Have you ever heard a sermon and thought, “Wow, I sure hope so-and-so is listening to this message”? I have found myself doing that often, and most of the time I am hoping they are listening because I think they have messed up and need to be “scolded.” But I have been convicted more often as I mature in my faith that I need to hear every message just as much or more than anyone else! Seeing that plank in my own eye takes some practice. Realizing how much I need to change my habits is even harder.
I have mentioned before that I am constantly working on not being judgmental, and it is a continuous struggle. The need to be discerning and gracious will always be there. It is definitely easier to be discerning and think of other people’s points of view if you do not feel slighted by the offense. When we are insulted or feel injured, we jump to conclusions and don’t stop to think about the motivations of the other person. How often do we misjudge what someone was thinking or feeling in the moment? Why do we forget how quickly we snap when we are tired or having a bad day? Wouldn’t it be better if we just assumed anyone who was rude to us was just having a bad day? I think our response would be much more Christ-like. The people around us are dealing with things we do not see. How understanding are we of others?
Judgmental is defined as “having or displaying an excessively critical point of view.” Just hearing that definition makes me feel guilty. Excessively critical is not the way anyone wants to be described. Discernment (in Christian contexts) is defined as “perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual guidance and understanding.” They are opposites in a Christian world. We are told in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” I know how many flaws I have and am amazed that God still loves me. He wants me to respond to others with the same love.
We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, and that means representing Him and spreading the word about Him. We cannot represent Christ being angry, spiteful, and excessively critical. We need to take advice from Philippians 1:9-10. “And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Depth of insight. Do you know someone who excels at thinking about others and knowing when a person might be having a tough time even if no one else seems to notice? That kind of person is generally very encouraging to be around. Someone who seems to have insight into other people’s lives. They can encourage you when you are down, but they also can inspire you to encourage others as well. Looking outside ourselves and our own thoughts is exactly what God wants us to be doing. Our opinions and desires are unimportant. We are called to love. We are called to be understanding and gentle. Gracious and patient. Those are hard things to accomplish when we are fighting our human nature to be judgmental and demanding. We are called in Colossians 3:5-14 to put that human nature to death and clothe ourselves with “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience,” “to bear with each other,” to forgive and love. Be the ambassador Christ called you to be. Love and do not judge.