I am judgmental. In those deepest, darkest places of my soul, that do their best to remain hidden, I can chew someone up and spit them out, maybe better than most. I hate that it is a part of me, and I’ve seen the Holy Spirit’s work in that area of my life, but it still lurks – ready to seize the day if I give but a millimeter.
That intimacy with judgment makes me keenly aware of being judged by others in return. I hate that too.
The result is that I have become most cruelly judgmental of myself.
Maybe you know the feeling?
I want to feel love and acceptance. It was an especially agonizing desire in my teens and early twenties. A desire that led me astray. Away from my identity in Christ.
I gave control of my identity to my peers and family. I sought people’s praise instead of God’s. And through that I lost myself. I was comfortable in academics, but insecure in relationships, so I became a friendless good student. I was so anxious about being judged by my peers, so cautious of every move I made, that I made almost no attempt to take any relational initiative. The me God made me to be was swallowed up by the me that craved acceptance.
I was anxiously ill before and during school, church functions, and family get-togethers. I lost my capacity to function as a child of God. And I was an unfit conduit for God’s love to anyone around me.
Maybe you know that feeling too?
We are not alone in these feelings.
The Bible is full of people who worried about what others thought.
Moses was worried about being God’s mouthpiece because in the eyes of man he was no great orator. So he argued with God. (Ex. 4)
The reverse was the case for the prophet Samuel. He took on the role of judge, assuming that God would choose one of Jesse’s tall and handsome sons as the future king, not young David. God corrected Samuel’s misguided judgments. (1 Sam. 16)
Annanis and Saphira sold some property and wanted to look good to others by appearing to give all the proceeds to the church. So they lied. And then they died. (Acts 5)
Peter succumbed to pressure from the Jews and so fell back in to certain Jewish practices that Christ specifically had come to free us all from! He ‘began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision’ (Gal. 2:12) and so failed the gospel. So Paul rebuked him.
And one final example – my twin. Yep, I didn’t know I had one for quite some time, but then I found her. She was busy preparing food and keeping house during Jesus’ visit, while her sister Mary just sat there and listened to the conversation.
Martha. I cringe to admit it, but I see so much of myself in her. Martha was obsessed with duty and responsibility, probably out of an unhealthy concern for what others thought of her. This had a tremendous impact on her decision making process. I can identify, can you?
Martha’s decision to spend her time taking care of the details aroused anger inside of her towards her sister, Mary, who sat listening to Jesus. That led Martha to ask Jesus to reprimand Mary. The audacity! But she didn’t get what she wanted. Quite the opposite. Instead, Jesus reprimanded Martha for neglecting Him and His words. Ouch! Oh, and he praised Mary for her choice to be with Him (that rubs salt in the wound!).
Because Martha let her sense of duty and worry about other’s opinions be her guide, she ultimately ended up displeasing God and missing opportunities with His Son!
(See Confronting Worry Part Two for more on how worry divides our devotion to God.)
Martha gave up control to those she thought would judge her instead of to the One who already loved her.
We give control to those who judge us, and love to those who accept us.
Who is your judge? Whose acceptance do you seek? This is the one who controls you.
In reality, God alone is our judge. It’s because of Jesus Christ that we are accepted by God too! This is such good news! Because He has judged His Son as righteous, and we are in His Son, He has judged us as righteous too. Not only that, He gives us the love and acceptance He has for His beloved Son, Jesus. And living in His perfect love will cast out our worries and fears.
As I have come to let that truth settle down in my mind and heart, it has been easier to fall under God’s control rather than people’s. And it’s been a joy to experience more love between My Savior and me!
I don’t know in what way you may be living for the approval of man. But know that God’s approval is eternal and it’s yours if you have trusted Christ as your Savior! How I hope and pray that you might journey along with me and come to a place of peace and rest in our Heavenly Father!
There is an old hymn that I can’t help but think of as I write about this topic. The title is “Accepted in the Beloved.” I especially like verse two and the chorus:
In the Beloved – how safe my retreat,
In the Beloved accounted complete;
Who can condemn me? In Him I am free,
Savior and Keeper forever is He.
In the Beloved, God’s marvelous grace
Calls me to dwell in this wonderful place;
God sees my Savior and then He sees me
In the Beloved accepted and free!
Let’s live in the freedom God has so powerfully provided for us!