It’s funny how we can often go through our lives finding a certain meaning in something, only to find out that it means something else.
For example, I grew up listening to Smashmouth’s “All Star” and it was only recently that I found out the actual lyrics to the song. For years I thought it said, “Only shooting stars make the mo’.” I had no idea that the lyrics were actually, “Only shooting stars break the mold.”
Scripture can be misheard or misinterpreted as well, perhaps even more so than song lyrics. In fact, I feel as if today’s scripture is one of the most misunderstood of all times, and I am also at fault in its misinterpretation.
In short, I felt this verse always meant, “Don’t judge others,” ie. don’t label someone as stupid, mean-spirited, etc. I think I derived this meaning of the verse from the context in which I most often heard it. My mother, or some other adult in authority, would quote this verse to my friends and I (as teenagers) when we were speaking negatively of another person. In this context, it is understandable how I arrived at my interpretation. However, this week God has taken its meaning a step further.
One evening as I scrolled through my Facebook feed, I came across a post from a friend of mine. This friend was going through a rough time; she was being mistreated by someone who she had trusted. Immediately, I felt the need to write a word of encouragement to this friend, for I could relate to her situation and I think of her as a good person. So, I left my comment and continued scrolling.
Soon, I saw a post from another friend. This friend was desperate for help, but because of previous dealings with her, I couldn’t help but read her post with suspicion. Though many of her friends had left comments of encouragement, I didn’t.
But then the Lord began working on my heart. He whispered the verse referenced above, and I was confused.
“But I’m not judging her,” I said. “I think she’s a decent person. I just don’t believe what she’s saying.”
Again, that still, small voice repeated the scripture, but this time he added, “You are judging. You passed the judgement that she was not worthy of your encouragement, but you’re other friend was. Who are you to do that?”
Then, it hit me: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:2).
Judging others isn’t limited to their character. It isn’t just abstaining from labels. Judgment includes our own actions, whether we choose to extend grace or to keep it for ourselves.