Loving like Jesus did requires the ability to extend grace–in other words, to love others without judgment. For most of us, this is much easier said than done.
It’s easy to use judgmentalism as a way to mask our own insecurities and elevate ourselves above others. Being judgmental makes us conceited and self-righteous. It’s an addictive delusion that artificially boosts our worth. Never mind the Bible’s words: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” This is one hard habit to break.
A judgmental, self-righteous attitude prevents us from giving grace. Luckily, it is possible to shed our judgmental habits and offer more grace to the people we encounter. Let’s talk about how.
1. Don’t criticize or find fault in others
A judgmental attitude is centered on deflection and denial of our own faults. But most of us can’t stop at denying our own shortcomings. We feel the need to criticize others in order to minimize our issues. In other words, we tear others down to build ourselves up.
It’s impossible to give grace and be critical at the same time because judgmentalism negates grace. Acting holier-than-thou will only earn you the same harsh criticism you dole out to others. If you want to love more like Jesus, it’s time to stop nitpicking.
2. Separate the sin from the sinner
No one wants to be defined by their sins–past, present, or future. When we’ve made a poor decision, we crave grace and we demand not to be judged. But when someone else makes a misstep in their life, we’re quick to label them.
It’s easy to be shocked by someone else’s behavior, because we’d never do such a thing–right? But try to imagine yourself in their position. Humanize the sinner, separating their sin from who they are at the core. When you interpret the situation from a place of empathy, you gain an entirely new perspective. Like Jesus, choosing to see the human beneath the ugliness of sin enables us to choose grace.
3. Don’t expect people to earn your respect; give it freely
What makes us believe we’re so far above others that our respect must be earned? Assuming another human being doesn’t deserve our respect means that we’re placing ourselves on a pedestal. If we want to love like Jesus, we must be willing to freely give our respect to others.
Extending respect to the people around us puts us on equal footing with them. It forces us to view them as worthy. Respect raises others from the role of subordinates to peers, which in turn makes it more difficult to judge them harshly.
4. Give others the benefit of the doubt
A judgmental attitude says that people’s actions and choices arise from the worst possible motivations. When we assume the worst of others, we give ourselves a license to judge based on those perceived motivations.
In order to love without judgment, we have to give the benefit of the doubt. We owe it to ourselves and our loved ones to assume the best intentions first. Giving ourselves a chance to consider that our loved ones mean well helps us stay receptive and open–and limits our opportunities to jump to judgmental conclusions.
5. Accept God’s unconditional love for us
I (Les) believe we’re all on a cosmic quest to validate our own worth–to prove not only that we’ve earned it, but that we deserve it. Each person who gives us that validation makes us feel great about ourselves for a little while, but eventually that feeling dissipates. We end up in a continuous loop as we try to achieve that same feeling over and over again.
This is an unfulfilling cycle that keeps us from being able to love the way Jesus did. What’s more, it keeps us from focusing on the unconditional love and validation God offers us. Instead, we try to earn it from Him the way we try to earn it from the people in our lives. Instead of trying to earn God’s acceptance, we need to receive it with open arms–then extend it to others freely.
Put it into practice
Grace is unfair, and it doesn’t make sense. Approaching others without judgment requires that we set aside whether or not they deserve it. Because if we want to love like Jesus, we can’t limit grace–for ourselves or anyone else.
Want to love more like Jesus did?
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What are some things you do to extend grace to those around you? Has another person ever given you radical grace? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.