Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:10-12
The street that I live on is dangerous. Not dodging bullets dangerous, but dodging cars dangerous. At least once a month a car drives through an intersection right in front of me. It’s infuriating. Once a car starts to creep through the intersection, I find myself staring at the person driving. I don’t know exactly why, but I think a part of me wants to know what the person is thinking and what the person is capable of. In that instant when I stare down the offender, I’m placing a judgment on that driver. I want to label the person clueless, or oblivious, or cruel, or distracted.
“You are so much more than the worst thing you’ve ever done.”
I heard this quote on a TED talk by Bryan Stevenson and then found this article searching for it: (http://www.ted.com/talks/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html)
The quote hit me hard when I heard it the first time. I didn’t instantly think of the ones I judge. I thought of myself. So many days I sum myself up by one mistake I’ve made. If I miss a deadline, if I feel my work is in some way lacking, if I fail a friend; I often find myself destroyed for a period of time. In this moment I sum up who I am by equating my value to my last misstep.
Martin Luther has this great quote about sin. “Either sin is with you, lying on your shoulders, or it is lying on Christ, the Lamb of God. Now if it is lying on your back, you are lost; but if it is resting on Christ, you are free, and you will be saved.”
Taking care of sin is Jesus’ business. Jesus took care of sin’s power on the cross. For us to hold onto sin so that we can somehow make ourselves right is ignoring the work of our Savior.
The fact that Jesus is in the business of taking care of sin is a powerful thing to know. We can stop fighting with God over who you are. In the Word and Sacraments God tells us that we are forgiven, loved, and alive in Christ. If God tells you that you’re forgiven, that you are loved, don’t argue with Him. If God tells you that even though you’ve chooses death, you are not dead, you are instead alive in Christ – don’t tell Him that He’s wrong.
When we find ourselves in this place, I think we are so much less likely to judge others. When we look at the cross and see the crushing sin we’ve left there it makes it hard for us to sum up others by their sin. This is part of our freedom in Christ. We are free from judging others and we are free from judging ourselves.
My prayer for you is that you may live every day free from the judgment that says you are not who God says you are. You are forgiven. Live free!