In this passage, Paul warns prominent Jewish religious leaders of the day against judging Gentiles. He gives a stern warning, that in judging others they only condemn themselves, but follows it up with an assurance. God is the ultimate judge and we must lay our piddly judging down.
In judging others we try to take the place of God, which can only end in failure and heartache, i.e. wrath.
Our judgments simply cannot be just. Only an all-knowing, all-good Being could make a truly righteous call.
Just like the Pharisees and other religious leaders, we all too often pass judgment on those we don’t understand. Jesus made it clear that Jew and Gentile are equal in His sight, but the religious leaders felt challenged, and therefore threatened by this idea. They could not be impartial in judgment toward the Gentiles.
History tells a thousand reiterations of this tale. We pass judgment on those who are different because we cannot understand them.
In addition to this, where we are hard on ourselves, we are hard on others.
Let’s say I hold the Sabbath really well. I sacrifice a lot for this day of rest. I take off work every Sunday. I make sure all my homework and assignments are done before Sunday. I never schedule a group project meeting or activity for Sunday afternoon. I would be so disappointed with myself if I did not set aside this day to rest and reflect. On Monday morning I hear about all of my friends’ adventures from the day before. Susie went kayaking with her boyfriend. Mark caught up on all his homework from the week. Jeff even took a day trip to Chattanooga. In this moment, it would be so much easier for me to pass judgment on my friends, not because of the choices I had made over them, but because of my judgement of my own choices.
The only one suffering here is me. Not only do I have a lack of mercy for myself, but now I feel alienated from my friends because I judged them.
Where we lack compassion with ourselves, we will lack compassion with others.
Paul emphasizes - none of us can live up to the law. All of our temptations our different. Some things are easier or harder for us to avoid than others. There is grace and mercy for all of it.
Give yourself mercy so you can give mercy to others.
What are some ways you relentlessly judge yourself? Are you using that measuring stick to pass judgment on others?
Father, you are the only righteous Judge. Forgive me for striving to judge myself and others. Replace those thoughts and attitudes with peace and mercy for all. Let me act of out love and not judgment. Teach me what that looks like in a thousand little ways. Amen.
Author | Claire Jordan