Hymn text by Eliza R. Snow (chorus by M.E. Abbey), 1807-1887. View the full text of this hymn.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged” (Matthew 7:1-2). 

This scripture sums up one of the most difficult precepts of Christianity for me: not judging. To me, this means acting in love and patience with everyone, refraining from harboring any feelings in your heart that will undercut charity toward them.

In the Book of Mormon, Alma tells his son Corianton to be “merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually” (Alma 41: 14).  Why, exactly? Because it follows a natural law of cause-and-effect, Alma writes. Send out mercy, justice, righteous judgement and good deeds, and they come back to you.

So why is this so hard to do? Because we as humans will pack away charity in order to make room for malice and injury in our hearts. I read an incredibly expressive quote by American author and theologian Frederick Buechner which sums up this point: “To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past, to roll over your tongue the prospect of bitter confrontations still to come, to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back–in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

How do we avoid the slow erosion that anger and perceived–or even actual–injustice can bring to our souls?

Eliza R. Snow gave us an antidote, in one sentence in the second verse of this hymn: ”I must love without a grudge.” This means, Sister Snow goes on to tell us, that we have to work first and hardest at casting out the beam in our own eye before we can think to remove the mote (or sliver) that may happen to be lodged in the eye of another.

So this is how to judge: with love, with charity, with the occasional directive given in humility and mercy. This is the way Christ did it, and with His grace and direction, so can we.

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