The apostle Paul makes numerous confident proclamations about his spiritual life. He encourages others to imitate the way he lives. (I Cor. 4:16), he tells us he can be content in any situation (Phil. 4:11). When he makes these bold announcements in scripture, I admire his spiritual walk and pray that I could experience the same kind of spiritual victory myself. In I Corinthians 4:3, he gives us one of the windows into his spiritual life that helps us see how his life was changed.
He says; I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself.
When I read that I think Wow, if not only me, but all the people I counsel, and all the people I know would live their lives with this one motto in mind, how different would our lives be? Paul didn't wake up each morning trying to figure out what was the cutting edge things to be doing, or speaking about, or experiencing. He wasn't concerned what people thought of him and whether they liked him.
This is difficult for women, in particular. In fact, women often define themselves in terms of their relationships. If people like us, then we like ourselves. We might lose sleep, lose peace of mind, and lose what is important because we are concerned about what people think about us. We meet a friend in the grocery store without our make-up and we want to die. We innocently stick our foot in our mouth, and worry about it for weeks. We don't even attend an event without spending significant time considering what the other women will be wearing. Most of us make a phone call to a friend about what they are wearing, so we can be certain we will be dressed right.
It may be a little harder for women to care very little how our fellow man and woman judge us, but there is a point of spiritual growth when this is necessary. Paul didn't care, not just because he was a man, but because he was a man consumed by God. He didn't care what others thought, because he cared so much more what God thought. He didn't have time to consider how people were going to judge him, because he spent his time concerned about how God would judge him. And he knew that there was not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1), so he didn't feel oppressed by the thought of God's judgment.
That's quite incredible spiritual growth, but the rest of the verse impresses me even more. He goes on to say that he does not even judge himself. Now, that's incredible! How much time, effort and worry do women waste every day judging themselves? It doesn't matter what other people say about us, we are our own worst critic. After all these years of counseling, I can still be shocked by the self-degrading way people think about themselves everyday. Paul didn't live like that. He was free from self-judging. He goes on to say that because he had a clear conscious didn't make him innocent, but he had complete peace that only the Lord can judge him, and he would leave that up to God. His motto was found in verse five. Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.
If I could wish anything for you today, I would wish that you knew the freedom of trusting yourself to God's judgment. I wish that you could walk away from the worry and concern of what other people might think of you. I wish that you wouldn't be so harsh in your own self-rejection. Henri Nouwen once wrote that perhaps the greatest spiritual task that faces us is our battle with self-rejection.
Fear of rejection from others and self-rejection add up to a lot of pain and torment in our lives that we doesn't have to be part of our lives. The way not to deal with that kind of pain and torment is to learn to rest in God's judgment. Everything else is godless judgment.