Judged anyone lately?
Sadly, the answer for most of us (including me) is… yes.
From the guy who cut you off in traffic, to the off-beat person who’s not picking up the social cues you’re sending, to your weed-smoking neighbour… it’s so easy to judge. And judgment just gets worse from there. It’s the basis of racism, sexism and almost every other ‘ism’ you can think of.
It’s also fundamentally incompatible with authentic Christian faith.
Jesus said Christians should be known for how deeply we love. Yet studies show that in the eyes of many non-Christians, we’re known for how deeply we judge, not for how deeply we love.
The problem in many cases is not that unchurched people don’t know any Christians. The problem is that they do. And they don’t like us—for good reason.
Christians will argue: well, who’s going to stand up for truth?
Yet in Jesus, grace and truth are perfectly fused.
Remove grace from the truth and you don’t actually have truth at all, but a cold, steely imitation. (This is the shadow side of conservatism.)
The opposite is also true, of course. Remove truth from grace and you don’t have grace, but a spineless imitation. (As you’ve already figured out, this is the shadow side of liberalism.)
Fusing grace and truth is an exceptionally difficult venture and is usually only successful when you spend significant amounts of time on your knees and when the source of your attempt is actually Christ himself. I am rarely good at it, flipping from one side to the other too quickly.
But when you see grace and truth fused, it takes your breath away. Why did people travel for days on foot in extreme conditions to meet Jesus? Grace fused to truth is what our hearts most deeply long for.
But in the evangelical church today (and I’m an evangelical), the hard edge of truth has crushed many. And one of the most frequent expressions of loveless truth is found in judgment.
Judgmentalism is incompatible with at least 5 wonderful things. Keep judging, and your church will miss all 5 of these Christian virtues that can advance your church’s mission.
The presence of judgment almost always guarantees an absence of love.
Think about it through the lens of your marriage, a friendship or even someone you work with: it is virtually impossible to love someone and judge someone at the same time.
But wait, you ask: what if they’re making a mistake and I need to correct them?
First of all, look at your mistakes and the depth of your sin, and deal with your issues first. In the process, you’ll encounter a loving God who forgives you despite your rather egregious sin.
And having been loved, you can love others.
I try to remember this rule: If I’m judging someone, I’m not loving them. You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time.
Ever notice that people who judge almost never help and people who help almost never judge?
That’s because judgment creates a line. The line is labeled “better than” or “smarter than” or “more righteous than” the person who needs help.
Help knows no such line. It just knows how to help.
When Jesus taught on judgment, not only did he tell us not to judge, and to remove the massive timber from our own eye before trying to find the speck of dust in someone else’s eye first, but he then showed us the purpose of removing the speck from someone else’s eye: it’s to help them.
The Christian purpose of stepping into someone else’s world is not to judge someone, but to help them.
If you’re not trying to help, don’t bother. You’ll probably only make it worse.
And if you are trying to help, you’ll likely notice something else has disappeared: any sense of judgment you once carried.
Judgment is never grounded in humility (As in oh my, I’m also a mess. Let’s figure this out together.)
Judgment is grounded in arrogance. That’s because a judgmental person almost always carries with them a sense of condescension (I never get into this kind of situation myself…you should be as good as I am) or a sense of pity (poor, stupid you).
Judgment always says I’m better than you, I know more than you and I’m also superior to you.
No wonder people run from it.
Very few people get judged into life change. Many people get loved into it.
Humility, by contrast, fosters empathy. It says “I’m like you. I get that. Maybe we can help each other.”
Many people would run to that.
There’s also a connection between judgment and prayer.
Judging someone and praying for someone are pretty much mutually exclusive.
You can’t pray for someone you judge because you’re actually not for them. Sure, you can pray about them, but again, your prayer won’t be grounded in humility. It might be grounded in anger, or in arrogance, or superiority, but it won’t be grounded in love.
You never truly pray for someone you judge.
Conversely, if you want to stop judging someone, pray for them.
It’s impossible to judge someone and truly pray for them at the same time.
If you want to kill evangelism at your church, fill your church with judgmental Christians.
People run from people who judge them. They run to people who love them. Think about it; that’s what you do: you run from people who judge you.
When grace and truth are fused, people usually run toward it because the combination of truth and grace describes a reality they’re facing and brings actual hope that things can get better.
God never asked you to judge the world. He did ask you to love it.
Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.
A Giant Hypocrite?
But wait, you say, isn’t this entire article just one big piece of judgment? You are a complete hypocrite, you say.
First of all, you’re totally right. You could completely read this as a judgmental invective. And I definitely write it as someone who is part of the problem.
But when it comes to judgment, Paul makes it clear we are NOT to judge the world, but we are to practice discernment in the church.
There is also a distinction (at least in my mind) between judgment and discernment.
This is a very fine line, and I don’t stand on it well at all. This article could be a complete failure in what it sets out to accomplish.
One of the things I struggle with in the church today is that we rush to judge outsiders and rarely look in the mirror. That’s the exact opposite of what Paul instructed us to do.
The reality is that people’s lives are plagued by problems. There is an epic battle raging in this life, and people get taken down every day over addictions, failed relationships, misguided beliefs and things that we think will give life, but, in the end, only destroy.
We need to help outsiders because we have been helped. We need to help each other on the inside and thereby better realize our mission.
True judgment is reserved for God. Discernment seeks to help.
Discernment says there is a problem, but lovingly, humbly, prayerfully, empathetically I’d love to help with that.
And guess what? The person on the receiving end of the help senses it. They know when they’re being judged. And they know when they’re being loved and help.
That’s what I hope to do. And that’s what I hope, in the end, this article does. Because I, too, am a judger who is seeking to become a loving helper.
And if this article still strikes you as harsh, remember that Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for arrogant, judgemental leaders inside the faith. At times, we’ve likely all been that insider. I have been anyway. Conversely, Jesus was pretty much never harsh to people outside the faith.
We’d be so much better as a church if we did the same.