Getting a correct understanding of how God judges you is essential to progressing in your relationship with Him. There are several key principles to understand here, and all of them have wonderful implications. I’ll cover them in separate posts, just to keep things at a reasonable length, but you can find them all using the tag Divine judgment.
How Humans Judge You
God is so much easier to succeed with than human beings. Anyone who thinks He isn’t doesn’t understand how He judges. Correct teaching on Divine judgment is very hard to come by, so it’s not surprising that there is such a widespread stereotype of God being an angry old man who is gripping onto a lightning bolt that He just can’t wait to nail someone with. To learn why this is image is so wrong, let’s compare the way humans judge to the way God judges.
Humans are extremely limited beings. What they can’t do far outweighs what they can do. One of the things they can’t do is hear your thoughts, feel your emotions, or see what your true motivations are. This lack of information puts humans at a real disadvantage when they are trying to assess each other. Because deception is a necessary element in human relationships, humans quickly come to the conclusion that talk is cheap. What you say could just be a bunch of bull, so humans put a lot more weight on what you do.
Actions are what count with humans. Sure you say you love your wife, but when’s the last time you brought her flowers or kissed her or spent time giving her your focused attention? Sure you say you’ve got the skills to do a job, but no one really believes you until they see evidence of your work. In and outside of religious communities, it’s what you do that determines how people judge and respond to you.
This action based judgment system results in endless misery and misunderstandings. We’ve all heard nasty words fly out of our mouths that we know we didn’t want to say, but they just happened. We’ve all found ourselves sorely lacking the willpower and/or courage to act on our true intentions. A man’s soul really does want to be free of his alcoholism, but his mind and body just won’t cooperate. A woman really does want to be patient with her kids, but in the throes of shifting hormones, her dark moods keep turning her into a screaming jerk. A man hates himself for beating his kids, but when rage comes over him, he loses all control. A woman hates the way she runs from all potential friendships, but the idea of intimacy is just too terrifying.
Humans are very complex creatures who have three main elements to their beings: mind, soul, and body. Each element has its own preferences and agendas, which results in endless clashing. By now you’ve experienced many times in life where you wanted different things at the same time. When your friend who can’t cook surprises you with a special birthday meal, part of you wants to tell her she is a lousy cook and insist that you go to a restaurant instead. That part of you is your mind–a fascinating element in your being that helps you in endless ways, yet it doesn’t give a hoot about morality. Your body doesn’t care about morality, either, it just wants to feel good and be safe. It’s not going to feel good trying to gag down your friend’s foul casserole, so your body immediately sides with your mind in wanting to blast your friend with some blunt truths. But then there is your soul–the only element of your being that cares about morals and pleasing God. Your soul wants you to smile politely and hide your true feelings about the food so that your friend won’t be crushed. Your soul recognizes that she’s gone to great effort to try to please you and your soul feels it would be mean to wound her for it.
Conflicts like one I just described happen all the time for humans, and it’s usually a case of two against one with your mind and body pushing in one direction and your soul pushing in another. When your mind and body win these conflicts–which they often do–you end up acting like a less than fabulous version of yourself. When your soul wins, you act like someone you can respect. But here’s a critical point: even when your soul doesn’t get to control the outcome, it still forms an opinion about what you ought to do.
Humans don’t credit you for what your soul wants. They stand on the outside of you and judge you solely by your actions. If you are nasty to your friend, then it proves you’re a jerk. It doesn’t matter that inside, your soul really wanted you to be classy and gracious.
Because religious communities are run by humans, this same judgment system is applied only suddenly everyone isn’t just judging you about the way you are with other humans, they’re also judging the way you are with God. If you really care about God, let’s see you go to church three times a week and drop large donations in the offering plate and sign up to serve in various ministries. Don’t just be a “pew warmer” and expect us to believe you’re serious about pleasing your Creator. If you really cared about God, you’d never sin, you’d never doubt, and you’d never even experience a desire to do bad things. But you obviously don’t care, because standing on the outside of you, we can see you behaving in many ways that are less than righteous. Obviously you’re not serious about God, which means He’s mad at you, and therefore you’re going to land in some horrible situation in eternity.
Most humans are impossible to stay in a good place with because of the way they judge you. It’s all about how you actually behaved and never about how you wanted to behave. No one cares about who you wish you could be–they’re just endlessly criticizing who you currently are. Then they try to tell you that God judges you the same way they do. Thank goodness He doesn’t.
How God Judges You
God judges you using a radically different system than humans use. God is the One who created the three elements of your being and He knows all about their constant arguments. Instead of judging you by your external behavior, God judges you by your internal motivations. But which motivations? Remember, you actually have three sets of motivations which could all be different in a single situation. So it’s very important to understand which set God is judging you by. It turns out that God specifically judges you by the motivations of your soul, and this one fact changes everything.
When you think about who you wish you could be–that better, classier, nicer, kinder person–that’s your soul talking. Humans don’t care about who you wish you could be–they care about who you currently are, because that’s who they have to deal with. But God cares very much about who you wish you could be.
When the alcoholic really wishes he could be sober, that counts with God. When the porn addict inwardly groans over the nasty pictures he keeps staring at, that counts with God. When the man with rage problems inwardly grieves over the damage he is doing to his loved ones, that counts with God. God knows you inside and out. He understands the current stresses and desires of all three of your elements. He understands that in so many situations, it is quite impossible for your soul to make your mind and body submit to its will, therefore you end up acting in a way that your soul hates. But while your soul is frustrated in these moments, God is pleased that you sincerely desired to do the right thing. Desire matters to God. It doesn’t just matter, it is everything.
Now your soul isn’t perfect, and it makes a lot of bad judgment calls. It also gets confused about who God is and what He wants you to do. Many people get caught up in all kinds of negative behaviors while they are really trying to do good. Because their behaviors are doing damage, other humans condemn them. But because God sees that their souls are trying to do right according to their current understanding of what “right” is, God is pleased with them. At the end of the day, God is so much nicer than humans are, and so much easier to succeed with. It’s not about follow through with God, it’s about want to. Sure, follow through is great when it’s a possibility, but so often it just isn’t. In life we are blocked countless ways from doing what we feel is right, and we all have an ideal version of ourselves that feels impossibly out of reach. Yet with God, it all counts. While we judge ourselves the way other humans judge us, condemning ourselves for a lack of follow through and always focusing on our moral shortcomings, God is listening to the desires of our souls and crediting us for who we wish we could be, both with others and with Him.
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