It is so easy to be judgmental of others (though we can make it look OK and call it "discernment" or simply "noting an area in another to pray for"). We can look at how someone acts, responds, reacts, lives, the choices they make, etc. (whether in life, in church, or wherever), and make our judgments and assessments. At times I'll see such snobbery in Christians as they look at someone "less polished" and "less proper" and maybe "not as refined" and I may have some real (but confidential) insight into the judged person's life and want to say, "If you knew how far they've come from where they started you'd realize that they've probably grown a lot more as a Christian than YOU have!" . . . but, then I'm starting to judge and let roots grow in me that aren't Godly, either.There is absolutely a Biblical place and call for discernment, etc. I am not writing against Godly, Spirit-led insight or leading. There is also a Biblical call to live holy and consequences for poor choices. But, what I am talking about is judging someone for how they react or respond to things, having never been in their shoes. (Again, some things are just plain wrong. I am not talking about calling them OK just because of someone's past. I am talking about our heart toward the person.)
Recently I had an experience that really rattled me and in gave me an insight I never would have had without it. I was at a function and someone asked me how I was feeling. I was a little confused because, as far as I knew, I was feeling fine and had been. When I expressed my confusing the person insisted they'd called me the day before and I said I was fighting a bad cold. I thought they were joking at first, but they were dead serious that they had called and talked to me in person and that I said I was really sick.
After I realized they were serious I got this sickening pit in my stomach. There were, it seemed, only two possibilities. Either I had absolutely zero recollection of something the day before—something in which I hadn't even spoken truth . . . or this person had really a major problem and they are a wonderful friend and I didn't know what I would tell the person's wife. The thought that I might have done and said something the day before that I didn't have the slightest remembrance of was really, really scary.
Suddenly I believe the Holy Spirit gave me a nudge and I thought to ask if he'd called from his cell phone. He had and we went back through his calls and he'd called a friend with the same first name when he'd seen it pop up in his cell phone directory. The friends voice was so bad he couldn't tell it wasn't me. The problem was solved . . . but I gained an insight into how people must feel who realize they don't remember things they've said and done, and I will, hopefully, never talk or work with or judge those people the same way again.
Another time we had a medical crisis and no health care and I needed to apply for help to get a family member some treatment. The process of sitting in front of some twenty year old and having to tell her almost every detail of our personal life as she nonchalantly entered it in to some computer which would spit out a decision on whether or not we could get help was so humiliating I left there filled with anger. Mary Ann suggested to me that God could use this and I realized she was right and we prayed and it completely changed how I'll counsel someone in the same situation. I used to be matter of fact telling about aid that is available, and now I do so with great compassion, knowing what the person has ahead and how hard it is to hold your dignity through it.
The wonderful thing is, on the other side, if we are the one judged by people who have no sense of what it is like to be in our shoes, is that Jesus understands it all and we don't have to spend hours trying to "catch Him up" on what we've been through—He's been through it all with us, and He's tasted it Himself. Hebrews tells us, in Hebrews 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." In John 4:6 it records, "Jacob's well was there; so Jesus, wearied as he was from his journey, was sitting beside the well. It was about the sixth hour." and, in Luke 19:41 it says of Jesus, "And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it."
Tempted. Weary. Weeping. He understands. He is your best friend if you've put your life in His hands. He understands you when nobody else does. He's been there. This doesn't mean that no matter what you choose to do He's OK with it. But it does mean that He knows your fears, your pain, your past, and He loves you and is prepared to stand with you and beside you into the future even when nobody else believes in you or is ready to go the mile with you. What a beautiful truth!