“The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them.” (Romans 14:3)
I have heard that the most well-known Bible verse in our culture is “Do not judge” (Mt. 7:1). It is usually quoted when someone is feeling judged by someone else. We tend to think that judgment is an inherently bad thing and so it should never happen.
But the idea that judgment is inherently bad is not true. It is judgment that keeps us between the lines as we drive down a highway. It is judgment when a doctor diagnoses an illness that is causing us to suffer. Judgment can keep us safe. Judgment can get us on a path toward healing and hope.
Part of this opposition towards judgment is rooted in our worldview. The culture tends to understand a person as being an autonomous self, so no one has the right to interfere with that autonomy by judging someone else. A Jesus-follower understands a person as a much-loved creation of God who is wholly dependent upon God. God is the one who will judge, and the purpose of his judgment is to tell us when we left the safety and security of our life-giving relationship with him.
The Good News is that Jesus has turned judgment upside down. The one person who could have rightly said, “Don’t judge me!” was silent as judgment was passed on him. Jesus was innocent of all charges against him, yet for our sake, he bore the weight of judgment for all the sin we ever have committed or ever will commit.
Now, through Jesus, instead of judgment before God, we have full, unconditional acceptance. And it is the truth that we have been completely accepted by God that now rules our hearts and minds. It is because we are already accepted by God that we look into our own hearts to see what darkness there needs to be brought into the light of God’s accepting, forgiving love. It is because we are already accepted by God that we accept our sister or brother in Christ, even though they have different ideas about how our Christian faith should be lived out. And it is because we are already accepted by God that we can see how Jesus is already at work in the lives of people who are far from God, ripening them towards faith. Sometimes he does that by allowing challenging problems to come into their lives. And then we have the opportunity to pray for them and perhaps also with them. Because we are accepted by Jesus, we can point others to Jesus, who is waiting with open arms to also accept them.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, help me to always remember that I am accepted by you. Help me to point others to you where they also will find acceptance. Amen.