Romans 2:1 New International Version
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.
To make a judgment is to draw a conclusion or make a decision about something. People typically make judgments in one of three ways – (1) according to outward appearance, (2) according to the opinion of others, or (3) according to economic status. And often the judgment we make does not have all the details of the situation (in fact is limited), includes our personal bias, and is often wrong. Judging others may also be a symptom of, or give to rise to, smugness, arrogance, and self-righteousness. It may even be a way of deflecting attention from our own moral weaknesses and failings.
‘To make a quick judgment does not make one right. The wise person looks at both sides of the matter, with fairness, impartiality, watchful of the truth, wisely and without haste. Such a person is called righteous.’ -Buddhist saying.
Passing judgment… we all do it. But is it biblically acceptable? Romans 2:1 provide us with the answer. In short we are told that every one of us who passes judgment on another condemns himself. Something I heard at a martial arts seminar from a Kempo master that rings true related to this subject, he was speaking during a session that he was presenting on knife techniques and speaking in regards to the attacker, but what he basically said was (and I paraphrase), ‘I can’t pass judgment on my attacker; I don’t know why he is attacking me, or what his thoughts are… Only God can pass judgment. I am simply reacting to his action and should respond appropriately with love and compassion.’ How often do we see a photo of someone on FaceBook and instantly pass a judgment on the individual without knowing, as Paul Harvey used to say, ‘the rest of the story’?
Think about this God is ‘all-knowing’, and in turn has the full picture of the situation as well as the right to send judgment appropriately; for only God knows what happened leading up to and after the incident, and only God knows the intent in the ‘attackers’ heart at the time of the incident. A human judge is limited when it comes to knowing or understanding the truth and ascertaining the true facts of any case; humans afre influenced by their own bias and prejudice, as well as their ego related to the situation. God is pure in thought and judgment. With God the true facts of every case are naked and open before Him; He needs no witnesses and no jury because He has personally witnessed every act and thought sin that has ever been performed. He knows all the facts (see Hebrews 4:12-13). He never misrepresents a person’s case! We can be sure that God’s judgment is always according to truth. Man on the other hand, even with the best of intentions, is far from God.
Let me paint you a picture based on a real life event. A local cleric attended a martial arts seminar. At the end of the formal seminar it was tradition for attendees to come to the home of the martial arts master hosting the seminar and socialize as well as continue to informal training. The hosting family had two young girls ages 6 and 11 who fondly loved by the attendees. These two girls were now in the presence of mostly adult male martial artists. The girls asked each of the men if they would play with them, particularly dress up. The men, who all adored the little girls, declined… upon seeing the hurt faces of the little girls the cleric agreed to play with them, putting his personal ego aside. In short time the girls had his toenails and fingernails painted with bright pink polish, and the cleric joined them in a dress-up, dressing in one of their mother’s dresses as they had a little tea party. The macho men who declined first began to poke fun at the cleric for his play participation; but soon they saw how happy the little girls were and saw that the cleric… was well, still the same person… and had only brought some joy to the little girls. Shortly after, the men put aside their own ego’s and were undergoing pedicures by the little girls making the night memorable and happy for these little princesses, as well as learning themselves a lesson in humility. One of the men took a photo of the cleric dressed up, and without ill-thought innocently posted the photo on social media. The cleric’s immediate supervisor saw the posted photo and straightaway commented negatively on the actions, ‘What are you thinking!’. The supervisor passed his immediate judgment for the world to see, assuming the cleric was acting less than the perception of what a member of the clergy should. The reality was the cleric put aside his own ego to bring joy to two little girls, while teaching his peers to act with humility, to put aside personal ego and to act with love and compassion in bringing happiness to another. St Francis of Assisi in quoted to say, ‘Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary’. In essence is this not what the cleric did?
Judging another does nothing but bring on suffering- for all involved. Judging another is a choice. I am reminded of a quote one of my teachers once shared with me, ‘We can neither love nor hate something about another unless we love or hate that very thing in ourselves.’ In reality we should practice a life of non-judgment, leavening judgment itself in the hands of the Lord. This is not easy. I have often challenged my martial arts students to be non-judgmental. I have shared this particular exercise with them’ Upon awakening see how long it takes for you before you pass a judgment. Your goal is to go through the entire tire day being non-judgmental.’ It has taken me 15-years to get from awakening to placing my feet on the ground from my bed before I pass my first judgment. And I only recently got my foot to the floor. It’s not easy… it requires a practice in non-judgment. Suffering is mostly created by our own minds- in short we create our own suffering. A practice of non-judgment helps us to avoid a lot of the suffering we encounter on a daily basis. When we practice non-judgment, we unburden ourselves from needless, self-created suffering.
‘It is well, when judging a friend, to remember that he is judging you with the same godlike and superior impartiality.’ -Arnold Bennett
So, going back to the story of the cleric; who was truly suffering?- the cleric who put aside his ego and humility to bring joy to others and lead others to do the same (By the way on a side note, later that weekend one of the attendees came to the cleric to talk about God and to come back to the faith he left behind do the fire and brimstone judgments that drove him away years ago) or to the cleric’s supervisor who passed the initial judgment based on one photo?
It is not our place to judge. We are responsible for our own actions. Set aside judgment and set yourself free of suffering. Allow God to judge. See each person with love and compassion; act with love and compassion in each moment. Think of the good for others in every thought.
‘Distinctions drawn by the mind are not necessarily equivalent to distinctions in reality.’
– Thomas Aquinas
‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. Matthew 7:1
About the Author
Brother Christopher Bashaw OFD, RN, M.Div. is a professed Brother in the Franciscans of Divine Mercy, an Old Catholic Tradition within the Independent Catholic Church of the Americas. He is also enrolled in the Independent Catholic Church of the Americas Seminary studying for the permanent deaconate. Brother Christopher has worked as a RN since graduating nursing school in 1984, with nursing experience including drug and alcohol recovery/detox, psychiatric nursing, physical rehabilitation, pain care, military nursing, occupational health, nursing home care, and pediatric/camp nursing. He has brought these skills into the developing his ministry the Mother Mary Society and Franciscan Pastoral Counseling. In addition to holding a M.Div., he holds certificates in Biblical Counseling, Marriage and Family Counseling, and Alcohol & Drug Addiction Recovery (Level 3) with a Christian approach.