Jesus said, “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” -Matthew 7:1-3
The season of COVID, Pandemictide, Quarantime, whatever we finally decide to call it: something about these past two months seems to be bringing out the worst in humanity. It started early on, when we first learned about “a novel coronavirus” originating in Wuhan, China, that anti-Chinese bigotry went on the rise. Then, as the weeks passed and the virus spread, people started to say that only the very old or the already sick were being seriously ill, as if those lives were worth less than the healthy. These are not the only examples; lately, I have noticed that a great deal of the worst seems focused around wearing or not wearing masks. From people declaring that wearing a mask is a sign of true Christians to people declaring that Christians who trust God have no need of masks, it is easy to find extremes.
Once we find those extremes, it is equally easy to slide into judgment of people who have chosen other extremes. How dare those people gather together with a large group? How dare those people refuse the invitation to go out for lunch at a reopened restaurant? How dare that store require masks? How dare that store not? How dare this state order businesses open? How dare that state order businesses closed?
It is an easy and quick path down the road of judgment. We can very quickly slide right down into the mire of blame and fault-finding. Once we get stuck in the swamp of judgment, it is hard to get back out again. In fact, the only way out of judgment is understanding.
Judgment is much easier than understanding. Understanding takes time, curiosity, and emotional effort. Judgment takes no effort at all.
With the ease of judgment comes a whole lot of side effects. It divides us from the people we judge. It starts with us feeling self-righteous and ends with us feeling as miserable as we think the people we’re judging should feel.
Judging others also tends to lead us to ignore our own faults. Judgment gets us so busy looking for the speck in our neighbor’s eye that we neglect the log in our own. Dear ones, this is no way for us to live. Bogged down in muck and mire of judgment—that’s not what you want, is it? It is certainly not what Jesus wants for you.
With compassion and curiosity, along with some courageous trust in God, we can move away from judgment to understanding. We may still not agree with one another—but that isn’t what God is asking us to do. Jesus is commanding us not to judge. When we let go of judging and embrace understanding, we also build connection with one another. When we show compassion to others, we more readily accept compassion for ourselves. Compassion is surely one thing we all need more of these days.
I don’t want us to remember how these days brought out the worst in us and we settled for it. I want us to remember that when we saw our own judgmental attitude, we resisted it. I want us to be daring in understanding. I want us to be bold in seeing the best in those with whom we disagree. I want us to bring out not the worst, but the best in ourselves, which is simply to say: I want us to bring out Jesus Christ who lives in us.
God, help me to leave judgment to you and keep compassion for my responsibility. Take away my fault-finding urges and give me the courage to seek understanding. Let me act toward others as Jesus would. Amen.