1 Corinthians 4:3-5. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.
We’ve talked about freedom quite a bit in this blog over the year. Freedom is what “to live is Christ” is all about. We are free in Christ. Free from the bondage to sin. And free to love from a new heart’s desire.
Part of this freedom from sin and freedom to love that we no enjoy is the freedom from caring what others think about us. How often are we just obsessed with our own ratings? How often do we check for “likes” on our pictures on social media? How often do we worry about our reputation? How much time do we spend trying to win the approval of others?
But union with Christ frees us from this bondage. Look at how Paul now sees himself in Christ:
I don’t care what you think about me– it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you. Paul is not held in bondage by the court of human opinion. This is not audacious pride, but rather actual humility. Self forgetfulness. By moving in self forgetfulness he has also moved beyond self promotion. His identity is no longer wrapped up in what other people think of him.
I don’t even care what I think about me– In fact, I do not even judge myself. Paul is not overcoming an obsession with other people’s opinions of him with a high self esteem. No, he’s saying “I don’t care what you think of me, and I don’t even care what I think of me.” He is not telling us to live by our own standards instead of the standards of others- that would be a trap. Why? Because we can’t live up to our own standards either (Keller, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness).
I can’t even trust my own opinion of myself– I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. Paul explains that even though he feels good about himself, this is not the basis for his freedom. A clear conscience doesn’t prove innocence. Feeling good about yourself doesn’t make you good, just like feeling bad about yourself doesn’t make you bad.
So if my identity isn’t found in how others feel about me, and it isn’t found in how I feel about me, then where is it found?
I care about what Christ thinks of me– It is the Lord who judges me. Paul doesn’t leave us simply not caring. No, he cares about the opinion of the One who created, ransomed, and possesses him. The one who judges him, but who judges him as justified freely forever. The One who gives him his true identity.
“To live is Christ” offers this immense freedom. Freedom from pride. Freedom from the judgment of others and the judgment of self. Freedom from self hate each time we sin, and self congratulations each time we succeed. This is the joy of not being self obsessed. This is now our ability to love.
Do you find yourself obsessing over what others think of you? Or what you think of you? How often do you think through what Christ thinks of you? God judges you according to your union with Christ- do you believe this?