The young man climbed aboard the bus to make his way to work. He chose a seat by the window. He was thankful for his job, even though it was temporary seasonal work. Hopefully it would turn into something permanent. He was a great employee. Always on time, and never missed a day of work. As the bus rumbled towards downtown, he slowly warmed up from the walk in the cold to the bus stop.
The bus quickly filled up; a middle aged woman took the seat next to him. As she settled into her seat, she pulled out a book. The young man glanced at the title and said, “Hey, I’ve read that book! It’s excellent.”
He was given a sideways glance and a sour frown. She moved away from him in her seat. Instinctively, he turned away. Was it my tattoos? My shaved head? My jacket isn’t the cleanest, but laundry is expensive. I was just trying to be friendly.
The young man is someone I love dearly. When he told me this story, my heart hurt for him. Of course it was impossible for the woman to know that the tough exterior was just a façade for a teddy bear interior. But I hated the fact that she judged him solely on his appearance.
Jesus has a strong teaching about judging others:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2 NIV.
We are called to show God’s unconditional love to all (which is different from unconditional approval of everyone’s actions or words.) And we certainly should never judge someone based on what they look like or the clothes they wear.
Looking at My Heart
But am I any better than the woman on the bus? Have I looked at someone and judged them without knowing anything about them? I sure have.
Driving out of our quiet, tree lined, suburban street one hectic Sunday morning (we had four children, why did we go to the early service????), I saw people out for an early morning run. I remember thinking, “I should pray for them.” Obviously attending church was not high on their list of Sunday morning activities.
Ugh- how sanctimonious and judgmental was that? I cringe now just thinking about it. Fast forward 20 years. Our youngest and now only child at home asked if we could attend a Saturday evening service. We decided attending church as a family superseded a time difference of 12 hours.
God Will Judge
Add in a new found need for exercise and one Sunday morning, I found myself out for a run. As a few cars leisurely passed by, God reminded me of my long ago prayer on a similar Sunday morning. Oh how I fervently hoped they were not judging me as I had judged others in the past! How could they know I had already been to church and was listening to a playlist on my iPod full of Christian songs?
I would like to think that hidden in my long ago prayer, I had some tiny bit of concern for them, but I had already decided they were in need of prayer just because they weren’t sitting in a pew. I didn’t know them or what battles they were dealing with on a day to day basis. My prayer was not “Bless them Lord in a special way today as they run on this beautiful morning you have provided.” I didn’t know them at all.
God Judges the Heart
The Bible is filled with people who were far from perfect. Take King David as an example. If we only looked at his outward actions, we could judge him as an adulterer and murderer. But God knew David’s heart. He saw David as a man who was repentant for his sins and asked for forgiveness. David loved and worshiped God with all his heart.
There is plenty that we can’t see in others that God sees clearly.
“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7 NIV.
God judges us by our faith and the condition of our heart. Only God can truly see these things. The world makes many judgements on outward appearances, but they don’t reveal the person’s true value. Instead of judging others, maybe we should be working harder on improving our own heart attitude.
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Why Do We Judge Others?
I’m sure we all have judged others prematurely. If our criticisms come from jealousy or pride, or before we know all the facts about the person, then we are judging wrongly. Jesus wants us to check our own motives and actions instead of judging others. When we are tempted to judge someone else, we should stop and examine our own faults and bad habits first. Maybe if we judged ourselves first, we would be able to love, forgive, and help those we want to judge.
“Christians think they are prosecuting attorneys or judges, when, in reality, God has called all of us to be witnesses.”- Warren Wiersbe
God Will Judge
James 4:12 says “God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor?” (NLT)
James wasn’t ruling out courts and judges. He does condemn us, however, if we are unkind, critical and harsh. As witnesses (not judges) for Christ, we absolutely need to see others as He sees them.
In 1 John 4:19 we read “We love because he first loved us.” God’s love for us is not conditional- it is who He is; it is His character. If we truly love God, then it should be evident in how we treat the people we come in contact with. Not just our family and fellow believers, but everyone.
Really seeing others with Gods eyes gives us a beautiful snapshot of each person we come in contact with- created and loved by God. Then our prayers and actions can reflect His character.
How can we show God’s love in concrete ways to those around us?
How can we build others up instead of tearing them down?