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I'm the problem

Jesus said, “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37)

If I have a besetting sin it would be this: I judge people. Many people today stay away from all things Christian because of judgmental people like me. Have you judged anyone lately? Here’s something I’ve discovered about my judgements of others—they almost always turn out to be wrong. I let some annoying facet of someone else completely blind me to the strengths and virtues that others see. In my experience this sin is difficult to resist. I know it is wrong and it will make a fool of me, yet I can’t resist the opportunity to heap some condemnation on someone else—even if it’s only in my mind. I strive with all my being sometimes to avoid being pulled in again by the hefty gravitational force of judging.

A friend of mine made this sarcastic quip, “I just saved a pile of money on Christmas presents…by having a Facebook discussion about politics with my relatives.” It made me smile but inside my conscience was pricked. I am part of the problem in this judgmental age. God forgive me. Have you judged anyone lately? Pastor and author Carey Nieuwhof wrote, “Jesus said Christians should be known for how deeply we love, not how deeply we judge.” Unfortunately this is not how many people look at us—for good reason.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer has always been one of my favorite theologians. He lived and died as a pastor and professor in wartime Germany. If anybody had cause to judge others, it would have been Bonhoeffer. Surprisingly he said this, “By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.” Funny thing about judging others you get to tell yourself that others don’t deserve grace but you do. You get to tell yourself that you’re a nice person but other people aren’t. I confess that there have been many times when I’ve enjoyed doing this. Have you judged anyone lately?

Here’s a quick and easy way to destroy a church: replace evangelism with judgment. But God never asked us to judge the world, just to love it. Mother Theresa said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Good point. To love someone is to will God’s best for them and do everything you can to help them find it. That is what evangelism is: declaring God’s good and perfect will for all people revealed in the gospel of Jesus Christ. People who judge almost never help others. People who lose themselves in helping others almost never judge.

In my personal battle with judging, I’ve found my best strategies are humility and prayer. A stance of humility sounds like this, “oh my, I am a mess within too. Let’s see if we can help each other find a better way.” I need the daily cleansing of telling the truth about my soul—it’s broken, self-serving and self-defeating and I claim no special merit over my fellow human beings. I am not unlike the people I like to judge. I get it. Maybe we can help each other? Have you judged anyone lately?

I saw a cartoon once of a husband and wife. One said to the other, “You know if one of us would change, I would be happy.” Sadly this is what passes for prayer in many people. I pray the other person will change so I can be happy. It’s a self-focused, condescending, prideful prayer—I’m not really praying for them, I’m praying for myself. Genuine prayer is about love and if you want to stop judging people, pray for them (not just to feel good about yourself). Dr. Joyce Meyer said it, “Instead of judging others, we should pray.”

Judgement should be left to God. It is God’s prerogative. Even so, God promises that he will not judge anyone until the last day. So why should I? What right do I have to give up believing in somebody else by labeling and condemning them?

Love, on the other hand, never gives up. Love doesn’t judge but love does discern. Love discerns between right and wrong, good and bad, just and unjust, wicked and righteous. There is a fine line between judgement and discernment. I confess I do not stand very well on this line. Discernment seeks to help. Discernment believes and practices hope for others. Discernment leads me to humbly, prayerfully and compassionately help others find God’s best for themselves even as I strive to find God’s best for myself.

It’s pretty sobering to me that Jesus’ harshest words in the Gospels were for religious leaders (see Matthew 23). On the other hand Jesus almost never said anything harsh to people who were outside the faith.

I’d be so much better—the whole church would be so much better if we did the same. Have you judged anyone lately?

Connect, Grow, Serve

Pastor Tom Anderson

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