We see the faults in others that we know ourselves. When we judge others for their faults, we are judging ourselves — often more harshly than God judges us, for God knows our hearts and what causes us to do the things that we do.
Jesus teaches that we should not judge others: “Don’t criticize, and then you won’t be criticized. For others will treat you as you treat them. And why worry about a speck in the eye of a brother if you have a board in your own? Should you say, ‘Friend let me help you get that speck out of your eye’ when you can’t even see because of the board in your own? Hypocrite! First get rid of the board. Then you can see to help your brother.” (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 7:1-5)
Unlike the ancient laws of Moses that emphasized obedience to God through objective action, Jesus’ teachings emphasize obedience to God through actions ruled by the heart. Jesus teaches us to love one another, to show mercy, and to leave judgment of others to God.
“Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and talked to them. As he was speaking, the Jewish leaders and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery and placed her out in front of the staring crowd. ‘Teacher,’ they said to Jesus, ‘this woman was caught in adultery. Moses law says to kill her. What about it?’ They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, ‘All right, hurl the stones at her until she dies. But only he who never sinned may throw the first!’ Then he stooped down again and wrote some more in the dust. And the Jewish leaders slipped away one by one, beginning with the eldest, until only Jesus was left in front of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to her, ‘Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?’ ‘No, sir,’ she said. And Jesus said, ‘Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” (John 8:1-11)
We all make mistakes — sin — it’s part of our humanity. Perhaps mistakes are essential to our ability to have a more meaningful relationship with God and each other. I believe that when we pray for forgiveness for our sins and forgive others theirs, God can use our mistakes for something good. The lessons we learn from our mistakes can teach us humility and forgiveness for our own and others’ imperfections. They may be painful, but our mistakes need not define us. With God’s grace and Jesus’ help, we need not define ourselves by the sting of a bee, but rather by the honey that the bee makes.
In our humanity, we are imperfect and fallible — no matter how perfect our intentions. In our hearts, we have a divine component than allows us to heal and to love — no matter how imperfect the situation in which we find ourselves. But until we stop judging others and forgive those around us, it seems we are not free from judgment upon ourselves. Our criticisms and judgments of others are less an indictment of them than they are of ourselves.
“Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God has forgiven you because you belong to Christ.” (Ephesians 4: 32) Forgiveness and mercy are the cornerstones of Christ’s teachings. They are the cornerstones of our spiritual well-being.
For until we forgive, we have not sinned no more.