"Here's the good news: Jesus' stern warning against judging others is itself part of God's grace; this prohibition is a signpost to freedom. Do not judge, because you don't have to! Remember, you have been accepted by God, wholly and unconditionally. Grace has claimed you, and this grace enables you to be honest about yourself, even the darkest and most secret aspects of your own life. Therefore you do not need to hide behind your precious persona and project onto others your fearful shadow.

"Do not judge, moreover, because it doesn't work. It can only tear down, not build up. If you want to be in step with the rhythm of the universe, if you want to be a person of grace, if you truly want to love others and want to help them become all they were created to be, you will not condemn, because condemnation never saves anyone.

"When I am condemned, a part of me always rises up in self-defense. The instinct for self-preservation is so basic it will not allow me not to defend myself when threatened. So if you take it upon yourself to hammer me with righteous judgments about my failures (which may be considerable), I will not suddenly feel sorry for what I've done and repent in humility. I will do just the opposite: I will identify even more completely with my persona, and I will push my failure even further into the shadows.

"Condemnation can only inflict more pain. It is useful, I suppose, in venting anger and meting out vengeance. But it cannot lift the fallen or restore the broken. It might make the person who uses it feel superior and it might hide insecurities; it might help polish the persona and it might keep the shadow in the cellar. But it will never save.

"This should be obvious when we consider how God chose to deal with the failures of this world: 'For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but have eternal life. Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.' God saved the world through love, not condemnation; God restored broken creation through grace, not judgment. The Devil, remember, is the one whom Scripture calls the Accuser. God is the Affirmer.

"Grace alone has the power to change people for the better. Only in the capacious freedom of having already been accepted can people own their failures and walk down another path. Grace alone grants the courage to face wrong-doing; grace alone grants the ability to keep things in perspective, to see failure as only one thread in the larger tapestry of life; grace alone grants the strength to rise up with the confidence to face a new future."