“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things” (Romans 2:1-2).
In the first three chapters of Romans, Paul makes his case that “all have fallen short of the glory of God” by pointing out that both the Gentile, the Jew, and even the moral person are all sinful. What is terrifying here, however, is Paul’s change from the third person pronoun to the second person pronoun. The issue is no longer that “they” are without excuse, that even though “they” knew God “they” did not honor Him, or that “they” exchanged the truth of God for a lie; Paul makes sure of that. The issue is now directed personally towards “you.”
Being a keen and observant person, it is verses like these that scare me the most. A lot of times, simply by being attentive, I see others openly committing sin or catch them secretly committing sin, I discern unloving attitudes from the way people speak and act, and I can sense when other people know they’re guilty even while they’re justifying themselves.
But what about me? “For you who judge practice the same things.”
Whether we are willing to admit it or not, we all are sinful and we all judge and condemn people in our minds for doing things we think or know are wrong. But what is our standard for judging people most of the time? Is it not ourselves? Since I appreciate cleanliness, I condemn my roommate for being a slob. If I value the environment, I judge that inconsiderate, thoughtless person for littering. If I obey the speed limit, I rant and rave about the speeder that blows past me on the highway. If I have a “you text, you drive, you die” sticker on my bumper, I immediately get consumed in road rage when I spot a person texting and driving. But the truth is that we “know” that the judgment of God rightly falls upon us-”those who practice such things”-because God judges according to a different standard. He judges according to His standard of righteousness which is (you guessed it) perfection. And since not one of us is Jesus Christ, no one is perfect; We are all deserving of God’s judgment.
So whenever I find myself being condemning or critical of others, what should I do? Albeit, there is a time and a place to lovingly correct a Christian brother, with a spirit of gentleness nonetheless, but also with “each one looking to yourself” first. A safe place to start is with self-examination. Once you have come to terms with the reality of your own sinfulness and shortcomings, then you will be more likely to reprove another with gentleness in a spirit of grace. In the meantime, we can all be thankful that God’s judgment is tempered with mercy, grace, and longsuffering, and seek to view and judge others in the same light.
By Cameron Penrose, CCBS student