What is it about judgement and condemnation that makes them useful tools to bring about positive change?
Or if they are not, why do so many feel the need to pour them out on the heads of others?
Personally, I have struggled for a number of years as I have read the judgements meted out by many a Christian online about other people; be they other Christians, those of other faiths, or even atheists. I fail to understand how these sorts of evaluations and attitudes marry with the rest of Jesus’ teachings. Even though He mostly ministered to those of His own faith group, He rarely stood in judgement, and then, really only over those who were busy expounding on how much better they were than everyone else.
As I read through the Gospels, the recurring theme I see is one of love, compassion and mercy. I know that I am far from alone when I suggest that if, as Christians, we acted with love, compassion and mercy, if we offered up grace, as it was given to us,we would be a whole lot more attractive to most people on this planet.
So why don’t we?
From my own experience, as I have wondered at times about my desire to speak judgement over others, whether in my heart or to another, I realise that it is mostly about my own sense of inferiority or lack. Usually, it has been about a desire to knock someone down a peg or two because I have felt they have done that to me and/or others. There has been a sense of trying to vindicate or even avenge myself.
Over time, I have gotten better at recognising and dealing with my own insecurities through more productive means than criticism and judgement – let’s face it, we usually don’t really feel better when we drag someone else down with us, anyway! There are a couple of things that stand out.
The first is that no one can make you feel “less than” unless you give them permission.
Why do we give them permission? Usually, it is simply the assessment we have already made of ourselves rising up in agreement with what we are perceiving, even though it might be subconscious. Closely related to this is the issue of fear. We are afraid we don't match up. We are afraid of being found out as a fraud. We are afraid we really are not good enough. We are afraid we are not loveable.
And while there may be a number of ways in which we can get our needs for feeling worthwhile, valued and loveable met, I firmly believe that if other people are our primary source of this, we will always be in danger of reverting back to that place of “less than” and judgement. There will always be times where they “fail” to give as we think we “need”, or our own brokenness means we fail to receive.
In my own journey, I have found the best, most secure and consistent place to find my worth and value has been out of my relationship with God. It is a place I can go back to at any time and get a refill, knowing that He is constant and consistent in His kindness and love for starters. And on those occasions I still feel that prickle of insecurity, a great question to ask Him is to remind me how He feels about me, how He sees me. This leads to the second point.
We can’t give what we haven’t received.
And maybe this is why many of us as Christians feel the need to give out judgement. Because this is what we have believed we deserve and receive from God. If we have a sense at any level that all God has for us is judgement, then we will inevitably pass that on to others.
Perhaps another “favourite” verse has been, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. We focus way more on our sinfulness than God’s grace and mercy, and so we fail to receive His grace, His mercy and even His love. Yes, we can give intellectual assent to His love for us, and even quote a multitude of verses about it, but do we know how to receive it, and do we continue to receive it regularly?
And while I would also agree that we need to come to a place of recognising that we often don’t meet the mark, we must be very careful that this is not about condemnation, but about realising that we can’t do it on our own; that God is so “for us”, and wants to make up the difference, wants to pour Himself into us, so that we can do “all things” – especially to extend that love, compassion, mercy and grace to a world that is in desperate need of as much as it can get.
"For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." Luke 6:45