Passing judgment

One of the problems Paul addressed in his letter to the Christians in Rome was the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christians. Some scholars have suggested that this could have been a problem amongst the Christians at Rome. In the first three chapter Paul shows that not only were Gentiles guilty of sin, but the Jews were as well. In fact, all sin and fall short of God’s standard. Although the second chapter deals with the Jews also being guilty of sin, there are practical lessons for Christians as we seek to live for Jesus.

“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. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:1-4 NIV)

I think we can all relate to what we find here. We must not pass judgement on others. Why? The answer is quite simple: when we pass judgment on someone we are condemning ourselves. Again, we might ask ‘why’? The reason is simple: we also sin and possibly in the exact way that we are condemning in someone else’s life.

Jesus taught this same principle. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Don’t judge others because will receive the same judgment that we give. If we would only learn that lesson that would be far less condemnation of others.

But notice how we should treat those who sin: with “kindness, forbearance and patience”. This is how we would want people to react to us when we sin. This is what we should be giving to them. Again, a reason is given: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance”. We all sin and fall short (Romans 3:23). The reaction to another person’s sin is not to be punitive but to help lead them back to God.

Is there any advantage to our standing in God’s sight as far as nationality or ethnic background? Notice what Paul went on to write.

“A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.” (Romans 2:28-29)

Being a Jew physically – nationally or by birth – gave a person no advantage as far as their relationship with God. It isn’t what a person is outwardly but what they are inwardly. We might express it this way: it isn’t physical but spiritual. Does our heart belong to God? Has his Spirit taken up residence in our lives? Notice what Paul was saying: if anyone, even a Gentile, has allowed the Spirit to ‘circumcise’ their heart, they are a ‘Jew’ – they are one of God’s people.

What does all of this tell us? Don’t look down on or pass judgment against others because by doing so we are passing judgment on ourselves – we all sin. Who we are isn’t what is important. What we must ensure is that we have given our lives to God with a changed heart, allowing our lives to be influence by his Spirit.

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Readings for next week: James 3-5; Romans 1-6

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