From the moment we begin to interact with others we realize that life is not easy. The first time someone calls you a name or laughs at you in a belittling way, is the moment that the defensive Armour begins to take shape, we learn that attack can sometimes be our best defence or that simply pretending not to care about anything or anyone will protect us from the emotional hurt of insult or purposeful neglect. We learn to judge others by the standards that we ourselves have experienced, calling names or gossiping about friends or acquaintances, people we know and people we don’t. Without knowing it we have become independent fortresses, roaming around guarding off from attack or launching our own in an effort to survive in a world that has gone wrong.
When Jesus spoke those famous words “Judge not so that you will not be judged”, it was a case of him speaking what he lived. “I am not judging anyone” he said (John 8:15) (although he alone had the right to do so). When he was eventually captured, spat on and beaten, he did not judge. When they placed him upon the cross and hammered nails into his hands and feet, he did not judge. When he hung there in the shame and ignominy of a public execution, half naked, bruised and almost unrecognisable in his broken form, he did not judge. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” he said as they divided up his clothes by casting lots. He did not judge them. The rulers sneered at him and he did not judge, others castigated him saying “Let him save himself if he is the Christ” but he did not judge. But they(we), in the manner they were accustomed to, judged him. (Isaiah 53:8)
If anyone understands the hurt caused by the judgment of others it was Jesus. Alone, abandoned, wounded and in pain, thirsty, ashamed, naked, hated, abused, ridiculed, tortured, crucified, Jesus took it all. He took the judgment of men, there was no self made Armour to defend him, no emotional defences, no fighting back, no retaliation vocally or other, no malice, no judgment. (Isaiah 53:7)
When we feel judged by the world around us it is only because we ourselves live by the same rules. When the remarks come, and they always do, we believe it is necessary to defend ourselves, to get upset because of them, to hit back or retaliate in kind. At times we hit out and judge believing it is the right thing to do, playing by the rules of law. What other choice do we have? We have played this game all our lives.
But the truth is as Jesus indeed said it to be. “all who draw the sword will die by the sword (Mat 26:52). “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (mat 7:2). When Jesus experienced the pain of Calvary he knew the truth about judgment, he knew that bearing the weight of the emotional scars of desiring judgment would deprive him of the ability to do what he needed to do. “I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12;47). It was his refusal to be the way that we are, carrying hurt and resentment, harbouring revengeful thoughts or just simply the pain of condemnation from others, it was this freedom from our worldly problems that made him able to take them from us.
Jesus doesn’t judge us. When he comes to us, he comes to us as we are, not as we should be, knowing we will never be as we should be. He is aware of our short comings, our hidden sins, our dark thoughts and our lack of perfection. He comes to us and says “I love you”. “Oh that’s nice” we say not realizing the full implications of what he is saying. Other people tell us they love us but only as long as we behave well, as long as the conditions of our relationship are met. So when Jesus comes to us and says “I love you” we think “oh yes, I guess I could be acceptable to you if I behave myself, if I clean up my act a bit, try hard to keep his rules. It isn’t long however before we aren’t keeping the rules, can’t control our thought life and are pretty much the same person as before only feeling less worthy and more wretched. Then Jesus comes and says again “I love you, I don’t come to judge you, I come to love you, I come to take you to myself, to share my life with you and unburden you from living that burdensome life that you are living now, I have come to free you from your desire to judge by not judging you, just loving you”.
Our response this time is different “You mean I don’t have to change for you to love me?” we question tentatively. “Nope” he replies. We continue to question “You mean you just love me with all my problems, all my failings?” “Yep” he says again in response. Then we finally get it, the penny drops and our defences that we have built up since childhood, the desire to judge everyone, including ourselves, dissolves with the understanding that Jesus has changed the rules, has brought a new rule that does away with all the others, the rule of love. Love that is the essence of who God is, love that has the power to change a man’s heart, not by force but by the response it evokes within us. Love that is the seed for the harvest of love that follows. This is the true Gospel that sets us free.
“As a man thinks in his heart so is he” (Proverbs 23:7) Only when we are convinced in our hearts that we are indeed loved unconditionally, do we act accordingly, only then are we really free.