“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us will give an account of himself to God. Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer…” (Romans 14:8-13a ESV)
I can remember sitting in my high school drafting class and learning how perspective changes how we view things. It was my favorite class, partially due to the teacher (an elderly coach – Pop Odom) and partly due to the subject. I am not artistic at freehand drawing, though I have several children who are, but I really enjoyed the structured drawing of mechanical and structural drafting. In fact, I enjoyed it so much that it caused me start college seeking to become an architect even though I knew I was called to be a pastor. That pursuit didn’t last long, God had other plans.
My point is, you can view an object from one perspective and completely miss critically important details or you can draw an object from a perspective that completely changes how it is perceived. So, when mechanical or structural drawings and blueprints are developed they usually include multiple views and perspectives and often include those things that would not be physically visible in those views or from those perspectives by using different shading and types of lines. For example, the drawing of an object would give the external physical dimensions and shape and may include “dash or dotted lines” to indicate that the inside of the object has been bored and threaded to be able to accept a bolt that will be screwed into it so that it can be attached to another piece.
Perspective matters, especially in how we view things and, not surprisingly, how we view other people.
In today’s focal passage, Paul wants us to have the proper view of ourselves and of others because we often have the wrong view and, thus, the wrong understanding. Remember from last week, we ended by considering the implications of Paul’s words: “For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the living and the dead.” That was His goal and God’s intended purpose, to place Jesus in THE position of absolute power and authority over both the living and the dead. Jesus is able to view life, death and to pass eternal judgment from the proper perspective because He is both man and God. He has seen life and death from all perspectives. That means Jesus is able to view life and death properly and is able to pass proper and appropriate judgment but we cannot…
That’s where we find ourselves in this week’s passage. When we have the proper view and perspective then we stop judging others and allow God to do so. Notice, Paul doesn’t ask whether we judge one another but why we judge others. If we aren’t judging them, then we may be despising them. This references back to the verse 3, “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.” (Rom. 14:3) The strong in faith were viewing their weaker brothers/sisters as “nothing” (to despise means to view as inferior or as nothing) and the weak in faith were passing judgment on the strong in faith (condemning their actions as reprehensible, as sin and, thus, worthy of rebuke and judgment).
So, I mentioned that having the proper perspective will change our view of judgment and keep us from despising others and that Jesus has the proper perspective to make such judgments correctly. But why? What needs to change in us so that our perspective is proper and removes our tendency to judge others or despise their actions? Paul actually tells us, though you may have missed it… “for we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” The view that gives us the proper perspective and keeps us from judging or despising others is the view from where we truly stand – we stand with them, ready to be judged by God. In other words, we don’t have, and never will have, a view from the Judge’s bench. We’re all in the same place, standing before God awaiting judgment.
When we judge others, we place ourselves above them, as morally superior, in order to judge their decisions or actions. We put ourselves in God’s position of judgment over them and their actions. When we despise others, we place them below us, as morally inferior, in order to look down our noses at their decisions or actions. We place them beneath us and render them as nothing, unworthy of grace and forgiveness. Both perspectives and both actions are wrong.
This is where Christ’s perspective comes into play and empowers Him. He alone has the ability to view life and death from the perspective of both God and man. Notice the power it gives Him, the power to properly judge our thoughts, our intentions and our actions. Notice the authority it gives Him, the authority to give grace, pour out mercy, to offer forgiveness and to provide redemption. Thus, it gives Him the power, the ability and the desire to do what we often fail to do and cannot do. We often fail to give grace to those standing next to us, to have mercy on those who are hurting like us and to offer forgiveness to who have hurt us, and we are unable to offer redemption and restoration to the repentant among us. But HE can and does all of that. He not only has the power, the ability and the desire… HE gives grace, has mercy, offers forgiveness and grants redemption and restoration to the repentant.
So, that leads us to look at the perspective of self-evaluation – the inward perspective. Paul says that “every knee will bow to me and every tongue confess to God. So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with many different types of people and at varying levels of skill, knowledge and competence. As a part of my “supervisory” role over them, I was responsible for performing annual reviews of their work performance. One of the methods I used in this process was to have them perform an annual self-review using the same form and criteria. What I found, most often, was that their self-evaluation often matched my own evaluation in most areas. Occasionally, they would note something I didn’t note or I might note something they didn’t note, but mostly our findings matched up with one another. In other words, they were usually as aware of their struggles, strengths, weaknesses and achievements as I was. I found that their self-evaluation made my evaluation and assessment of them easier to receive and more impactful on their work performance and goals.
In a similar way, being fully aware that we are accountable to God and will be judged by Him for how we live out our lives should have a similar impact on us, spiritually. We must be willing to self-evaluate, assessing our spiritual relationship as well as our physical and emotional obedience to God’s Word and commands to love Him and to love others. Don’t miss this, our self-assessment must be in line with God’s assessment. In other words, our review of our own spiritual maturity and obedience must be in accordance with God’s Word and in agreement with God’s assessment because His is accurate and ours is often flawed.
I mentioned above that I had my employees perform a self-evaluation prior to their annual review. I would then swap evaluation forms with them. I would read through their self-evaluation while they read through my evaluation of their performance. Most of the time, we agreed on our findings. However, I did have one employee that this didn’t work with. They would always underestimate their struggles and overestimate their successes. They could not see their failures or limitations and always ranked themselves as “superior” or “exceeds expectations” on all aspects of their job performance.
Do you ever do the same with God? Do you see yourself as “exceeds expectations” on all aspects of God’s evaluation form? If so, you’re more likely to “judge others” when you place yourself above them or “despise others” when you consider them below you and spiritually weaker because you’ve been unwilling to see yourself the way God sees you, and me – as a wretched sinner in need of His grace, mercy and forgiveness.
What’s the best approach? To glance around you and within you to see and recognize the mess you’ve made, of yourself and of your relationships. Really, just to take an honest assessment of yourself. To see yourself with the perspective of God’s holiness, goodness, glory and love. We don’t often recognize how dirty we really are until we see ourselves in comparison to Him and His holiness. To recognize that He, and He alone, has the right and ability to sit in judgment because of His unique perspective as the Son of Man – the eternal and perfect God in human flesh. Generally speaking, I believe that an honest self-assessment will cause you to kneel before Him and confess to Him your sinfulness and your need of His redemption and saving grace.
However, some never see it. Some never honestly self-evaluate and truly assess themselves in light of God’s standard – Jesus. They continuously compare themselves to those standing around them with results like “I’m as good as he/she is” or “I’m better than they are” assessments. Therein lies the problem, they aren’t the standard… Jesus IS!
So, that brings me to this last statement – “each of us will give an account of himself to God” using God’s established standard – not ours. Each of us will sit down with the boss and go over the books. We’ll look at each page. Evaluate line by line. Nothing will be hidden, everything will be made known. No hidden agendas and no coverup, collusion or conspiracy at work, here. The question at hand will be, “did you love Me with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength and did you love others in the same way you loved yourself? The honest answer will always be, “not as much as I should have or could have.” The next question will be, “did you bow to Jesus as Lord and confess to God your sin and your faith in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection?”
My advice, don’t wait until the “boss” calls you in to go over His evaluation of your life. Start that honest self-evaluation, now. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.” (James 4:7-10 ESV)