If we were to ask the average man or woman in the street what he thinks of people who call themselves Christians, one of the things they might say is, “They’re always judging us”. As followers of Jesus Christ we may wish to be thought of as good living, upright people but the fact is that we so often put people off Jesus by being judgmental.
I have quite a large range of “friends” on Facebook. Hardly a day goes by without seeing some criticism or judgement upon fellow human beings, society or countries. Sometimes we are requested to “like” some outrageous statement about some more marginalised sections of the population – excluding them still further.
The speck and the plank
If we claim to follow Jesus, then like him, we must refuse to judge each other and refuse to judge people who don’t agree with our point of view. In Matthew chapter 7, Jesus said,
“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.”
Jesus often used hyperbole to make a point. The picture is quite funny but actually quite pointed. Imagine a man going around with a great plank of wood poking out of his eye looking for specks of sawdust in other people’s eyes. Jesus said, “First, remove the plank”. We will then be able to see clearly to help a person to remove a speck of sawdust from their eye! Even then we must not judge the other person, as Jesus never judged. None of us is without fault. We are responsible for own failings, but not the failings of others!
One day, they brought to Jesus, a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. (Where was the man we may well ask.) The people were anxious to judge her, and stone her, and they hoped Jesus would condemn her too. Now, Jesus lived a perfect life and you might have expected him to have judged the woman severely. Jesus didn’t even judge the crowd. He simply said, “if anyone of you is without sin, be the first to throw a stone at her”.
One by one, the crowd disappeared leaving Jesus with the woman. Jesus did not condemn the woman but simply told her to “leave your life of sin”. Jesus certainly had the knack of guiding people’s lives without condemning or judging them. If we are to be like Jesus, we must do the same.
As followers of Jesus Christ we may have our own personal standards. These standards must always be open to flexibility and change, as we understand better the way that God wants us to live. No two of us are the same. God’s priorities in sorting my life out may be very different to his priorities in dealing with yours.
We must never let the standards we apply to our own lives, or our own priorities, become part of our attitude to others. God never expects us to be judgmental on other people. When asked, we might explain to other people how God deals with us as an individual. Others might find our personal experience useful, but we shouldn’t be the judge and jury, condemning them.
An (incomplete) List
Here is a list some of the areas where we sometimes criticise and judge other people. I’m not commenting about the rightness or wrongness of these issues, as I am not called to judge!
- People of other religions, (in particular Islamaphobia).
- People of other Christian groups, other than our own.
- People who struggle with the whole issue of God, and faith.
- People who believe that it is a woman’s right to choose abortion.
- People who are comfortable with the ethics involved of using a fetus to create or enhance life.
- So called “scroungers” who have to, or choose to, live off the state.
- Immigrants seeking a better life in another country.
- Vegetarians, or meat-eaters as the case may be.
- Gays and lesbians.
- People who choose to live together rather than get married.
- People who are overweight, or too thin.
- People who belong to political parties which “surely can’t be Christian”
- People who don’t share our concern for the environment, or those who we think are over-concerned with these things.
- People who don’t share our concern about justice for the poor.
- People of a different colour, race, culture or social group.
- Bankers! (O dear, I scored an own goal here!)
- … (Add your own here!).
As human beings, we may feel passionately about certain issues. Personally, I’m concerned to seek justice for people living in extreme poverty. Because I want to see a better world, I want to speak out against wrong attitudes and a world system which lacks justice. But I need to maintain a sense of balance. Because I feel passionate about these matters, I can be tempted at times to be judgemental of those who do not share my views.
“Please Lord, help me to provoke change in people’s attitudes, but without judging them“.
What do you think?
- Perhaps you think that we ought to judge things we see as wrong.
- Do you agree with me?
- Any confessions to make?
- What else should be on the list?
- Please add your comments below.