When we criticize, it becomes that much more difficult to forgive.
Matthew 7:1-2 – “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.”
This command of Yeshua to not be unjustly critical of others comes in the context of avoiding hypocrisy.
Matthew 7:3 – “Why do you look at the splinter in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the beam of wood in your own eye?”
However, beyond avoiding hypocrisy, and if we are honest with ourselves, we can recognize that when we are unjustly critical of others who are close to us we diminish our ability to provide forgiveness to them.
Judgment is the opposite of forgiveness, and harboring critical judgment in our hearts toward someone else numbs our sensitivity to forgiving them if they were to come to us in repentance toward some personal injustice. Because we have pre-judged them, we already have a negative emotion that is easier to act on than a rational acceptance of their genuine repentance which can lead to our forgiveness.
This pre-disposition to unfairly judge others is so common that Yeshua felt it was necessary to issue a clear command to avoid it at all costs.
In the story of the Prodigal son, Yeshua describes how the Father’s love for the son allowed him to suspend judgment on the son’s actions because of the larger benefit and joy of having his repentant son home again. The brother’s reaction was critical because of his jealousy at the prodigal’s apparent avoidance of accountability for poor choices. But it was not the brother’s place to judge the prodigal; it was the father’s, and the father had forgiven the prodigal son. So the brother ended up being judgmental and frustrated for essentially no reason. He could not participate in the celebration of the prodigal’s return because of the unjust judgment that he retained in his heart.
And this is an unintended result of our retention of unfair judgment of others; it robs us of joy. There is nothing happy about wanting to hold judgment over others when there is no reason to do so. This insistence on retaining criticism causes frustration and ongoing hostility. Instead, we should focus on removing unfair judgment from our hearts, especially when it is not within our right to judge someone else, or as in the case of the prodigal, someone else’s son.
Paul uses this logic when speaking of the critical judgments that existed between believers in the Roman congregation:
Romans 14:4 – “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall…”
When we realize it is not up to us to judge everybody else, we can instead focus on building positive relationships and remain open to avenues of forgiveness when inadvertent wrongs are committed and repented of.
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