I hadn’t planned to write any more about Paul’s teachings on the topic of self-judgement. I only found three passages on that topic, after all; what more was there to say? But after I received a request from a reader to keep studying that topic, I prayed about it and these verses came to mind:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.Mark 12:31; Leviticus 19:18, WEB
Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you.Luke 6:31, NET
At first glance, these principles don’t seem to have much to do with judgement. But then I remembered my study about what “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” teaches us about the positive aspects of self-love. Perhaps something similar is going on with the idea of judgement. Paul only talks about judging ourselves a few times, but he spends quite a bit of time discussing how we are (and are not) to judge other people. It would make sense that if you’re going to judge others in certain situations that you should be judging yourself similarly, and we’ll see from looking at Jesus’s words in the gospels that this is the case. We can take what we learn from Jesus’s instructions to treat others how we want to be treated and apply it to this topic of self-judgement.
How You Love Yourself
It’s been four years since I posted a study on the idea of how you love yourself, so let’s do a quick review. When Jesus says to love your neighbor as you love yourself, it implies that we know how to love ourselves. Many of us feel guilty about the idea of loving ourselves since it sounds selfish, but it’s not when we love in the correct way. As I wrote four years ago,
Real love never stops with yourself. If you’re the only object of your love and you always put yourself first, then you have a problem. That’s what it means to be selfish and self-centered. But avoiding selfishness doesn’t mean you refuse to take care of yourself. We’re to offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, not abuse ourselves. If you never meet your own needs or do those loving things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13 for yourself, then you’re going to burn-out. And God loves you way too much to want that.“As You Love Yourself”
Jesus tells us to agape others the same way we do ourselves. Agape is the word most often used of God’s love for people. It’s unconditional, benevolent, and always seeks good things for the person being loved. The better we understand how God loves us, the better we’ll treat ourselves, and the better we’ll understand how to love others properly. Having the right kind of love for ourselves helps us know how to love other people the way God loves both them and us. And because love is foundational to the types of relationships God has with us and which He wants us to have with other people, understanding love helps us understand all the other interpersonal topics we can study in the Bible, including judgement.
How You’ll Be Judged
In relation to judgement, Jesus gives us a similar principle to “Treat others in the same way that you would want them to treat you” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” Here’s what He says on the topic during the sermon on the mount:
Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with whatever judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with whatever measure you measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but don’t consider the beam that is in your own eye? Or how will you tell your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ and behold, the beam is in your own eye? You hypocrite! First remove the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:1-5, WEB
Judging others properly must first start with judging ourselves. Judgement, particularly of others, should be done cautiously, always keeping in mind that we’ll receive the same type of judgement that we show other people. It’s so important that we judge correctly that before telling us how to judge, Jesus warns it’s probably better not to judge at all. Especially for us human beings, who don’t have the perfect perspective needed to understand other people’s motivations and actions, it’s better to error on the side of mercy than judgement. As James says, “judgment is without mercy to him who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” (2:13, WEB).
Jesus’s words here in the sermon on the mount show that the way we judge others is directly related to how we’ll be judged by God. It is also related to how we judge ourselves. We have a big problem if we’re eager to judge others but never turn that examining, critical perspective on ourselves.
Paul on Judgement Within The Church
Echoing Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount, Paul also counsels his readers to examine themselves and consider the things which they might need to remove from their lives. As Jesus did, Paul directly relates this idea to the topic of how God will judge us.
But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world.1 CORINTHIANS 11:31-32, NET
As I mentioned when we looked at this verse a couple weeks ago, “examined” is translated from diakrino. In this verse it could be translated “if we took a proper view” or “formed a just estimate of ourselves” (Zodhiates’s dictionary entry G1253). It involves the idea of separating, making distinctions, and judging thoroughly. Paul encourages a type of self-judgment that involves seeing ourselves accurately rather than seeking to condemn anyone. When used properly, this type of judgement works alongside God’s accurate judgement of us to help make us more and more like Him.
Interestingly, Paul makes this point in the same letter where he most directly addresses the topic of judging other people. In 1 Corinthians, one of his reasons for writing the congregation is to tell them they need to deal with a sin-problem in their group. One of the men in the church was sleeping with his father’s wife. The church tolerated this sin and even became arrogant about how they handled the problem. In no uncertain terms, Paul told this church group they needed to put that person out of the congregation because we have a responsibility to judge those within the church (1 Cor. 5). God is in charge of ultimate judgement, but because we have His holy spirit there are certain discernment-based judgements we can make, such as not allowing an unrepentant sinner to continue fellowshipping with the group. The key there is “unrepentant”–those who acknowledge their sin, repent, and turn back to God should be shown mercy immediately and welcomed back with love (2 Cor. 2).
Judge Yourself First
So how does all this relate to self-judgement? The first thing that comes to my mind is that since there are certain things Paul says we can judge others for, then we need to make sure we’re judging ourselves on those things first. As Jesus said, we can’t see clearly enough to help another person with their problems when we’re blinded by our own flaws and faults. In keeping with this, Paul has some scathing things to say about people who judge others without examining themselves.
Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else. For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment is in accordance with truth against those who practice such things. And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?Romans 2:1-4, NET
We need to keep in mind that God is judging us today and He’ll pass judgement on our lives at the end (1 Pet. 4:17). That knowledge should remind us to examine ourselves carefully and be cautious when judging others. As in other areas of our lives, we need to balance love and truth, justice and mercy the same way that God does. We need to pray for an accurate view of ourselves in the light of God’s truth, yet also show ourselves mercy once we’ve repented and started to change (much as Paul did by not judging himself). Self-examination and self-discernment are important tools God gives us to help keep ourselves rightly aligned as we live in relationship with Him.
Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock
Song Recommendation: “Love You With The Truth” by Casting Crowns