“O Lord and Master of my life! Grant me to see my own failings, and not condemn my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages!” Condemning our brothers is our most deeply rooted habit, and the most important of our vices. We do not have the habit of concerning ourselves with observing our own vices. We do not have the habit of concerning ourselves with the observation of our own sins. No one concerns themselves with this other than a small number of people who have completely dedicated themselves to God. For them, the most important and main occupation is to look for the impurity and sin in their own hearts. And when they find it, they make every effort to be freed from it.
Those who condemn other people consider themselves undeserving of condemnation and watch only after other people’s sins. We are all like flies, which settle in clusters onto festering wounds, focusing all our attention on our neighbor’s sinful wounds while forgetting about our own.
Judge not, and that ye be not judged (Matt. 7:1), said the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not judge anyone, For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged (Matt. 7:2). More often than not we judge people incorrectly, unfairly, for we do not know their hearts. Perhaps they have already repented of what we have judged them for, and God has set aright their sin. For this we ourselves are subject to God’s condemnation.
With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again (Matt. 7:2). If we mete out a full measure, with kindness, relating with condescension to the sins of our neighbors, that is the measure that the Lord will mete to us and cover our sins. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Matt. 7:3). We don’t notice our own great sins, but we see the tiny sins of our brother!
Remember the words of the apostle Paul: But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10). When we judge others, we don’t remember and don’t notice that we ourselves are guilty of the same thing. After all, we know that the Lord judges not only for crimes committed, for which we judge our neighbors, but also for the judgment itself: And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? (Rom. 2:3).
The Lord commanded us to repent, and not to judge others. Remember how the Lord was brought to the woman caught in adultery and asked, “Rabbi, Moses commanded that such sinners be stoned. What do You say?” the Lord Jesus Christ did not answer right away. He sat in the courtyard of the temple and wrote something in the sand with His finger. And only when they asked Him a second time did He give an answer that only He could give: “Whoever of you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” With great shame, heads lowered, the Scribes and Pharisees who considered themselves righteous began to disperse one after the other. And Jesus finally raised His head and asked, “Where are they who have condemned you?” The woman answered, “No one has condemned me.” Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more (cf. Jn. 8:4–11).
What an amazing ban on judging! How clearly the Lord said that we must think first of all and most of all about our own sins. Whoever is without sin, let him cast the first stone. We are not without sin; that means that we do not dare throw stones of condemnation at others.
We have to remember the words of the apostle Paul: Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand (Rom. 14:4). We will all stand before Christ’s Judgment. We have to think about this Judgment over us, and not concern ourselves with other people’s sins.
Sacred and important is the law of love. But what should we do if we see a person who has obviously sinned and deserves condemnation? We should call out to God with the words of the psalmist: Set, O Lord, a watch before my mouth, and a door of enclosure round about my lips (Ps. 140:3) and ask the Most High with our whole soul for that person: “Lord forgive him.” And then the demon of condemnation will depart from us, for demons always flee from prayer. If we judge, the demon will remain, and then it will be very hard to get rid of that sin.
Where does the demon of condemnation come from? From pride; from the fact that many consider themselves higher and better than others. We often judge out of envy, attacking those who have received spiritual gifts and live piously, or have received material gifts and live comfortably. We judge also out of anger, or hatred—because we have very little love in our hearts. We judge simply due to the deeply rooted habit of constantly judging people.
We have to uproot this habit, and not allow it to grow in us; we have to catch ourselves at every judgment. After stopping ourselves once or twice, we will learn to refrain from judging others and stop it, having focused our spiritual gaze on our own hearts.
Thus, let us strive to fulfill what we ask for in the prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian: “O Lord and Master of my life! Grant me to see my own failings, and not condemn my brother, for blessed art Thou unto the ages of ages. Amen.”