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!

God So Loved

 

This is the single most famous verse of the Bible, at least according to the Barna research commissioned by the American Bible Society entitled “State of the Bible, 2013.”

 

Favorite Verses

Favorite Verses

 

Many people surveyed didn’t have a favorite Bible verse or didn’t know what their favorite was.  But when people identified their favorite verse, John 3.16 took the cake big time!

 

And this verse is every where.

At sporting events:

God So Loved

From the Daily Mail UK

 

On people’s bodies:

 

And even on the bottom of a cup at a fast food joint:

God So Loved

In N Out

 

But Why John 3:16?

Why this verse?  There are so many other great ones to choose from!  Why have so many people been drawn to this verse?

I’m not sure, at least not with regard to everyone but I know why I like it.  Even though it’s not my favorite verse, that “honor” belongs to Philippians 3.10, the message of John 3.16 is straight forward, compelling, and comforting.

All of those things can be summed up in three little words found in John 3.16: God so loved.

All that Jesus did for us, for the world, was done because God so loved.

God gave his one and only son because God so loved.

Our trust in Jesus grants us eternal life and allows us to avoid perishing because God so loved.

John 3.16 is a great verse because God so loved!

 

God So Loved…So What?

But all of that was in the past.  God so loved the world 2000 years ago that he sent his son.

What has he done for us lately?

Well, luckily for all of us, God continues to love.  He continues to reveal himself to us.  He continues to demonstrate his love for us by caring for our needs, surrounding us with loving community, and by granting us peace and power through his Holy Spirit.

But God didn’t love us and send us his son just so that we as individuals could feel safe and secure.

No.

God so loved so that we would so love too!  And if God so loved the world, then we should so love the world too!

 

How Can We So Love the World Too?

Here are a few practical ideas:

  1. Treat people like people.  All of us are tempted to pass people by, treating them as if they are extras in the movie of our lives.  We might be busy, tired, or scared.  We might just want to walk on by because that’s easier.  But one simple way that we can so love the world is by treating people like people.  Look folks in the eye.  Say “hello.”  Engage in conversation.  Do to others what you would want them to do to you!
  2. Bend over backwards.  Love isn’t easy; therefore so loving the world will be extra difficult.  Why?  The answer is simple.  We’d all rather be selfish and do what we want.  But just think back to the last time someone went the extra mile for you.  How did that feel?  Now imagine doing the same for someone else!  This kind of love can change the world!
  3. Love sacrificially.  Our normal mode of operation is to love people we really like or to love people we think will love us back.  Thank goodness God didn’t love us this way!  Instead, let’s love everyone we can and let’s do so sacrificially.  Love that’s not genuine is easy to spot, super easy.  But love that sacrificial feels right, every single time.

 

Those are a few thoughts about what it means that God so loved the world.  What are some more ways that we can so love the world too?  Let me know in the comments below!

The Ghost of Church Present: Part One

My wife, parents, and I recently watched a stage production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  As I watched it I couldn’t help but imagine what the ghosts of church past, present, and future might say to those of us who follow Jesus.  Last week I looked into the revelations from the ghost of church past (see the links at the end of this post).  And this week we’ll hear from the ghost of church present.

A Missional Reality

danfador / Pixabay

There’s a new era dawning.  The West in the twenty-first century is a mission field, no matter how you’d like to define that term.  The power of Christendom once reigned supreme in the West, but now things are changing.  Whereas at one time the wider culture shared basic values with those who follow Jesus, today living a gospel-centered life makes a follower of Jesus really stand out.  There are more and more people who are unchurched, de-churched, and/or anti-church.

Where’s the evidence for these claims?  I need stats!

Okay, okay.  Here are a few:

  •  There are 50.5 million religiously unaffiliated people in the U.S.  —  According to the PewResearch, 16.1% of people in the U.S. identify themselves as atheists, agnostics, or not particularly religious.  There are 313.9 million people in the U.S. right now, and 16.1% of that total equals 50.5 million.  That’s a ton!
  • There are 14.75 million people in the U.S. affiliated with religions other than Christianity — Again, according to PewResearch, 4.7% of Americans are affiliated with a religious group that isn’t self-identified as Christian, such as Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, New Age, etc.
  • There are 7.5 millions Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in the U.S. — PewResearch has found that 2.4% of Americans identify themselves as Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  • That means that there are 72.75 million people who explicitly need the gospel! — If you add the three categories above up this is the total you get.  And this total makes up 23.18% of our total population.  The good news, of course, is that 76.82% are part various Christian groups (Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, etc.).
  • There’s a huge number of “Casual Christians” — George Barna, in his book The Seven Faith Tribes, highlights a massive group of people he calls “Casual Christians.”  This tribe, according to an interview posted on the Barna Group’s website, “are defined by the desire to please God, family, and other people while extracting as much enjoyment and comfort from the world as possible.”  In other words, these are consumer Christians par excellence!  How many of these “Casual Christians” are there out there?  According to Barna, 66% of the American population is made up of “Casual Christians”!  That’s 207.17 million people!  I think almost any missionally-minded person would agree that these folks need to be evangelized or re-evangelized!
  • So, that brings the total number of people who need a fresh encounter of the gospel up to 279.92 million people. — Friends, that’s massive!  If that number holds true, then that means that only 10.83% of the American population is living a life, as Barna put it, “defined by their [Christian] faith.”
  • But of those 10.83% of Americans, how are involved in making disciples? — We can’t say for sure.  There are some studies that indicate that more than half of Evangelicals share their faith at least once a year, but this data is based on self-reporting.  I find it hard to believe that we have such a large percentage of people out there sharing their faith!  My guess is that very few people do this.  What’s the point?  There aren’t that many people actively engaged in reaching those who need to be reached in the U.S.

Jesus said it best in Luke 10.2: “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.”  So that’s the bare minimum of our call, to pray for more workers for the mission field in the U.S.  But if we all could begin to adopt missional postures and incarnational lifestyles, then we could actually become those workers!  That’s my prayer, namely that God would turn you and I into missionaries right here in the U.S.!

What do you think of this picture?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

The Ghost of Church Past (Part One, Part Two, Part Three)