Don’t Judge Me
Romans 2:1 In passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.
I was broken when I hit the doors of chemical dependency treatment. My public fall humbled me and I thought my pride was dead. I chose (actually I had little choice at the time) an urban treatment facility, where a physician was a little out of place, so, when I found myself among real addicts, my pride found new life. When I met heroin and meth addicts, I somehow scrounged enough arrogance to be judgmental. I don’t belong here. These are criminals. I am better than this… Fortunately, I quickly realized that though the details were different, my addiction was the same.
My acceptance that my disease was no better than that of my fellow client’s humbled me and helped me to stop being a condescending jerk. It did not however, erase my ability to understand that our behavior was caustic.
Paul, in the opening chapter of Romans said that though we were made to follow God, we have all indulged in our own destructive defects. He went on to list our numerous sins, but then turned around in the second chapter of Romans (today’s passage) and said we are not to be judgmental of others. We are inadequate to judge our neighbor’s offense because we are all guilty of some offense ourselves. How is it that Paul can command us to identify destructive behavior but then tell us not to judge?
The error we make, is to think that identifying destructive (sinful) behavior is the same as being judgmental. The two are not the same though. My daughter pointed this out last night by taking the idea to its extreme. Paul said we are not to judge others, but if I see a murder being committed, it is not judgmental to call the police, right?
She is right. Identifying destructive behavior is not the same as judging. So, what is the difference? That was my question to my family last night before bed, when my wife made this point: I know when I am being judgmental and I know when I am simply addressing destructive behavior. The difference is in my attitude.
Judgment grows from a prideful attitude and is self-focused. I am the judge. I am better than you. You are less than. You deserve punishment or hell. I do not. Addressing the struggles of a friend in love is vastly different, being focused on God and the good of the friend. The judge claims to be carrying the banner of truth but is really just using the truth as a façade for his own pride. Compare this to the one who admits his own struggle and tells another what Christ has done for him.
If I meet a patient whose blood pressure, cholesterol and weight are all off the charts, I can adopt a critical attitude or, I can lovingly address the issue and ask if the patient would like help. I can judge or, I can identify and share my own issues. When I was pursuing my own addiction, I desperately needed those around me to address my behavior. They were not being judgmental, they were just being honest.
This is not easy but it is my choice. I can act in pride, focusing on self and become judgmental, or, I can act in faith, with eyes on God, and address the truth in love.
The Seeds of the Spirit is a daily blog based on a walk through the New Testament. Written from the perspective of my own addiction, it explores the common defects of our flesh nature and the solution, our spirit life. If you find it helpful, sign up for the blog as a daily email, tell your friends and like/share it on Facebook.