****After my last post (Did you read it? If not, just scroll down and take a glance.) entitled Where is God, I felt this piece appropriate for my own sake.

I am prone to be judgmental, or have a critical spirit. It is something that I must be intentionally aware of or, before I know it, I’ve assumed (and we all know what that means) and jumped to negative conclusions. Oh yes, like many, I have my rationalizations down pat. First, I deceive myself by calling it discernment (which I believe in, by the way). Or I consider it a Holy Spirit inspired gut feeling (which I also believe can be real). And then there is the old standby that I just have strong convictions (which is not wrong if founded on facts and not assumptions). 

But often my thoughts and words are raw, unadulterated judgmentalism. And sometimes it is the gracious insight of Rebekah, my non-judgmental wife, which causes me to peel back the layers of my sin stained heart and discover the root of my attitudes. And when that honest assessment takes place often an unhealthy and unholy critical spirit is identified. In Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount we see Jesus’ simple but profound thoughts on the subject. These are words that pierce my soul: 

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”  He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:37-42). 

Judgmentalism often takes place when we elevate our opinions over clear Scriptural teaching. It is nurtured when we don’t have all the facts yet are quick to render a condemning decision. Being critical is often rooted in exaggerating the sins of others while dismissing our own in a feeble attempt to make ourselves seem more righteous – while conveniently forgetting that God’s righteous standard for all of us is absolute perfection. And, in the end, it usurps the authority that God claims for Himself alone. 

We see all of this played out in the church at Rome. Paul devotes an entire section to it in Romans 14:1 – 15:13. Like me, I would encourage you to read this passage and learn his advice on how to deal with our judgmental attitudes towards others and our family of faith especially. In synopsis: 

  • Accept those who choose differently in disputable matters (those things not clearly delineated in Scripture) – 14:1-8.
  • Look to Jesus as our righteous example and ultimate judge – 14:9-12.
  • Graciously attempt to remove any attitudinal barriers that would create fabricated divisions with others – 14:13-18.
  • Let us seek peace and mutual edification above all minor differences in behaviors or preferences – 14:19-21.
  • Check with God first to determine if our conscience is clear or to remove the “log” in our own life that is distorting our view of others – 14:22-23.
  • We must look to Christ and rely on The Holy Spirit’s power to glorify God in this matter – 15:1-13. 

I believe it’s imperative that we understand that, because our sin nature has warped our sense of perception, not all things are black and white. As we see in Romans 14 and 15, there are issues and differences that God’s Word does not specifically address. In those matters we are best to heed Paul’s example in verse 5 to let “each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.” That ambiguity may make us feel uncomfortable but it is part of dealing with the issue of a critical spirit. We should be convinced in our own mind that our actions and motives are pure and leave it up to God to deal with others regarding their own conscience. After all, we will ultimately have to stand before Him and give an account (Romans 14:12). And that account is not someone else’s but ours and ours alone. 

To me the lesson is clear. I must maintain my biblically based convictions but be careful that I don’t cross the line into those areas which are gray. I need to look at my own issues first, be gracious towards other’s differences and preferences, and continually be aware that I am not God, that I am not the judge here. He is the righteous judge for both me and those that I differ with. May God help me to heed the words of Jesus and Paul and, while being courageously discerning, always let the Holy Spirit have his way with me and my critical spirit.