Everyone seems so willing to pass judgment these days. The conservatives judge the liberals, and vice versa. The two sides of the abortion debate have succeeded in dehumanizing each other. People seem almost as divided by race as ever. Immigrants in every nation, whether there legally or not, are scorned and ridiculed.
As a Christian, it saddens me that we the church have become such a judgmental crowd. I wonder where we get the notion that it is our job to judge the world? Jesus, our perfect example, didn’t come to judge the world – the only people he ever judged were the hypocritical religious leaders, the ones who were weighing down the people with rules and more laws. Yet we are constantly looking outside the church, railing on whatever particular sin is the flavor of the day.
The apostle Paul, whose ideas about church are still applied today, wrote:
“It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your job to judge those inside the church who are sinning in these ways.” I Corinthians 5:12 (emphasis mine)
James, the brother of Jesus, wrote that
“God alone, who made the law, can rightly judge among us. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to condemn your neighbor?” James 4:12 (emphasis mine)
When Jesus sent his disciples out into the surrounding country side to spread the good news, did he tell them to go into each house and make a list of what those people were doing wrong? No. He told them to “first bless the house.” In other words, pay them a compliment. Encourage them.
Why are we the church so critical? Why don’t we bless anyone’s house any more? The diminishing relevance of many churches does not surprise me when viewed in light of how they enter people’s houses (metaphorically speaking).
But it’s easy for me to “judge” the wider church. What’s hard is for me to look at my personal life and admit that I, too, judge people…based on how they look, or on their political views, or their religion. Why? Why do I do this?
When judging takes place it always has a partner: fear. Whenever we judge an idea or a person or a religion we do so at least partially out of fear. But in the book of John it says that “perfect love casts out fear.”
How can I love perfectly, or at least try to? How can I rid myself of these petty fears?