John 8:12–20, Pass No Judgment

Verse 15a: (Jesus said) “You judge by worldly standards, I pass judgment on no man.”

This scripture is Jesus’ statement of his practice of the injunction, “Judge not and be ye not judged.” Most of us who grew up in the church can easily quote this verse. We usually remember it when we remind someone else not to judge. We often fail to apply it to our selves.

We tend to be attached to our judgments and feel entitled to evaluate another’s actions and heart. We can be particularly vicious when we feel wronged by the other. After all, we feel as if we are right and they are wrong. We do not feel safe as a result of the other’s separate, different behavior. Judgment is our (errant) self-defense attack.

In the referenced scripture passage from John, the Pharisees are questioning the validity of Jesus declaring, “I am the light of the world.” They respond, “You are witness in our own cause; your testimony is not valid.” [Verse 14] Jesus is speaking from his experience and knowing. He is stating his truth. The Pharisees do not accept his experience as valid. They do not dialogue with him or attempt to stay in relationship to understand what he means.

We have all had experiences where what we shared of our self was met with another person’s disavowal. They may have told us that our feelings, thoughts, and experiences were wrong, not true, or even sinful. They might have veiled their judgment in negative adjectives that made us feel bad about our selves. We might have responded in kind or been the initiator in such an exchange. Jesus shows us another way.

Jesus met the skeptical Pharisees without passing judgment on them. He did not lash out at the Pharisees, turn on them, or pass judgment on them. He restated his truth in different words. He did not argue or try to get the Pharisees to agree with him. He stood with his embodied knowing. He practiced discernment instead of judgment.

Judgment carries a dualistic charge of right or wrong, good or bad, acceptable or unacceptable. It invites and even cultivates guilt and shame. It wants to get another to conform to its assessment. It is subtly manipulative. It pushes the other away when the other is different than we want or expect.

Discernment is a non-partial assessment of what is. It clarifies the energies at work in any given moment. It identifies the nuances of a situation. It sees potential outcomes. It has a quality of equanimity and self-respect that does not evoke guilt or shame. It invites a mutually shared space where two people with separate experiences (feelings, thoughts, responses) can meet in a relational way.

We need discernment, not judgment. All of our relations, outer and inner world, need space where two different perspectives can meet. Dialogue can occur in a shared space of respect for and openness to that which is different or “not me.”

Jesus stood with himself in the presence of those who were unlike him. He stayed focused on his inner knowing or felt experience. He did not respond to judgment with judgment. May we follow his example in the presence of that which feels alien or “not me” in both our inner and outer lives.

Inner Reflection
Where, when, and whom have you judged in the last twenty-four hours? Week? Month? What fears were behind the judgment? How can you support yourself to know the truth of your psyche/soul regardless of how others respond? Ask God Within to help you feel the strength of your soul and to live it in all your relations.

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