Religious communities are often magnets for judgmental and critical personalities. There is a plethora of church people who tend to have a pre-occupation with failures of others. Critical personalities tend to judge. They are critical toward people who they judge as “falling short of God’s perfect standards” yet they convince themselves they have attained some measure of success.Critical folk tend to find little fault within themselves. They will generalize their sin, yet blind to personal and specific failures. James dealt with this problem in the early church. James 4:11 reads “Don’t criticize one another, brothers. He who criticizes a brother or judges his brother criticizes the law and judges the law” (HCSB).
James points out that those “critical” and “judgmental” personalities in churches are people wallow in self-deception, and my live with a false assurance of salvation. The problem is that they see themselves as “standard for measurement as emulators of God’s law. Yet, James 1:22-24 states we should instead be pre-occupied with being “doers” of God’s law.” However, the critical and judgmental see themselves fit to be judges of the law who are willing to measure the failures of others. James warns however, they are not “doer(s) of the law” but acts as self-appointed judge(s) of the law (4:12) which indicate that they are indeed self-deceived and merely practicing outward religion (1:26; 3:17).
Judgmental people gain great confidence from being “judges of the law” yet tend to be intolerant, impatient and critical towards people who don’t seem live up to God’s standards, like they do. Yet if they had an understanding of the Gospel, they would realize the gospel lays emphasis on personal obligation toward God law, but also regular failure necessitating the gospel. Gospel enlightened people know they can only imitate Christ’s obedience, yet never emulate it (i.e. match or excel). In imitating Christ, we are obeying God’s law and we will recognize our need for daily sustaining grace when we fail. In imitating Christ we will need his grace, in turn we will tend to “give” more grace to others, effectually becoming less judgmental and critical. However if we still see ourselves as “self-appointed judges of the law” (4:12) we will find no need for daily grace, no need for the Gospel, and no reason to give grace either. Therefore, James reminds “There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy” that is God. So who are we to be judgmental and critical toward others? (4:12).
False Assurance and Self Deception
. . . the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us (1 John 1:7-10 NASB).
Often religious people somehow are oblivious of their personal sins. They fail to see their perpetual offense of a holy God. Yet they are acutely aware of the failures and sins of others. They are often quick to point out how they have been offended in their lives by those “sinners” around them. The Bible makes it clear, that these attitudes are signs of self-deception and a false conversion!
True conversion according to First John points out an unawareness of personal sin is a sign of self-deceit. The self-deceived generally minimize personal sins, but readily points to the sins of others. God says “If we say that we have no sin” or minimize our sins “we are deceiving ourselves” and “the truth is not in us” (1:8). True converts to the contrary have no problem to “confess [their] sins” because they know their God who “is faithful and righteous to forgive” (1:9) their sins and to cleanse them “from all unrighteousness” (1:9). True converts are honest about personal failures in keeping God’s perfect standards. However, in their honest self assessments they also know where to run to receive pardon and purification.
Therefore, as followers of Christ we are cautioned against denying, or even minimize our personal sinfulness. When we regularly transpose our sins to others who are “greater” sinners we may indeed be self-deceived and saving “truth [is] not in us” (1:9). When saved by the grace of God, we readily recognize our sinfulness but eagerly acknowledges our need for forgiveness, “cleansing” and “healing” (James 5:16).