R ecently over the months, God has been helping me learn about what His love is really like. The world misunderstands love – the Bible says love is not self-seeking but the world thinks the opposite. But God’s love is different – God is love. So everything that God is helps us understand love. So I continue to look at Him and understand Him more to know what love really is. God has been showing me how His love is evident in how He judges . As the Bible says
Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are your judgments. (Revelations 16:7)
I want to talk about judging ourselves and the natural and predictable results of this – I will call this self-judgment and focus on this instead of judging others – because even though I judge others, my greater sin is often judging myself. Self-judgment has only two paths: self-condemnation or self-righteousness. This is sadly true – it took me a long time to admit this but by the grace of God, I am learning to lay down this attitude. So what do I mean by self-judgement? Self-judgement to me means always having a critical eye towards yourself, to put expectations of holiness on yourself with the intent of satisfying your standards of righteousness. These standards might line up with the righteous laws of God but if the goal is to present ourselves holy in our sights or to justify ourselves, then we have not understood God’s ways and His place as our rightful judge.
Let’s talk about self-condemnation – someone who continually fails to let go of their sin feels this most. I think self-condemnation is the biggest hinderance to seeing our sins rightly, even though it may seem counterintuitive. I feel condemned because I see my sins in relation to myself rather than the person against whom my sins are committed, God. Think about it – if you hurt someone and realize how much you have hurt them, what is the right thing to do? Should you go into your room and wallow in the awareness of how wrong you were and hope you will be better some day? Is this even right – wouldn’t it be natural (if you understand that you have hurt someone) to have a urgency to go ask for forgiveness and do your best to mend the hurt of the one you offended? But so many of us ignore God and instead focus on our sinfulness and how to make ourselves right. Exalting our judgment over God’s, we condemn ourselves and almost think that being sorry is better than not being sorry. When we judge ourselves harshly like this, we are placing the emphasis on ourself and identifying the sin with the committer. This kind of judgment takes God out of the equation and leads to isolation and we know that isolation breeds sin even more.
Think about God’s judgments in contrast. When God talks about sin (especially to Israel in numerous passages in the Old Testament), He always presents His complaints about how He is offended and grieved.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me. (Isaiah 1:2)
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and His Spirit was grieved (Genesis 6:5-6)
If you are willing to listen to God, you will understand that there is an appeal of being hurt by the sins of His children which were committed against Him. A person who understands that their sin is against God truly understands the gravity of their sin. David understood this by the power of the Holy Spirit:
Against You, You only, have I sinned and done what is evil in Your sight; so that You are right in Your verdict and justified when You judge. (Psalm 51:4)
David not only realizes that his sin is against God but also acknowledges that the one who was sinned against has the right to judge and that His judgement is what matters (not David’s judgement against himself). Maybe what is more important is that God’s judgements are not without mercy. Self-condemnation does not have any mercy – we judge without mercy but God is gracious in His judgements. Remember that we judge ourselves only after we have sinned and then feel guilty. God knows even before we sin that we will sin, yet He still lets us sin and after we have sinned offers us the chance to turn from our sins. This invitation to turn from our sins also helped me see how God views sin in relation to us – when we condemn, we see the person and their sin as one. God wants to see the person separated from their sin – how different is that than our thinking! God’s judgement exposes sins so they can be separated from the person. That is His desire and tells us how different His love is than ours. And understanding this kind of grace is what leads to repentance (not an awareness of our sin):
…God’s kindness leads to repentance (Romans 2:4)
One last thing that jumped out to me as I was reading Isaiah 1 recently is that God is willing to involve and engage us to satisfy our understanding of the matter. For someone who is doubting that God cares about the concerns of their heart as self-condemnation takes over, listen to this:
Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
Sometimes we want to accept things without understanding them, but God Himself is inviting us to reason together with Him. That tells me so much about His love – He desires deeply to show us His ways especially helping us understand that we are free from condemnation if we instead rightly let Him be the judge. Because He is a merciful judge.
Now I want to talk a little bit about self-righteousness. Self-righteousness is very much like self-condemnation but in the opposite direction – self-righteous people think they are good because they have failed to sin. I feel self-righteous not because I have avoided sins but because I have avoided certain things that I consider sin or that are more grievous. I was only able to sustain this thinking because I was making myself judge of what sin is worse or what is indeed good. But if all sin is against God, I should be asking Him what sin is worse and we know that the truth is that God counts all sinners as equal:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)
I hope I have communicated faithfully what God has been showing me – that He is judge and I am not. We are called to judge and rightly divide between right and wrong but we are not to be the judge of ourselves. This whole journey of understanding this began with a verse that God used to help me turn away from my wrong thinking when it comes to judging myself. I hope it blesses anyone reading it and that the Holy Spirit will illuminate it.
I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not vindicate me. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the proper time; wait until the Lord comes … (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).