“Don’t judge me!” Everyone seeking to follow Jesus Christ gets this quote thrown their way some time or another. Believing that there are moral rights and wrongs; that there are personal choices that are sinful and contrary to God, may feel uncomfortable to other people in your world.
But…… where there is smoke there is often fire. Jesus included the command, “Do not judge” in his Great Sermon (Matthew 5-7). It is easy to fail here. The message of Jesus and the cross is an offense (I Corinthians). But, we must be careful to not add our own offensiveness on top of it.
So what is “Judging others” that Jesus condemns?
1. Making judgments with the assumption that I know a person’s whole story.
In I Corinthians 4:3-5 God’s judgement is based on his ability to know the “purposes of the heart”. Only God can know the heart motives of other people. Only God can know people’s story and the events and circumstances that shaped them. The preacher at the funeral of James Baldwin’s father said, “You know this man’s failing, but you don’t know his wrassling”. It occurred to Baldwin that his father had his own internal battles, that impacted his capacity as a father.
Can you imagine how people looked at Jesus who had a prostitute wash his feet? But, their interpretations of his motives were wrong. The judgmental spirit comes in not really seeing others as people with their own stories. We can see liberals, Trumpites, BLM agitators, Gays, Trans. We condemn as if that is all they are. They are people with stories. They are shaped by things you don’t know. To have someone in your life that you know, love and respect who thinks differently, will not change your beliefs. But it may change your spirit into one with a healthy dose of humility and a sense that they are not labels, but people Jesus loves.
2. When we prioritize being right over being kind.
James 2:12-13 says, “Judgment without mercy is to one who has shown no mercy”. It is very easy to be graceless toward people that do not have the same “sin of choice” you do. To look at someone who sins in a way you can never imagine and say, “that is so repulsive and abhorrent”. News flash… Jesus reserved those kind of statements for the Pharisees reactions to other people’s sin. A great exercise would be to spend a weekend watching HBO’s Band of Brothers. A company of soldiers in World War 2 that modeled loyalty, friendship and never leaving a fallen man behind.
3. When we make majors out of minors.
In Romans 14, we are admonished to “stop passing judgment on one another”. This was about matters of conscience, that Paul says are not worthy of dividing over. Christians had different views on eating meat that had been gained from pagan sacrifices. Some saw the practice as supporting the pagan religions. It was heady stuff and not easy to be united as a body when you really disagreed. But, Paul says, “Just do it”. Depending on what news network you follow, you will easily feel that anyone with differing positions is the enemy, whether a believer or not. Finding our unity at the cross, the place where broken sinners all gather to boast in Him alone (Psalms 34:2), is what keeps us from a judgmental spirit.
We need the life and mind of Jesus as we seek to live out our convictions and beliefs in a “don’t judge me” world. We must be people whose allegiance is to the teachings of Jesus on morality and godliness. The world needs His light. But, we must also be people whose attitude is controlled by His heart. The world needs His love.