by winston davenport, april 2 2014
Jesus spoke some grave words in Matthew 7:1. Many Christians use His words to perpetuate the idea that we should be afraid of God. Jesus said, "Judge not, that you may not be judged."
But hold on a second. If this statement causes fear of God, then we know that we are not understanding it correctly. John said, "Perfect love casts out all fear, for those who fear have not been made perfect in love." He says, "Fear carries with it the idea that you are going to be punished."
So, let me get this straight: Punishment sounds a lot like judgment, and if we should not fear punishment from God, that means we should not fear God's judgment. This makes sense, I suppose, because any Christian who understands the basic Gospel message knows that any and all judgment was poured out at the Cross, "once for all time." We can, as John said, firmly know that God has not, is not, and will never judge us.
Jesus Himself assured us that this is the case. He said, "The Father judges no one" (John 5:22). That's a relief.
But that still leaves the original question. We will be judged if we judge others, Jesus says. Who will be judging us, then?
The answer is: ourselves.
Paul said that it is our own conscience that condemns us. The word conscience is made up of two words. "Con" (meaning bad or evil) and "Science" (meaning knowledge). In essence, Paul was saying that it is your own bad or evil knowledge that condemns you.
That is a revolutionary idea! It is actually the knowledge of evil that points the accusing finger!
The Greek word behind this translation is syneídēsis, which means "joint knowing" or "a persistent notion." While many correctly teach that this words means "knowing good from evil," most resources say that this knowledge is God-given, and that all men possess it. I would say that the knowledge of good and evil is most certainly not God-given; in fact God specifically tried to prevent us from having this knowledge. God told Adam to freely eat from the multitude of trees in the garden, but there was a single tree He forbade. This knowledge, this conscience, was the one thing God didn't want us to have! The knowledge of good and evil has wrecked humanity and caused man to separate themselves from the Creator. Thank God that Jesus did away with this separation by cleansing us from sin, so that, as Hebrews says, "the worshiper, now completely clean, can be totally free from the consciousness of sin."
If you are free from sin consciousness, not only will you be incapable of judging others, you will be incapable of reaping the result of that judgmental stance: self-judgment.
We cannot gain peace of mind as long as we have not forgiven others. We will be judged by the same standards by which we judge others. Not by God, of course, because Jesus said, "The Father judges no one" (John 5:22).
The judgment which comes upon ourselves when we judge others originates from us, not God. When you judge those around you, you are actually judging yourself.
Isn't that an alarming thought?
Furthermore, when you harbor unforgiveness toward another, you are spiritually binding yourself to the negativity that initiated your judgment in the first place. Think of the ministers who vehemently judge divorce or homosexuality, and later are exposed as hypocrites. Their judgment (their sin-consciousness) of others actually became the activation of the very behaviors they scorned.
Let go of bitterness. Let go of judgment. In doing so, you set yourself free. Additionally, your forgiveness has the potential to set others free as well. Think of Stephen in the Book of Acts. As the would-be apostle Paul stood by and commanded Stephen's life to be taken through stoning, Stephen could have judged Paul, pronounced condemnation on his assailants the way that Peter cursed Ananias and Sapphira. But instead of holding the sin against Paul, he specifically released them from their debt to him, and their debt to God. This violent act of forgiveness not only released Stephen from his bondage to judgment, but also opened the door for Paul to encounter God. It all began with a radical act of forgiveness.
Didn't Jesus do the same thing? Hanging on the cross, surrounded by soldiers and Jews and others who had unjustly championed His death, He had every right in the world to pronounce a curse upon His murderers and betrayers. But instead of judging, He took a page out of His Father's book and withheld His judgment. He said, "Father, forgive them; they don't know what they're doing." What sin could possibly be worse than betraying and murdering God Himself? If Jesus could withhold judgment toward such an evil crime, what little injustices that have been done to you could you, in the fashion of Jesus, let go of?
Remember, withholding your judgment not only releases others from debts they can' t pay, it also releases you. And that's the type of life you want to live, as you know: a life of freedom.
by winston davenport, april 2 2014