Who Am I to Judge

But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God.” So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God. 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.

New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995 (Ro 14:10-13). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

Over the past several years, I have had an ongoing discussion with a coworker about our philosophies and beliefs. On many lunchtime walks near the office, we’ve discussed a diversity of subjects, and in almost every case, we’ve found few points of agreement. Our talks have been tense, intense, and sometimes uncomfortable. Yet we have grown to respect each other almost to the degree that we’ve grown aware of the gulf between our perespectives.

As a Christian, our discussions have taught me several lessons about my tendency to judge others.

  • I tend to be afraid of beliefs that differ from my own. The greater the difference, the greater the fear. With the fear comes discomfort, tension, the desire to flee, and a curious inability to think straight.
  • Less obviously, I have seen that the greater the difference, the less the respect, and the greater the condescension. The more radically opposed I am, the more likely I am to see the differing belief as stupid, silly or absurd. Obviously, this has a detrimental effect on my ability to listen or respond intelligently.
  • The greater the difference, the greater the need to listen.
  • Differences have dimensions, just as beliefs have dimensions. To truly understand requires the willingness to follow all the connections between thoughts and presuppositions that make up the other person’s system of beliefs, and to then study the various differences from that perspective.
  • The greater the difference, the greater the investment. The more we differ from one another, the more effort and commitment it takes to communicate.
  • Understanding does not mean agreement or compromise. Respect does not require buying into the other person’s point of view.
  • A Christian can make all this effort without ulterior motives. I believe that investing in a relationship despite differences of belief can be used by God far more effectively than all the apologetics and argumentation I can muster. All I need to do is treat the other person as if he’s made in God’s image, with honor and respect.

Lord, give me the courage to treat each person as my brother, not as my target, student, or special project. And when it arises in the natural flow of relationship, grant me the discernment and courage to speak of the need to know You.