5 Reasons Not to Be Judgmental Though Many More Could Be Added!

Something that I say all the time is that when young adults think of Christians the most common word they associate with us is “judgmental.”

Not only do I say it…but I’ve written about many times and I’ve even recorded a podcast on it as well.

And add to all of that the fact that one of my favorite Christian authors and missional practitioners, Hugh Halter, wrote an excellent book on the topic called Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgment.

In other words, I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately.  And the question I’ve been pondering lately is this: Why should we not be judgmental, especially since we’re so tempted to be?

Defining “Judgmental”

Before we can really dig in, we must figure out what it means to be judgmental?

I intend for this post (and the blog generally) to be most useful for followers of Jesus, so my comments will be colored by this intention.

With that said, I think it will be helpful to say a few things that I DON’T mean when I use the word “judgmental.”

  • I don’t mean holding a fellow believer accountable if s/he has asked you to do so.  This arrangement is agreed upon by both parties and is intended for mutual benefit.  So it’s not judgmental to mention something about the actions, habits, and language of someone who has agreed to be held accountable by us.
  • I don’t mean having strong opinions about what is sinful and what is not based on various texts from the Bible.  That’s perfectly fine and it’s helpful for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus to know what may or may not please him (the key phrase there is “for those of us who have chosen to follow Jesus”).
  • And lastly, I don’t mean observing cultural patterns and then identifying which ones are edifying for you and your family and which ones are not.  As a follower of Jesus, it’s your right (and duty even) to ensure that your family is exposed to the right sorts of things.  But, again, this sort of social sorting and labeling should be reserved for internal use as followers of Jesus.

What do I mean by “judgmental” then?

Being judgmental as a follower of Jesus is applying the expectation of obedience to biblical ideals that comes with following Jesus on those who do not yet follow Jesus and/or calling out the actions, habits, and language of a specific, fellow follower of Jesus without having entered into an accountability agreement.

Why Is Being Judgmental to Be Avoided?

While there are many, many, many reasons, here are five good ones!

  1. Being judgmental doesn’t work because we don’t have all the info. If someone is doing something that we deem wrong and we say something about it to them, whether they are not yet a follower of Jesus or not in an accountability agreement, then we are presuming that we know the whole situation.  We are pretending that we know their backstory and all the antecedent decisions that led up the current situation.  We’re also assuming that we know their intent, i.e., their heart.  Let’s be honest, the one huge problem with being judgmental is that in so doing we are presupposing a bunch of knowledge to which no human being has direct and easy access.
  2. Being judgmental is overstepping our job description as followers of Jesus.  Who told us that it was our collective and individual duty to pay attention to everyone else and be sure to point out all the things that we find wrong or inappropriate?  We do, however, have a pretty clear job description in the Bible.  Jesus tells us that we are to do three primary things: 1) love God, 2) love others, and 3) make disciples (Matthew  22.36-40, 28.19-20).  Nowhere in that job description exists the idea of being judgmental.  In fact, there is one who has the job of being the judge, and that person is Jesus (2 Timothy 4.1).
  3. Being judgmental fails the Golden Rule quite horribly.  In Luke 6.31 Jesus sums up much of his teaching in one tight little thought: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Thus, let’s ask ourselves this question: Do we want someone peeping into our lives like a creep in order to catch us in a mistake or sin, intentional or not?  What about this question: Do we want to be held to a standard we haven’t agreed to or be put under scrutiny that isn’t consensual?  Friends, if we don’t want these things done to us (and no one really does who is being honest!), why then do we feel we have the right to do them to others?
  4. Being judgmental breaks a direct command in the Bible.  In Matthew 7.1 Jesus says these famous words: “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.”  So when we judge others we are actively going against a direct command from Jesus!  And besides that, we’re inviting the judgment of others on us as well (“or you too will be judged” and all of verse 2!).  So instead of breaking this clear command, wouldn’t it be better for all of us to zip our lips when it comes to judging others?
  5. Being judgmental really kills our ability to be and share the good news.  Think about it: If we want someone to respond positively to the good news of Jesus and his kingdom, wouldn’t we want NOT to judge them?  Because if we are judgmental, they will sense it, and just like us, they won’t like it.  And they ARE sensing it.  Remember that study I mentioned at the beginning of this post?  In it the researchers found that 87% of young adults thought that Christians were judgmental.  87%!  That’s insane!  If we keep it up at this pace we’re never going to be able to share the good news with anyone because they’ll be so tired of all the bad news we keep spewing!

 

What do you think?  Why shouldn’t we be judgmental?  Let me know in the comments below!

Punxsutawney Phil and Hope! Hope Springs Eternal...Get it?!?

Punxsutawney Phil is the “official” groundhog of Groundhog Day, the holiday, not the movie (though he is in the movie)!  And this year (2016) Phil did not see his shadow, which apparently means that spring will be coming sooner rather than later.

As I was considering Punxsutawney Phil and all of his antics, I realized something: this little mammal is all about hope.  Think about it, those who have suffered a long winter with mounds of snow, ice, and bone-chilling temperatures need something to remind them that spring is coming.  They need hope.

They need Punxsutawney Phil!

Unfortunately, the hope that this little groundhog brings isn’t all that great.  He only gets it “right” 40% 0f the time.

While 40% would be a great batting average in baseball (.400 is almost mythical in its stature), for a weather predictor that’s worse than flipping a coin!

The hope that Punxsutawney Phil brings is flimsy at best.

Better Sources for Hope than Punxsutawney Phil

So are there better sources for hope?  Absolutely!

Firstly, if we are searching for some hope we can be reminded of all the times and ways that we worked hard and got things done.  More often than not we succeed, in small ways and large ones.  But we end up failing ourselves since we aren’t perfect. Looking inward is not the best source of hope.

Secondly, we can search for hope in others, like our family and friends.  Most of us have people that we can count on.  When we’re in trouble, we contact them and they are there for us.  But we know that they’re imperfect people too and, oh by the way, they’ve failed us as well. Looking to others is not the best source of hope either.

Thirdly, we can search for hope in societal structures and governments.  More often than not, things like banks, infrastructure, and government agencies can be counted on to do what they are supposed to do.  But we all know the ways that they fail us too, seeing that they were created by and are run by flawed human beings. Looking outward to societal structures and governments is not the best source of hope either.

Fourthly, we can search for hope with organized religion, specifically within the Church.  In the vast majority of cases, the Church brings people hope and help.  But we all know that the Church is run by people who can influence things to go in the wrong direction based on their own predilections and brokenness.  Looking outward to the Church or organized religion is not the best source of hope either.

The Best Source of Hope

So is there one source that’s THE best?

Last night I was chatting with a new friend on Blab, a social broadcasting platform.  He said that he grew up in a Christian family but that based on various experiences he came to understand that the people who introduced him to Christ couldn’t be counted on, since they were flawed people.  He needed to turn to a better source of hope.

So he turned to a relationship directly with God.  His words were that “God could be counted on since he was perfect.”  However, my new friend admitted that his experience of God can’t always be trusted since he himself is also imperfect.  But he was more willing to trust in his relationship with God directly than any kind of connection to the divine mediated by others.

And, in my opinion, my new friend is on to something.  We fail ourselves.  Others fail us.  And the structures of the world fail us.  And even the Church fails us.

So where do we turn?

We turn to the true source of hope, Christ Jesus, whom Paul calls “the hope of glory” (Colossians 1.27).  And it is because of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead that we “have been given birth into a living hope” (1 Peter 1.3).

And because our hope is “in the living God” (1 Timothy 4.10) and not “wealth, which is uncertain” (1 Timothy 6.17), it is secure and unfailing.  And this hope is not flimsily based on the meandering failures of humans.  Instead it rests in the unswerving character of God himself, as expressed through Jesus, therefore it is “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrew 6.19).

So where we fail ourselves, others fail us, society fails us, and the Church fails us, Jesus won’t!  We can rest assured that our hope in him is well-placed!

 

What do you think?  Are Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil all about hope?  Where can and should we place our hope?  Let me know in the comments below!