Passing Judgment

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.
For with the judgment you make you will be judged,
and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

Matthew 7:1-2

Jesus offers us a distinct challenge during the Sermon on the Mount. He urges us to suspend our judgment of others and to love them as they are. It is much easier said than done.

I remember vividly my visits to my dentist as a young man. Every time he would ask me the same question, “How are you today?” My reply was usually something along the lines of, “I’m good.” Inevitably he would respond with “Just good? I was hoping for ‘Excellent.’” At first it seems like a jovial and innocuous exchange, right? But really it shows the pervasiveness of our judgment.

We judge one day as “good” and the next as “bad” by criteria that are certainly subjective. Furthermore, if we are honest with ourselves we project our judgment on others all the time. We may judge parents by the behavior of their children, or a business-person by the profitability of their company. We are constantly judging. One thing is better than another. There is good and bad food to eat. There may even be a right or wrong way to squeeze the toothpaste.

Sure, some of those examples are exaggerations of judgments. They are supposed to be, because they highlight the fact that most of our lives are based on judgment. And yet, Jesus says, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.” Which I find interesting because the person we often judge most critically is the one who lives inside our skin. The majority of people I know are hyper-judgmental of their own actions, thoughts, and feelings. We judge others, and we judge ourselves; every day!

I truly wish I could give you a magical formula which would allow you to suspend judgment and simply enjoy life in the moment, experiencing all the joy, and sorrow, without labeling one emotion as good, and another as bad. But, there is no such formula. What I do know is in those times where we are able to suspend our judgment of what is good and bad we can experience the peace that passes all understanding.

In the letter to the Philippian church, Paul writes, “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We hear Paul’s admonition to not worry, and to be at peace. But, sometimes we miss the key as to how to live that way. It is the same key which can enable us to live without judgment. Simply it is a life lived in prayer. In our individual and corporate prayers we find ourselves deepening our relationship with the living God. And it is in that relationship that we find a way to live and love without judgment, with the grace and mercy of God ever before us. May it be so in your life. May it be so in all of our lives.

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