To the degree that I judge others, I’m not loving them. I’m ascribing worth to myself at their expense, which is the opposite of love. But I usually think it’s okay to do this, and even pride myself for doing so.
This is part two in my series. If you have not already read part one, I suggest you do so before continuing here.
This may seem like a digression from my subject, but leaving religion for Christ must bring us to the crossroads of judgment and love. We must choose one or the other, for we cannot go down both roads.
How do we know what love is?
I want to know what love is, I want you to show me
I want to feel what love is, I know you can show me
While we probably won’t find the answer from the Foreigner classic, fortunately for us, God shows us exactly what love is:
16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16 *)
When we look at Jesus’ self-sacrificial life, even to the point of death on the cross for our sakes, we’re seeing the embodiment of what love looks like. And this is the example for us to follow (at least, metaphorically). It’s laying our lives down for one another. It’s valuing others the same way God values them.
And just how much does God value us? Again, He tells us…
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16 *)
We will only give what we think something is worth. And God gave Himself for us in giving His only begotten Son, which means He ascribes the same worth to you and me as He does Christ. How much worth is that? Can you measure it? See my point? And this isn’t just for Christians; He did this for the whole world (1 John 2:2).
Here’s what Greg Boyd said about what love should look like in us:
“Learning how to ascribe unsurpassable and unconditional worth to every other human being on the planet, regardless of what they’re attitude is toward us, whether they can benefit or they are threatening us…our stance is to be the stance of Jesus where we ascribe worth to them. We manifest that love by what we’re willing to sacrifice for them.” (Boyd, “Sociopathic Religion” *)
There’s nothing more important than this (see 1 Cor.13:1-3). I agree with Boyd, that to lack love is the greatest heresy of all because it destroys everything else.
You can’t love what you judge
As Boyd points out, of the two trees in the Garden, the Tree of Life was the provision, which represented trusting God and leaving judgment to Him. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was the prohibition, which represented usurping God’s place as judge.
While “eating” from the first tree enables us to love like God loves, eating from the second tree puts us in the role of the accuser of the brethren. Here’s how Boyd puts it:
“Whereas love is ascribing worth to another person at a cost to yourself; judgment is about ascribing worth to yourself at the cost of others….Every little gossip whisper in our brain, to that degree, breaks the flow of love into us and through us. If we were open and honest with ourselves, we would trace back any withholding of love for another to judgment…We’re saying, “God you are wrong for saying that person has unsurpassable worth…We’ve decided that “they don’t deserve our love…the trouble is, God has already decided that they DO deserve love, as evidenced by Calvary [John 3:16]. Every act of withholding love is rebellion against God.” (Boyd, “Sociopathic Religion” *)
Do you see how rebellious and idolatrous judging can be?
Why do we judge?
The reason we judge is to feel good about ourselves. We were created to find our self-worth from God. And when we cut ourselves off from His love and affirmation, we will seek it out by putting others down in order to elevate ourselves.
This is the tragic consequence of usurping God’s rightful place in our hearts. Jesus said as soon as we point our judgmental finger at someone else, we automatically become hypocrites. We’ve violated the law we think we’re keeping (Matt.7:1-5, 12; 22:37-40).
When we’re not judging
To be clear, this doesn’t mean we can’t have honest disagreements with others; it means we don’t denigrate people or alienate ourselves from them because of these differences.
It also doesn’t mean that people we’ve invited into our lives can’t speak correction. We all have blind spots and need each other to successfully navigate the pitfalls of this life. But this correction is not “according to the flesh” but according to the New Creation (2 Cor.5:16-17). What I mean by this is that we remind each other of who we are in Christ, and restore our brother or sister gently when they’ve forgotten that reality, knowing we could just as easily be led astray. In this way, we carry each other’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Gal.6:1-4).
The bottom line is, we follow Christ by loving others the same way He loves them, no matter who they are, or what they might’ve have done. And if we haven’t been invited into their close circle of trusted confidants, the only opinion we’re to have of them is the one demonstrated by Jesus at Calvary, remembering our own clay feet, and that mercy always triumphs over judgment (James 2:13).
We’ll continue our journey out of religion and toward following Christ next time.