Prayer removes judgment, reveals compassion

Have you ever felt judgmental of others? Whether you’re criticizing someone mentally or audibly, it can feel like a burden. But we don’t have to weigh down our relationships with this type of thinking and behavior. 

Jesus’ parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who are praying in the Temple (see Luke 18:9–14 ) has been helpful to my study and practice of Christian Science because it reminds me not to judge others. This was the self-righteous prayer of the Pharisee: “God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

The story continues: “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ ” Jesus concludes the parable: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted” (New International Version).

Tax collectors had a poor reputation, often taking more money from people than was required and pocketing the extra. And perhaps this tax collector had other moral challenges, too. But this story shows that it’s deceiving to look only at the surface appearance of others. Christ Jesus invites us all to look deeper. He surprisingly commends the tax collector and his repentance. Jesus saw what was true; instead of a sinful mortal, he saw man created in the perfect, immortal image and likeness of God (see Genesis 1:26, 27 ). 

This shows that it’s all about what’s in our heart. We can pray to establish in our thought a correct view of everyone. To hold a spiritual view of others as Christ Jesus did blesses all involved and enables us to be effective healers. Self-righteousness is not a suitable mental state for healing anything—relationships, situations, or bodily conditions. 

Having seen something of this person’s true, spiritual nature, I felt compassion for them.

And it is helpful to know that a “Why doesn’t so-and-so have their act together?” attitude doesn’t belong to us, because it doesn’t truly belong to anyone. It disguises itself as our thinking, in the same way that the serpent depicted in the Bible slyly suggests to Eve that she wants to and can go against the laws of God (see Genesis 3:1–5 ). But God is divine Love, and in reality, Christly thinking that obeys Love’s law is our only true consciousness. And Christ—the true idea of God—exists above the temptation to judge others. Jesus embodied this Christ and made plain that the Pharisee didn’t gain anything by putting down another person. As healers, when we go to Christ in prayer for spiritual understanding, God reveals the perfect, spiritual view of all women and men. 

In this way, we are relying on the spiritual view of man that Jesus saw and shared with his followers. This true view enables us to “judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24 ). As Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by the Discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, says, “Let us be faithful in pointing the way through Christ, as we understand it, but let us also be careful always to ‘judge righteous judgment,’ and never to condemn rashly” (p. 444 ). Instead of judging others by the human appearance, I’ve found it helpful to ask God in prayer, “Is this the Pharisee mentality? Can I demonstrate instead more of the self-knowledge displayed by the tax collector? How can I help point the way without forcing my own will on or condemning someone in the process?” It becomes a prayer to see God’s creation as God sees it: purely spiritual, free, and naturally good.

Years ago, I felt unfairly treated by someone. When I gently pointed out this unfairness, the person became very angry. I was tempted to respond rashly, thinking, “This person should know better!” I realized quickly that although the individual clearly needed to change their behavior, I was reacting in a judgmental way. I needed to pray to shift my thought about the situation. 

I remembered this passage from the Manual of The Mother Church by Mrs. Eddy: “In Science, divine Love alone governs man; and a Christian Scientist reflects the sweet amenities of Love, in rebuking sin, in true brotherliness, charitableness, and forgiveness. The members of this Church should daily watch and pray to be delivered from all evil, from prophesying, judging, condemning, counseling, influencing or being influenced erroneously” (p. 40 ). It was then that I saw that mere human judgment was an imposition on both of us. If this person knew how to do better, they would do better, and that’s when I finally identified the “beam” in my own eye (see Matthew 7:3 ) and stopped condemning this individual. 

In the end, it is the law of divine Love that reforms relationships.

I was then able to turn to God’s view of this person—to see them as truly good and spiritual, despite surface appearances. Having seen something of their true, spiritual nature, I felt compassion for them. It was only on that spiritual basis that our relationship could improve. As a result of this change in my perspective, the relationship did improve greatly and has remained harmonious.

Loving righteously, without false judgment, is essential to healing in Christian Science. It helps us see in ourselves and others God’s uninterrupted, perfect expression of good. We can rely on this spiritual view to keep from being distracted by the physical or mental characteristics of others. And the more we grow spiritually, the easier and more natural it becomes to love rather than judge. In the end, it’s the law of divine Love that reforms relationships, not our assessment or judgment of individuals. As the textbook of Christian Science states, “Divine Love corrects and governs man” (Science and Health, p. 6 ). We can all feel God’s correcting love as we let our true, judgment-free expression of divine Love shine through.

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