Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It can be a healing balm that ushers freedom into our soul and mends broken relationships. But sometimes negative emotions such as anger, hurt, and resentment can continue to rage even after we’ve truly forgiven an offense. Arguably, forgiveness is the key to healing, but sometimes it just isn’t enough. Sometimes, it’s just the first step. After forgiving an offender for the wrong they have committed against us, it would be wise to consider whether or not we have also judged them.
To judge someone is to place a descriptive and conclusive label on them with an attitude of fleshly self-righteousness. It is not discernment. Discernment is a gift to be employed for the benefit of others. It is a gift of grace that causes us to pray for others and, in some cases, to invite them into repentance. Judgment is about self-protection and self-promotion. It reduces another person to a specific sin or character flaw and then devalues them on that basis.
My own marriage was profoundly compromised by judgment. I slapped critical labels on my husband’s forehead and made discriminating declarations against him. I felt quite justified in doing this because I had ample evidence to support my judgements. He had sin and weaknesses in his life that had hurt me. But his sin wasn’t the problem. While it certainly did complicate matters, the problem was my response. Out of resentment and a misguided attempt to protect myself, I judged him. In my heart, I accused him. In one way or another, I said things like, “He’s selfish and doesn’t care about me.” So, even after he acknowledged his sin, repented for it, and made necessary changes; even after I forgave him, I still found myself expecting him to fail. In fact, I treated him as if he was a failure.
Whether my husband perceived my judgments consciously or not, they were a spiritual reality and he responded to them. Romans 14:13 says, “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this- not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.” He often ‘stumbled’ over my judgments and acted in a way that was consistent with them. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, he was living under an unholy pressure to meet my negative expectations. It was only after I removed my judgments through repentance and renounced my agreements with the Accuser that I was able to approach him with grace. Then, I could accept him as he is; a man who is capable of making good choices and bad choices; a man who loves me, but is not Jesus. I was able to separate his genuine care for me from his sin and human weaknesses. Although he continued to hurt my feelings and disappoint my desires at times, I no longer allowed those failures to define him or his love for me.
Unfortunately, if we open a door for judgment and give it room to speak, it will end up turning its wrath upon us as well. Scripture says, “For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:2). By judging my husband, I invited judgment upon myself and I felt the weight of it. A sense of failure was my constant companion. My thoughts and words were accusatory of both myself and my husband. The merciless finger of judgement pointed back at me. But when God graced me with the gift of repentance, it set us both free. In this way, grace covered his sin and mine.
The roll of the eyes and the firmly set jaw; the, “Here we go again... that’s what you always do”, attitude; sarcasm, cynicism, mockery, belittling comments, and keeping score are all signs of contemptuous judgment. It is the root problem underneath all failed and failing marriages. Has it taken up occupancy in your mind and heart? If so, please know that it is a false solution. It cannot protect and defend you like Jesus can. He is a far better salve for our wounds and He specializes in broken hearts. If we allow Him to, He will enter into those dark and secret places and bring deep healing and restoration. If we ask Him to, he will answer the pressing questions that arise from those places. It is His delight and desire. He only waits for an invitation.