Today’s readings: Psalms 46 or 47; 149, Isaiah 45:14-19, Colossians 1:24-2:7, John 8:12-19
Judgment: to some degree, we’re all guilty of of it. At our best we can take a mental step back and move beyond it. At our less-than-best, we’re capable of doling out some pretty shabby treatment. Why do we judge? Sometimes it’s out of fear. Other times it’s because we see traits reflected in others that we don’t like in ourselves. Once in a while it’s because we need to believe someone did something wrong — usually defining “wrong” as something we haven’t done or been caught doing — that caused their illness, death, poverty, unemployment, public shame, prison sentence, or other problem. After all, the unacceptable alternative would be to admit that under the same circumstances we might have the same outcome, rather than convince ourselves we are saved by our virtue.
When Jesus was brought before the Pharisees for trial, he said they had no right to judge him because they did not know him, and by extension did not know his Father: “you do not know where I come from or where I am going.” None of us truly knows anyone else’s story either. Maybe they share part of it with us, but then we aren’t as prone to judge once we know them. Jesus told the Pharisees that despite his own qualifications: “You judge by human standards; I judge no one.” Since the only standards we know are human ones, we are not qualified for the judgment business.
On the flip side, no matter how much religious authority someone claims, we don’t have to accept that person’s judgment of us. Not to say all our behavior is excusable, but getting wrapped up in what other people think about us is never productive. It’s actually a pretty good way to ruin our self-esteem and trap ourselves into self-fulfilling prophecies. Our motivation to be better people should not be because God or anyone else judges us, but because God loves us. God forgives, and when we get hung up on judgment — of ourselves or others — it’s like throwing that forgiveness back in his face. Love, not judgment, makes us better.
Comfort: No one but God gets to judge you, and he’d rather love you.
Challenge: When you feel yourself judging someone, pray for compassion instead.