These words came into my mind after receiving communion on Easter Sunday. I was kneeling while the distribution of communion was being completed, and thanking God for his suffering, death and resurrection for us, and the blessings that I and my family have experienced as a result.
The words, “Love, not judgment,” kind of came out of nowhere, interrupting both my prayer and thoughts. In reflecting on these words at the time and later, I was quite aware that I have struggled with the sin of being judgmental for most of my life. How often have I been quick to analyze someone’s circumstance without knowing all the facts and coming to a judgment?
Upon further reflection, and assuming that these words and thoughts were from the Lord, I asked myself and the Lord what I should do to counter this tendency. “When you see a person, whether a stranger, acquaintance or close family or friend, your first thought should be, ‘how can I love this person.’ There is no need to analyze or judge.” Perhaps there is a need for encouragement or affirmation. Sometimes there may be a need for prayer; perhaps, just a need to listen.
Jesus had some rather strong words about judging others. He said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged.” Frightening! He goes on to ask the question of why do we look for the speck of sawdust in another’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in our own eye. He says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Mt. 7:1-7)
James asks, “Who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12) Being judgmental derives from the sin of pride, of which the human condition seems to have an ample supply.
In my work as an attorney for a large oil company one of my early assignments included representing our marketing department and the various managers of that department for a particular region of the country. I was told to watch out for a certain District Manager who had a reputation for ignoring some of the legal requirements for our business and was generally very difficult to deal with.
I was subsequently invited to attend a marketing managers’ meeting where I sought out this manager and spent some time with him. We played some tennis during an afternoon break and I got to hear about how he viewed the challenges of his job, about his family and interests in life. It appeared to me he didn’t deserve the reputation that was following him. I never had any problems with this manager, nor did we ever have any legal problems coming out of the sales district he oversaw. Fortunately, I withheld judgment, as the need for critical judgment was not apparent.
The obvious lesson from this incident is not to make a judgment until you know the facts. But an even better approach when we encounter people is to ask ourselves, “How can I love this person here and now?”