Friday, October 10, 2014

Don't Judge Me

Don't Judge Me. It's a popular catch phrase. Usually, we say it when we're joking or admitting to a guilty pleasure. As in, "I watch The BachelorDon't judge." (For the record--that is an example. I don't. See--I don't want to be judged.)

Freeee! I'm free, I tell you.
But “Don't Judge Me” has also become our culture's latest universal demand. No matter what I might do, don't anyone dare judge me for it. I'm a free agent. No one has any right to take me to task for any choice I might make. It's the greatest sin of modern America—to judge someone. That is, if we still believed in sin.

To judge, according to the online dictionary, has several meanings. Basically, they come down to this: to form a careful opinion or make a critical decision based on evidence.

Notice what's not in this definition. There is no assessment of a person's character. It does not include a moral determination of whether the person being judged is a good person. It's a clear, evidence-based determination of one case. Did the person do right or wrong?

We've made it into a character assessment. That's why we feel “judged” as people whenever someone lets us know, tactfully or not, that something we did was questionable. We've even called it being judged when someone just disagrees with us. If we can't agree on a definition, how can we know whether or not we are judging someone? Or being judged?

Then, we have to take this all one more step and ask—but what about within the church?

We are confused, especially given current events. What do we do with leaders who have fallen? Forgive and forget? Fire and forget? The Bible says not to judge—is that the standard we need to keep here? That seems to be the opinion of those telling us we're “being judgmental” in taking people out of leadership positions. (Which is kind of funny, since those people then are judging the ones they say are judging the leaders. By their own definition. But . . . oh this is getting really confusing.)

Then wait—the Bible also says that teachers should be held accountable for their teaching. Paul tells us to judge one another (1 Corinthians 5). Which one is it? And how do we know which road to take in which circumstances? What is the difference between accountability and judgment?

I wish there was a clearly marked yellow brick road that could tell us exactly how to do this accountability thing. There, are however, some guidelines in Scripture that help.

How do Christians judge Biblically?

We don't make it personal.

We are honest with someone about a behavior we witnessed. We do not make that into an attack on their character. Jesus told Peter (quite forcefully!) that trying to stop him from going to the cross was a short-term selfish plan. Jesus did not imply that Peter was a selfish being. He turned around and trusted him again with his friendship and ministry. He did not allow mistakes to turn into personal identities.

We judge only on facts we know.

We “just say no” to gossip and slander about another person. We refuse to listen to it, let alone allow it to influence the way we see or treat the person it was about. Matthew says that if we have an issue with a brother or sister, we go to that person (Mathew 18.15-17). Not our best friend, or the youth pastor, or the group of people standing around the coffee pot. Judgment is not to be crowd sourced.

We prioritize love.

Jesus said we must exercise both truth and grace. Too heavy on the first, and we become a Pharisee, wanting to be judge and jury for any infraction we might imagine but with little understanding of our own fallibility. Err too far on the grace side, and it becomes all peace and love with no correction. It's not truly loving to let a person go down in flames when we could have warned them at least. Don't confront someone without genuine love in your heart for them. Also, don't love someone unless you're willing to tell them hard truth.

We recognize when choices are different, not wrong.

Often, when we're upset about someone's choices, it's not that those choices are sinful but that they are uncomfortable. They are different than what we would choose. That does not make them wrong.

I have a painful example of this. Several years back, my daughter wanted to buy a Tshirt in support of the Day of Silence at high school. I said no. I didn't want my child supporting homosexual behavior. The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized—she didn't want to support the behavior. She wanted to support her friends, and their right to go through a school day without being harassed or hurt. It made me uncomfortable, but my daughter was closer to following her WWJD bracelet than I was. Our choices were different, but neither one was categorically wrong.

We cultivate humility.

“Brothers and sisters, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” (Galatians 6)

Restore how? By first remembering we could be just as guilty just as easily. By thinking of the last time were were tempted to fall just short of the mark. Or the last time we did. Jesus' main quarrel with the Pharisees judging was not that they did but the way in which they did. With pride and apparent enjoyment.

“For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7.1-2). In other words, do you really want to judge someone harshly? Do you secretly enjoy being the righteous one? Are you the one on my Facebook feed always posting stories about people's stupid choices and saying how much you'd like to see them punished? Then expect to have those tables turned. 

Rather, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.” Recognize your own frailty—then things will be much clearer.

We are reluctant to cast the first stone.

If we are eager to be the first in line when we sense a wrong somewhere, we'd better check our attitude. Christians filled with God's grace and truth do not want to judge one another. We do so as Paul did, reluctantly when necessary. Beware of those who take every opportunity to showcase their ability to “cleanse the temple.” That's the work of pride, not Jesus.

We earn the right to speak.

We earn it by being a part of another person's life, not a fly-by critic. We've taken the time to develop a relationship. We care all the time, not just when we want to point out a fault. We don't tell someone we hardly know how to live a better life.

I used to be a “don't judge me” kind of person. I bridled at any attempt at even perceived criticism. I've learned. The disciples needed accountability. The early church leaders needed accountability. I need accountability to become what God wants me to become. It's not a dirty word. I'm grateful for the people in my life with the courage to confront issues that don't bring glory to God.

Being judgmental is a bad thing. Being a good judge, however, is not. We should all be fortunate enough to have those around.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree that the concept of being judged has become a confusing mess. We are not capable of having clarity about the motivations of our own hearts, how dare we try to assume the motivations of another's heart. On the other hand, how dare we look away from the sin of a Christian brother or sister, and not call it what it is. Or how can we not seek after righteousness in the public square.