“‘Judge not lest ye be judged;’ What a beautiful refrain.” “New Test Leper,” a song from R.E.M.’s 1996 album New Adventures In Hi-Fi, tells the story of a transvestite featured on a television talk show being cross-examined and ridiculed on account of lifestyle. The point of the song, I believe is pretty straight forward: the same finger-pointing self-righteousness that Jesus revealed in the hearts of the Pharisees, and even his own disciples, still exists today.
From the farthest reaches of the religious right to left wing extremists, and from the poorest among us to the most affluent, daggers of criticism are brandished and thrown as thoughtless, conceited, knee-jerk reactions barren of humility. Statements of judgement are made with the clear intent to discredit the opposition when, most often in reality, such statements do far more to discredit those who make them.
It shouldn’t be too hard to understand that, as Christians, the lesson here is not merely to avoid judging others, but, in addition, to recognize our own shortcomings and, subsequently, approach and interact with others out of a spirit of loving humility. Oswald Chambers wrote:
Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged” He went on to say, in effect, “If you do judge, you will be judged in exactly the same way.” Who of us would dare to stand before God and say, “My God, judge me as I have judged others”? We have judged others as sinners…Yet God judges us on the basis of the miraculous atonement by the Cross of Christ.
If we can adjust our perspective so that we view the world through a lens of humility rather than entitlement, and if we can scale down our own sense of importance, we will find that, instead of so many perceived flaws to criticize in others, there are magnified blessings and wonders all around us that are big enough to put our interactions with others in perspective and, hopefully, overcome our own shortcomings. Grace exists for us to the extent that we recognize it and, in turn, extend it to others.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” Matthew 7:1, 2 NKJV