“If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be — a Christian.” — Mark Twain
“I'm not often so comfortable in church. It feels pious and so unlike the Christ that I read about in the Scriptures.” — Bono
“I like your Christ; I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” — Gandhi
Far too often the world views christians as judgmental and hypocritical. But if they look at the life of Christ, they see love, compasion, mercy, grace, hope...
As I examined the issues that have created 30,000+ christian denominations, I kept coming back to the question of our judgmental tenancies. It is one thing to agree to disagree on an issue, and continue dialog on it (we don't have to turn off our minds, or say both sides are right). It is another thing to say unloving things, invalidate each others faith, and be unwilling to fellowship/worship/support and serve together.
Consider some scripture:
"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. "(Matt 7:1-5 NIV)
"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters. One man's faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord. He who eats meat, eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God. For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord."(Rom 14:1-8)
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." (Luke 6:37-38 NIV)
“It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.” (1 Cor 4:4-5 NIV)
Jesus was judgmental at the temple:
"Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. 46"It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be a house of prayer'; but you have made it 'a den of robbers.'" (Luke 19:45-46)However Jesus did not act judgmentally towards the woman caught in adultery in John 8, and told her accusers "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." And when all had left he could have condemned her but said "neither do I condemn you," ... "Go now and leave your life of sin."
Should we never make judgments?
- We obviously need judges in our law systems to make judgments.
- As a parent I feel it is my duty to make judgments on the behavior of my children.
- In the workforce those in leadership roles must make judgments over those that are under their authority.
- If someone is in a close relationship that seeks to keep each other accountable, it is safe to say that some judgments will be needed.
- In a community of believers, those in leadership roles will at times need to make judgments.
- I am responsible for judging what I believe to be truth, I can not let someone else decide what I believe.
Based on the above scriptures I believe we need to be very cautious before making any firm judgments about others. If we are uncertain that God has placed us in a position of authority over someone else, we should leave judging of that person to God.
This is hard advice - I am challenged a lot by this. It is often too easy to slip into gossip, which is the same sin, and I am a critical thinker who often dwells on injustices.
Is this the result of Adam and Eve eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? We want to be like God?
I pray that God can help us recognize when he wants us to make judgments, and when he wants us to humbly offer love, mercy and grace.
"Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. " (Matt 18:4 NIV)