns of sin and struggle.
Often we make judgments because awful and unjustifiable things have happened to us. We are in the right. But living under grace means that (irritatingly), however terrible the offence, however justified the judgement, I have to surrender the right to be right, to judge from that place of moral superiority.
Disclaimer: Repenting of judging doesn't mean that I am condoning what others have done to me or that I am saying that it is OK for other people to mistreat me. I can still condemn wrong actions without judging, in bitterness, the person who commited them.
What to do
Phew, I don’t know about you but I’ve had about as much as I can take of the negative effects of judgments in my life. Hearing about it is bad enough! However the fantastic truth is that they are, almost ludicrously, simple to break free from! Woop!
But before we go on, let’s take note of some judgment warning signs:
· Negative patterns repeated in your life i.e. sin, tragedy etc,
· strong over-reactions to relatively trivial events and
· fresh, intense feelings about something that happened to us a long time ago.
The two by-words for any inner-healing message are forgiveness and repentance. The steps to freedom are therefore as follows: we forgive the person we have judged for whatever wrong-doing they committed that caused us to judge them in the first place. Forgiveness means that we surrender to Jesus our right to hold a judgment against someone. It also means surrendering to Jesus our right to be paid back for sins against us. Secondly we repent, to God, for judging. Repentance means to change your mind-set. We have to change from and condemnatory, legalistic outlook, which demands punishment, to the loving, forgiving grace perspective. Simple. Bobs-your-uncle.
Here's some prayers to get you started:
“I forgive _______ for ________ (be specific; e.g., “not listening to me).”
“I repent for the judgment I made that__________” (be as specific as possible as to what the judgment was).”
“I choose to stop wrong patterns or habits and I place the cross of Jesus between me and the consequences of this judgment.”
“Lord, please forgive me.”