Matthew 7:1-2 - ”Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.
Luke 6:36-38 - Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
I have been thinking often the past few years about these texts and a recent experience brought them to the forefront of my mind again. A cursory reading of Jesus’ words here lend themselves to a Karmaic type of logic. Ok, so if I judge others, than I am going to get a judgement back. Tit for tat, right? God has a tally system up in heaven and the heavenly (said with Beth Moore accent, if you know what I mean) judge is going to dish one out to me for every one that I slap down on someone else.
Somehow, I have always known that wasn’t exactly the case. As I have entered adulthood and grown in my adult relationships, I have learned that judgement is a spiritual state, if you will. I have noticed that judgmental people are always the most concerned about being judged. I have noticed that I am most paranoid about other people’s assessments, judgements, and opinions when I am most in the habit of assessing, judging, and dishing out my opinions. When I judge, I enter in to a ‘nether-sphere of judgement’. It becomes the air I breathe, the lens that colors my thinking, feelings, and relationships.
This has been a gradual lesson coming on over the years of adult discipleship. As a child and teen, we think more in black and white, so the simplistic ‘tit for tat’ suffices as an explanation for Jesus words. But it has been in the 2 years that I have experienced this reality on a very deep, very personal, and very profound level.
Because of the personal nature, I am sure I will not be able to adequately explain my experience, but I will try to sketch an outline of what I have walked away with. I have been naive about the nature of judgement and criticism. They do not often exist as isolated statements or events, and I have rammed my head and heart against this thick, palpable fortress of darkness. Jesus earnestly warns us; do not judge! Do not step into that dark place! Do not put on that lens! The harm we do to others will be less than the harm we will do to ourselves.
When we step into that place of judgment it becomes the filter by which we experience life and others. When I have a spirit of judgement on me, I will experience others through it. When I judge how smart or thin someone is, I am living in that judgment; I am subconsciously – or very consciously – holding that standard to myself. I will be on the hunt to catch the words of others as judging me on this standard, looking for an indication in their words as to how I measure up. I become trapped within this nether-sphere, a prisoner. I cannot experience what others are actually saying to me. I am cut off from genuine, free intimacy in my relationships. Not even God himself is
Judgement is a prison. And I have been naive, naive in my understanding of it and naive in my belief that I could rescue others from their prison by entering into the darkness with them. Only Jesus can save. Only he can descend to pit and survive the fire to set the captives free. All I can do is accept my own freedom, given to me by the body and blood of Jesus, abide in it, and testify to the one who has given it.
And what a freedom He brings! When I do let go and repent of judgement, of criticism, of comparing myself, and of ungraciousness and unforgiveness, what a spacious free place I enter into! When I assume the best of others, I am free to assume the best of me, of my circumstances, of my own journey. I also gain the hope to believe that others can assume the best of me – that they see me according to the flesh no longer but in Christ – and I loose my fear of relationships and intimacy.
Judgement always seeks to interpret the grey unknown gaps and cracks of life and relationships in a critical manner, trying to gain a ‘one-up’ on others in the never ending, loosing battle to be ‘better’. Instead, forgiveness and grace always seek to interpret the gaps and cracks in the best possible manner, motivated by the divine love which covers a multitude of sins. When I repent of judgement and remove the scales from my eyes, I see what a spacious, free place Jesus has prepared for us to live in. Jesus does not judge us; his heart is not full of criticisms and heavenly finger-pointing:
“I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day.” ~ John 12:46-48
Truly, a “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over,” pouring into our lives. No condemnation, only truth to point us forward. Divine grace is the reality in which we truly live.
As we catch the vision of grace and allow the Holy Spirit to remove the darkness of judgement and criticism, we become more like Jesus, truly free to love and experience others whole heartedly, seeing the best in them that God has created. And in our own lives, we are free, as Lewis says, to boldly and fearlessly take the adventure that come to us, without shadow of shame or guilt or condemnation.