Judging others - a mental health perspective
Matthew 7:1-5 "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye? "You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.
Do not judge me. Only God can judge me. We all know this is true, but exactly what does it mean, and how does it apply to mental health?
In the Greek, the word "judge" means to condemn or acquit someone after a thorough investigation. It means to make an informed decision about the guilt or innocence of someone, and have the authority to carry that decision out.
But if I'm watching someone being sinful before my very eyes, you're telling me I can't judge them based on what I see? Absolutely. That's exactly what that is saying.
But how does that make sense? Because the definition of "judge" says very specifically that it first and foremost requires a careful, indepth investigation. Man looks at the outside, God looks at the heart. Yes, God is very concerned about what you do and how you conduct your life. We are made for good works (Eph 2:10), and He expects us to be obedient to His commandments. The thorough investigation, though, requires the inclusion of the heart.
1 Tim 1:12-16 I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
I would have had Paul put to death. Not only did he arrest and jail Christians, but he threatened them and had them executed if they did not renounce their faith in Christ. He was the most despicable person on the face of the earth from God's eyes - or maybe from my eyes... He was affecting people's eternal security. It doesn't get any worse than that.
But God had different plans for him. Man looks on the outside, God looks at the heart. He knew that Paul would be His, but for some reason I will never understand, He needed to allow him to persecute Christians before He called him. Man's ways are not God's ways. We cannot judge others because we can't ever do the investigation into the heart that would be required for us to come to a fully informed understanding of the circumstances and the final decision. That's God's job.
Ok, given. But so what? What does that have to do with mental health?
Your mental health has to do with you. You may be a victim of some horrible circumstance, but your current state of mental health has to do with how you've processed what happened to you, where you are in the process of your recovery, and how you have reacted to it, both as it was going on and now. Your offender has no more power over you. It's now up to you. Focus.
Or you may be suffering from some anxiety, loss, serious mental illness, whatever. In each of those cases, you need to be deeply in the Word of God and working with the medical community. The more you focus on others and what they're doing, the more distracted you are from the work you need to be doing. Mind your own business. That's enough work for anyone.
When you're judging other people, you have your eyes in the wrong place. If you see yourself judging others, then let that be a flag to you that you're playing "Holy Spirit," and you're distracted. There are no openings in the Trinity. All the positions are filled. Your job now is to be totally and utterly absorbed in your own devotion to, worship of, and obedience to God. Your mental health depends on it.
You're your own person. You're an individual. If you're judging, that means you're caught up in comparing. You against them. Your behavior as opposed to their behavior. God doesn't compare. God is not a respecter of persons. God will judge you based on what you do and whether or not you were obedient to Him. He will not judge you as compared to others. You will be judged based on the measure with which you judge others (Matt 7:1 and James 5:9). God is telling us over and over to focus on ourselves and our relationship to Him. As you learn how to be obedient to Him and his commandments, then you're mental health will continue to improve. You'll get closer and closer to Him, and your focus will be farther and farther from yourself and serving others rather than judging them.
And how do you feel when you're judging others? Sometimes angry? Sometimes disgusted? Sometimes anxious? How do any of those emotions help you and your mental health? Can your judgment of them help them? Can it help you? Do you feel closer to, or farther away from God when you're in active judgement against a brother?
Don't let their behavior rob you of your God-given joy. Let God do His work in them. They will answer to Him, and only to Him.
So what DO we do when we see a brother or sister actively, willingly sinning? Ignore it? No - not at all.
Paul told Timothy that we are to correct and rebuke others, but he didn't say anything about judging them. There's a huge difference. You recognize that their sin is harmful to God and harmful to them. You grieve for them. You should love them now more than ever. You confront them individually in love, then with one or two others if necessary, and then through the church (Matthew 18:15-17) if they won't listen and repent. Nowhere does Paul give you license to judge them. The church may even have to eject them from fellowship and "turn them over to Satan," as Paul says (1 Cor 5, 1 Tim 1), but even this is an act of love. You're still not judging them. You're simply being obedient to God and dealing with them in the way that He says will restore them to a full relationship with Him as quickly as possible (2 Cor 2). That's ALWAYS the goal. Restoration with God. Not condemnation. Not judgment. Not rejection of the person, but rejection of the behavior.
If you follow the Matthew 18 plan, you're detached. You're objective. It's not about you, so other than sadness at the lost brother or sister, there's no room for anger, anxiety, depression or any of the like. Your priority should be God and His plan. Learn of Him, get to know Him, learn obedience to Him. Let Him be your counselor, and get your focus off of others. You don't know their story, and you don't know their heart. Only God can know that. Only God can judge them.
Other chapters that deal with judging that you might find helpful. Each covers a slightly different aspect of judging, so all are edifying: Romans 2, Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 4, 5, and 6, James 4 and 5.
May the Peace of Christ which surpasses all understanding flood your heart.
God Bless, Sue