Repentance requires a complete role-reversal. I am the one standing before the judge. Instead of looking down upon others I look up to the seat of judgment—true judgment, fair judgment, God’s kind and loving judgment. In truth, until I place myself in this role there is a part of God’s personality I will never experience. Perhaps the real reason I hesitate to come before the One True Judge is I think he will treat me the way I have treated others. This is why my human judgments are an enemy of repentance: they distort the way I see the One True Judge, and keep me from repenting before Him.
Learning the posture of repentance and disciplining myself to pay careful attention to each word uttered by the One True Judge is a formative experience. To step out of my courtroom and into God’s courtroom is to see myself more clearly, and to position myself for change. The prophet Isaiah had just such a formative experience. In a mystical moment he came before the Creator of all the earth:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”
At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.
“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”
Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” (Isaiah 6:1-7)
What was at first a dreadful sight led Isaiah to understand two key insights about his culture and himself: “I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips.” But instead of experiencing punishment, he experienced cleansing—and a new calling on his life.
Why has it taken me so long to realize that my judgments—made so quickly and with such confidence—block the still, small voice of the Spirit? By disciplining myself to remain open and humble I position myself to hear from God. It’s not that the Spirit isn’t speaking, it’s that I have trained myself to listen to my own voice first.
This is part of what it means to live in the wisdom of Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.” But how deeply I have trained myself to rely upon my own insights! The Holy Spirit is always present; I must cultivate a patient and listening heart. Sometimes I will see from Heaven’s perspective, and other times I may hear the gentle whisper, “Repent!”
This article on a judgmental attitude originally appeared here, and is used by permission.