Who can say that they care very little if they are judged by others? Who doesn’t self critique their interactions and judge themselves? The apostle Paul says that he cares very little if he is judged, and does not even judge himself (1 Corinthians 4:3).
Isn’t that shocking? I judge myself and others all the time, and I have never been more aware of my fear of being judged by others. I care far too much about what others think of me, and I hate when I feel like I’ve let someone down or done something wrong. My flesh judges and fears judgement so much that the idea of caring little if I am judged by others can feel impractical and impossible.
There is good news, though. Paul doesn’t write that verse outside of a context and without further explanation. He is writing a letter to the church in Corinth, and they were making a lot of judgements based on worldly standards that were not aligned with the Scriptures.
After Paul explains that we are not fit to be judges, and that it is the Lord who judges and exposes the motives of men’s hearts, he writes in verses 6-7:
“Do not go beyond what is written. Then you will not not take pride in one man over against another. For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?”
There are two things from those verses that stand out, and help to make sense of Paul’s stance of not judging or fearing judgment.
First, we have to understand that we generally judge based on our own standards, not on Christ’s standards.
The Corinthians were judging others unjustly by going beyond what is written. They were arrogant and puffed up by their own accomplishments. Their desperate need for grace and forgiveness was forgotten.
It is easy to mix cultural standards into our own version of right and wrong, and to add rules to the Church that displease Christ and go beyond what He has instructed. We cannot trust our own ability to judge fairly. We constantly have to admit our fallen and limited understanding and fall back on grace. It is only through the grace of God that we could ever discern as Christ discerns.
I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can recognize that most of our judgements are not aligned with the teachings of scripture. Even our self-inflicted judgements often come from not believing fully in the grace, love, and safety we have in Christ.
Secondly, Paul makes the important point that everything about you and everything you have is from Jesus, the giver of life and all things good.
A lot of Christians know this, but forget it and fail to live like it is true. But if we really believe that everything good about ourselves and everything good we do is a result of God’s grace, then where is there room for judgement? As the receiver and not the giver, there simply is no room for us to be the judge.
The reality that everything has been given to us through Christ has so many implications for the life of a Christian. I need to actively remember that truth everyday, because we live in a culture that tells us repeatedly that we are who we make ourselves to be. Through the media, conversations, and cultural norms, I am being fed that I am my accomplishments and that I earn my worth. We are more surrounded by lies than the truth. The fight is not easy, but Christ is more than enough.
Trusting in Christ’s grace is the first step in moving away from judgement of self and others. God wants us to accept grace. He wants you to know that he is fond of you at your worst and ugliest moments. There is no more room for judgement. Christ has taken it all upon himself. We get to walk free.
The Lord keeps showing me these truths, because he wants me to walk freely, unafraid of judgement. I cannot trust that others will judge me justly and show me grace, but I can trust that I have all the grace I need in Christ.