A few years ago, I committed to blessing all people at all times. (See yesterday’s post for more about this.) The first thing I noticed was how many “non-blessing” thoughts I had about people. I wasn’t very aware of it before, but my brain often created a running commentary on the people I observed or interacted with. I always saw myself as an open-minded, non-judgmental person. But I discovered that my brain was ceaselessly popping up opinions on everything from how people drove to what they looked like to how they parented to what I thought they believed, etc… While many of these automatic sub-conscious opinions of people were not negative, few were perfectly aligned with God’s opinion of them, as expressed on Calvary.
What I’ve come to understand is that we fallen humans are addicted to judgment. It’s one of the primary ways we feed ourselves with idolatrous worth, significance and security. We get LIFE from vainly imagining we have a judge’s right to pass private verdicts on people. We get LIFE noticing that, however pathetic we may be, at least we’re not like this person or that person. As I’ve argued in my book Repenting of Religion, this is one of the primary ways we eat of the forbidden tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen. 2). Instead of trusting God for LIFE, we try to steal LIFE from the forbidden tree, pretending we are god, knowing good and evil.
What I’ve also come to understand is that every one of these judgments keeps us from doing the one thing we were created to do in relation to other humans: namely, love them the way God loves us. Judgment is the antithesis of self-sacrificial love. We simply can’t be ascribing unsurpassable worth to others when we’re ascribing idolatrous worth to ourselves by detracting worth from others. This is undoubtedly why eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is depicted as the “original sin” of the Bible, and why the New Testament is so emphatic in commanding Jesus-disciples not to judge.
Our job as Kingdom people is to simply bless people, even our worst enemies, and leave all judgment up to God. We are to embrace God’s opinion about whomever we come into contact – and this opinion was unambiguously expressed on Calvary. We are to take every thought captive to Christ, which means we’re to bring every thought we have about others into alignment with what God says about them by dying for them on Calvary. Let everything you do be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14) – including your thinking!
Unless a person invites us in on their life and asks us to discern things about them, the only thought we’re permitted to have about people is that they have unsurpassable worth, because God says so. And the first and most basic act that expresses our agreement with God is to bless people.
This doesn’t mean we don’t discern things about people that perhaps need to be discerned. I may discern that a certain person shouldn’t be trusted to babysit my grandson, for example. Or I may discern that a person is trying to sell me something that’s not a very good deal. We have to practice this kind of discernment all the time.
But I’m never permitted to let my discernments become judgments, whereby I make myself feel a little bit better about myself because of how I contrast with another. And I’m never permitted to move from negative discernments to negative conclusions about a person’s ultimate worth. For the question of a person’s worth, whoever they may be, was settled on Calvary, and my one job as a Kingdom person is to agree with God about this.
To engage in the discipline of blessing is to revolt against our fallen human addiction to judgment and the oppressive Powers that fuel it. It is an expression of Kingdom beauty revolting against diabolical ugliness. You’ll find that, as you engage in this discipline on a moment-by-moment basis, the habitual judgments you had in your mind without even knowing it get brought to your awareness.
Not only this, but you’ll find that, as you persevere in this discipline, it unleashes the Kingdom in your life. While we should engage in the discipline of blessing simply because Jesus commands it, not because of anything we get out of it, I promise you that if you engage in it diligently, you’ll certainly get something out of it! In fact, you will at times find yourself experiencing a depth of love for people, including perfect strangers – and perhaps even your enemies — that you probably have never experienced before. I have at times been unexpectedly overwhelmed by such experiences as I was driving, shopping, mowing the lawn, or engaging in other random activities.
Getting rid of judgment in your mind is like uncorking an enormous geyser. It unleashes “rivers of living water” within you (Jn 7:39). It releases a powerful flow of love for God, yourself and others that was previously suppressed by your judgment. And it unleashes joy, for there no greater joy than experiencing and participating in God’s unconditional love.