Friday, August 26, 2005

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


At August 28, 2005 11:33 AM, Blogger Tom said...

Thanks for your comments the other day. Reading this entry there is much I do like aobut it and really cna understnad. yet some of it I am not. But It is alot to mull over for a few days and look at it. Good stuff all in all. Glad to see somoene connecting mental health and faith together, those are hard to find these days.

At August 28, 2005 8:23 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Tom, Thanks for your comment. I would be extremely interested to hear your comments once you've had a chance to mull it over. I love a different perspective, and there's always more to know about every verse in the Bible. Please feel free to share openly. Thanks, Sue

At August 29, 2005 10:43 AM, Blogger Nin said...

Wow, great post! Judging others has been a struggle of mine for quite some time, I find it hard to correct without judging. I like what you said, "mind your OWN business, that's enough work for anyone!" And it is isn't it? But we always want to stick out noses in others lives. Pride, like I know better than them.....
I learned allot from your post, like how the correct definition of judge is to do a complete thourough investigation, and how God is the only one who is even capable of doing that. Thats so simple but never thought of it that way before. I always thought, well, I can see just as much, I see what they're doing and how they're acting and how they're lying.....if that's not seeing their heart what is? But thank God He sees our hearts differently than we do, otherwise we'd all be dead! Blessings!!

At August 29, 2005 10:54 AM, Blogger Sue said...

Nin, your comment blesses me more than you know. I feel like God has give me a responsibility to talk to people and share what He's showing me, but I only know for sure if I'm really sharing His heart if it changes the way people think to be more in alignment with the way He thinks. Thank you so much for your encouragement. God bless! Sue

At August 29, 2005 11:24 PM, Blogger Tanya said...

Thankyou for writing about what has really been on my mind the past year! I must admit that I haven't read much of your blog, why, I don't know. Today I was lead to it for some reason and saw the title of your post. I have been really trying to not judge others this past year, because I am not the true Judge, God is. What I think doesn't matter one bit in the end. No one will have to answer to me! So why should I judge them? I need to love the person, not their sin. I need to accept the person, not their actions. I need to pray for the person, for God to speak to their heart, to heal them. Example: My husband has an uncle who is in a homosexual relationship and professes to be a christian, which I think he is. Born and raised in a christian home, but has always been "different". I don't agree with his lifestyle, but that doesn't mean that I don't love him and accept him as a human being - God's own creation! No, all I can do for him is pray that some day, he will be able to be free from his homosexuality. Thank you so much, I will continue to check you out on a regular basis.

At August 29, 2005 11:49 PM, Blogger Tanya said...

Hey Sue,
Just wanted to say thanks for putting me on your "Blogs I read" list. Its nice to know that someones interested in my life, even if its not always about my walk with God. It really means alot to me.

At August 30, 2005 8:38 PM, Blogger Sue said...

Tanya, thanks so much for your heart. Your husband's uncle is exactly the situation that applies to this post. We are to love people, especially our Christian brothers and sisters, and once we've been obedient to Matthew 18, just let the Holy Spirit do His work. Having said that, I'm not sure it's the responsibility of women, in general, to confront men. I think men should confront men, and women should confront women. So, if you subscribe to my impression of Scripture in that area, your responsibility as a child of God is to love him like crazy, be Jesus to him, and keep praying that the Holy Spirit in him will reveal to him His will. Thanks for your encouraging words, and God bless.

At December 05, 2008 1:15 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i don't understand how one can correct or rebuke a behavior without making a judgement that a behavior is sinful. ?? please help...

At December 05, 2008 7:35 AM, Blogger Sue said...

Hi Anon,

The difference is that 'judging,' in this context means to condemn, or to treat them or conduct yourself as if they should be condemned. It usually manifests as a bad attitude, harsh criticism, or anger. The 'judging' you're talking about is more perceiving and being able to discern good from evil. Scripture says "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart." We are called to use the Word of God to help us divide between good and evil, and then bring that sword to the attention of our brothers and sisters so get them back in alignment, but we are to leave the condemnation to God's perfect justice and judgment. Our hearts are to seek to help them change through our love, not our condemning spirits. Let me know if that doesn't clear it up.

At March 17, 2009 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for sharing this information.

At March 07, 2012 11:05 PM, Blogger anonymousch said...

If only you lived by those words, Sue. But your problem is that you treat depressed people as those that are immature and that their depression is likely caused due to sin in their lives -- as if people who don't suffer from depression are somehow less of a sinner (because they don't show the sin on their face by being depressed). This is how the church has been trained to think. "Beware of that depressed person. He probably has some sin issues."

How harsh of a judgment that is. Certainly, won't you be judged harshly because you promote the treatment of depressed people in your church as second-class citizens worthy of being suspect and not worthy of achieving your higher level within the church? You need to really check what you've been saying all along and come out of the denial.

Sin has nothing to do with depression, period.

When you finally admit that and trumpet it throughout this blog and remove every trace of anything short of fully endorsing that idea, I will leave you alone. Until then, I will be here forever to destroy your blog, which promotes looking at depressed people as being suspect.


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