9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. 10 You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. 11 It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” 12 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.
When it comes to judgmental attitudes and actions we all have two things in common, first we all struggle with being judgmental and second we all detest being judged. In truth we do what we despise being done to us. The problem is we are often blind to our judgmental spirit; we are slow to see our sick hearts yet quick to judge and see the faults and failures of others. So we put our energy into pointing out others problems instead of proactively dealing with our own. We revert to rejecting others because they are judgmental instead of dealing with our own heart of hate. Our biggest road block to dealing with our own dysfunction is pride. It’s what causes us to point out the problems in the people around us because it takes the focus off of our faults. We need to admit that we all struggle with judgmental attitudes and actions that need to be jettison. Yet we would much rather see others sin than wade through and wage war on our own. But which is more productive, trying to change others, or confronting our own heart and admitting that we need Christ to conform us? Here in Romans 14:10 Paul calls us to personal accountability, “You, then why do you judge your brother or sister?” We have to take personal responsibility for how we are acting and reacting. Until we deal with the “YOU” and stop focusing on the THEY we will never experience the transforming truth of scripture. In this passage Paul gives us three ways to help us overcome a judgmental spirit. First we need to:
- Focus on the fundamentals of our faith.
This is seen in verse 9: “For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.” Paul is not just offering us a program to deal with petty problems or minor relational rubs. He is tying our care for our fellow Christians to clear truths about Christ. He is reminding us that Christ died for the believer you’re despising and He rose again for the one you are ridiculing. A focus on Jesus should stop the judging. Paul is elevating the ones we are called to love to a more lofty level than self. He is asking us to see them not through the eyes of judging but through the eyes of Jesus. Judging is seeing others through sin not the Savior. When we chose to look at others through the Lord the light finally comes on and we see what He sees. He loves them and cherishes them, instead of them being a disappointment they are a delight. We gain God’s perfect perspective not a polluted people perspective, and because we see things in light of what really matters, we let little matters go. If we really want to deal with our family friction then we need to focus on the Father not the fight. Second we need to:
- Analyze our attitudes.
Verse 10 brings us face to face with two probing questions which draw a contrast between what Christ has done and the condemning that we tend to do. The first question is assertive with the word “you” used twice: “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister?” And the second is: “Or why do you treat them with contempt?” To judge means to dig, to find evidence and then evaluate it, this is where we not only find fault but we make their failure our focus. The wording is also in the present tense indicating that this was a persistent problem, these Christians were continually passing judgment. We need to see the damaging danger, that judging can lead to a lifestyle of judging, a judgmental spirit. Are you on a journey of judging or a journey with Jesus? Judgment here conveys the idea of condemning, “looking down” on and treating others with contempt. Contempt conveys to others an attitude that they are worthless and have no value while causing us to see ourselves as superior. We see ourselves as superior to others either because we do things that they don’t do or because we don’t do things that they do. This attitude is what alienates and ruins our relationships. But here is the question we need to ask ourselves, am I really better than my brothers and sisters in Christ? Luke 18:9 reminds us that this was the problem of the Pharisees: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else…” Paul here is focusing on the family relationship by using the word “brother and sister” he is reminding us that relationship rules not my rights. Why do we judge? Well the truth is that it is often simpler just to see the flaws in others and to point them out rather than taking the time to examine ourselves and deal with the hard heart change that needs to take place in our own lives. Also its easy to see the flaws in others that also resides in self, it takes one to know one as we would say. Our sinful selfishness finds it easier just to see the sins in others, it’s what I call the lazy look instead of the loving look. Self tries to find satisfaction in seeing others sin, it’s the morbid mentality of feeling better about self, based on the faults of others. We also use judging as a smoke screen for self-sin, our defense is to deflect. Yet Jesus said in John 8:7: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Let me remind you that there were no stones slung that day, so why do we let them fly so freely now? It’s funny how we like to get all up other people’s business, but Jesus gently reminds us in John 21:22 to butt out of the business in which we do not belong. After the Resurrection, when Jesus had graciously restored Peter and revealed His future plans for Peter, he immediately wanted to know what Jesus was going to do about John. We love the answer Jesus gave in John 21:22 but are we willing to live it: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Here we find a simple yet significant truth, stop focusing on what everyone else is called to do and just follow the Father in faith yourself. Stop trying to herd everyone into holiness, you’re not God’s sheep dog you’re a sheep, He already has a Holy Spirit to come and convict. So stop wasting your time trying to get everyone to follow the Father, start obeying so you can lead by example. Thirdly we must:
- Consider our coming judgment.
The last part of verse 10 gives the answer about why we shouldn’t judge or look down on others: “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” Knowing that we will be judged should keep us from judging. Paul doesn’t make this point in passing, three different times in this passage we’re reminded that we will appear personally before God’s judgment seat. Paul says “we will all” each of us will have to give an account. Now we know that this passage is not referring to believers being judged for their sins because Jesus said in John 5:24: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Paul also called us to confidence in Romans 8:1 when he said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In the past God dealt with us as sinners, in the present, He deals with us as sons and in the future, He will deal with us at the judgment seat as servants.” The truth that there is a judge and it is not me should not only free us from frustration in the family of God, but move us to help each other not hinder. My ability to judge is limited, only the Almighty knows all, not everything you hear is true so let God sort it out. A wise teacher once sent a note home to all parents on the first day of school: “If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I’ll promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home.” If God is going to judge others who He knows better and loves bigger, they why am I trying to get involved? Am I seeking His way or getting in the way? Am I condescending and critical or caring? So are you leaving the judging to Jesus? It’s time for us to stop calling the holiness hotline and reporting all the rule breakers. Look it’s not about being right but righteous.