As the Sunday sermon began, I became quite distracted. Several minutes later when I had separate myself from the distractions and focused on the sermon, I felt like the preacher was talking far more forcefully than necessary. He also seemed to be missing the real application of the text. The final minute or two contained several points of application, but to me the preacher’s application seemed to fall far short of the verse’s potential.
As my companions and I left the service I was tempted to make a comment. However, one of my companions stated she felt like the preacher was speaking directly to her. She got a lot out of the sermon and was left with a lot to think about. (Isn’t that what any preacher hopes for?) I immediately pushed any temptation to criticize the delivery aside. The preacher had hit the mark.
Often I think my thoughts are black and white, accurately reflecting what is right and wrong. Instead, they fall into that grey area that requires plenty of grace. I may not have liked the delivery and thought the application was not as effective as it could have been. Yet that does not mean my thoughts accurately reflect truth.
Here are three things I’m learning about the judgments I make.
Opinions Are Not Facts
Often we make judgments based on opinions that we treat as fact or truth. Opinions reflect a way of thinking, a viewpoint, or even an attitude. As such they do not tend to fall into right and wrong categories. This leaves a lot of room for differing opinions. And those differing opinions are neither right nor wrong depending on whether they agree or disagree with our opinions. They are just differing opinions
In the above scenario my judgment was really an opinion about the preacher’s message. That opinion prevented me from receiving the full scope of the preacher’s message. My companion, on the other hand, had a different judgment or opinion, which left her open to hearing the message.
Focus On Others
We are perhaps all familiar with the American proverb not to judge another person until we have walked a mile in his/her shoes. We are often quick to make judgments about another person based on our experiences and circumstances. It can be easy to impose what we know on what another person does. Instead we should be focusing on the other person. As we begin to “walk in their shoes” we start to understand more fully why things are the way they are for that person. As a result, our judgments often begin to fall away and we respond with empathy.
Pay Attention to God
Jesus Himself warns us not to judge: Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matt. 7.1-2) When we do the things God directs us to, we honor Him. In this case, Jesus really is warning us about what we can expect when we come face to face with God. If we have spent our lives judging people, we can expect judgment ourselves. If we, instead, have refrained from judging others, we can expect God to reserve His judgment of us.
God is omniscient. Since He knows everything, He is the only one who can make any sort of judgment with 100% accuracy 100% of the time. We make judgments based on the evidence we see, but there is so much we don’t see or know. It’s no wonder God calls us to leave judgment to Him.
Additionally, when we look at the character of God we see that love is foundational to everything He does. He repeatedly extends mercy and grace long before He extends judgment. We do more to reflect God to the world around us when we extend mercy and grace instead of judgment.
It can be far too easy to make judging others a habit. Judgments can limit our effectiveness and shut down conversation. As we learn to see our opinions for what they are, focus on others instead of ourselves, and pay attention to God, we begin to respond with mercy and grace. And in doing so, we encourage others and ourselves in the ways of God.