I heard him before I saw him. I was running the scoreboard at my oldest son’s basketball game. The home team was to my right, the away team to my left. It was getting close to halftime when “the call” happened.
The visitor’s coach exploded in the direction of my left ear! Obviously not pleased by another foul called against his team, the away coach spewed emotions in every direction. Mainly anger, zinging in the direction of the unsuspecting referee. She immediately called a technical foul on him, which was like throwing fuel on an already out of control fire.
He wasn’t satisfied, pacified, or done with his emotional outburst. Following his words, he staggered onto the court and toward the referee, where he promptly received a second technical foul. The result was not only a monumental adult-size temper tantrum, it also meant the away coach was literally sent away. He was ejected from the gym and the rest of the game.
Now my favorite part of this story is not that it was a Christian homeschool league. That would be enough. But the best part, and I use best loosely, is that just before exiting the gym, he turned at yelled at the referee, “Lady, you are out of control!” Further proof that few of us live up to our own standards.
So often in life in general, and marriage in particular, we hold others to a higher standard – one we rarely meet ourselves. We are outraged at someone else’s failures or shortcomings, while unmoved by our own. Which is why we are warned throughout the New Testament not to judge one another.
In Romans 2:1, the Apostle Paul writes, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” And maybe even more famously, Jesus’ word in Matthew 7:1 have been used often, though misunderstood:
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
What does it mean to “not pass judgment?” And why does this matter in marriage? To be clear, the Bible does not teach us to be indifferent to sin. We are to be discerning and wise as we grow into Christ-likeness. What Paul was teaching in Romans 2 and Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 is to avoid condemning someone, judging them unworthy of love or acceptance.
Do not judge simply means to avoid viewing a spouse as less-than because of their imperfections. To condemn a spouse is to grow frustrated, bitter, or angry over his or her shortcomings. It is to see them as unlovable or undeserving of your love and acceptance.
You cannot condemn your spouse and love your spouse at the same time.
What then should we do in marriage? Here are four simple ways to take judgment or condemnation out of your marriage.
- Start by judging yourself– This is Jesus’ point in Matthew 7:5 when He tells us to “first take the log out” of our own eye. “Then,” Jesus says, we can “see clearly” to move toward someone else. In other words, become an expert of our own sin, not our spouse’s. Start by saying often to God, “Search me and show me what is offensive to You.”
- Turn from your sin in the direction of your Savior– It’s possible to turn from our sin, but not turn to Jesus. We can turn to trying harder. We can turn in the direction of good intentions. We can turn to hiding or faking it. But the resources we need to truly turn from sin are only found in Jesus. As God graciously reveals our sin, we should be quick to turn from sin, confessing it, and trusting Jesus by the power of His Spirit, to give us victory over our sin.
- Walk humbly– A growing awareness of our own sin and need of God’s grace should increasingly produce humility in us. We are no longer the standard. Jesus is. And we know that apart from Him, we are in trouble. Taking judgment out of marriage requires that we walk humbly with one another, knowing full well that we cannot hold our spouse to a standard we fail to meet. We are both sinners, growing in grace, in the direction of Jesus.
- Love one another in grace and truth– Taking judgment out of marriage does not mean we never deal with sin or conflict. It means we now deal with it differently. We deal with it from a place of humility and grace. We pursue truth, but we do it in love. We make room for one another’s faults (Ephesians 4:2). We are patient with one another, trusting that what God starts in us, He will bring it to completion.
Jesus is always inviting us to a better way to live. A better way to relate to one another. A life marked by loving God and loving others. We need to take judgment out of marriage because we never live up to our own standards. Only Jesus has done that and in Him, we have everything we need to love one another faithfully, fully and forever.
Patrick Schwenk is a husband, father, pastor, and author. Along with his, wife, Patrick is the creator of For the Family and the author of For Better or For Kids: A Vow to Love Your Spouse with Kids in the House.