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.”
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?
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!
- 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.
- 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).
- 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?
- 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?
- 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!