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!

#Identity: New Wine Podcast #018 Ronda Rousey and Dealing with Loss

In what or whom should we find our identity and why?

Ronda Rousey’s latest interview on the Ellen Show has gotten me thinking about this.

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Also, if you’d like to help support the creative process that helps bring this podcast to life, then please check out my Patreon page (http://patreon.com/JMatthewBarnes).  There are some fun rewards there for folks who pledge support although any level support will be greatly appreciated!



Here are a few links from this podcast:

FOX Sports article: http://www.foxsports.com/ufc/story/ufc-ronda-rousey-had-suicidal-thoughts-after-suffering-loss-to-holly-holm-021616

Ellen Appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwCdv9iR8P8

Following Jesus in the Real World What does this mean?

Following Jesus in the real world.  That’s a phrase that I use a lot on this website, on my podcast, and when I teach and preach.  But this phrase begs a ton of questions.

So, what does it mean to follow Jesus in the real world?

Let’s break it down!

FOLLOWING Jesus in the Real World

What does “following” mean in this context?  Well, to get a grip on that we have to have a basic understanding of what it meant when people were following Jesus in the first century.  What did it mean to follow someone in that day and age?

It’s certainly more than the way we use it when we ask someone who doesn’t know how to get to a destination to follow us.  That use implies a limited-time arrangement.  And it’s also much more robust than following someone on Twitter!

In the first century when someone would follow a teacher, rabbi, religious figure, or philosopher, that meant total devotion.  We see this when Peter, speaking for all the disciples who were following Jesus, said “We have left everything to follow you” (Mark 10.28).  Following Jesus caused a major disruption in their lives.  They couldn’t follow Jesus AND go about business as usual.

There’s something for us to learn there, isn’t there!?  We want to follow Jesus but not give up much to do so.  We think that following Jesus can be done while maintaining our selfish lives in more or less the same fashion.  This kind of “following” is more akin to Twitter than to what Jesus had in mind when he said “follow me” to the earliest disciples.

Though much more could be said about the notion of following, I want to focus on one more thing, namely that following Jesus is not passive.  Following Jesus is an active endeavor.  It’s not something that we do once years ago.  And it’s not something that only happens in our heads.  Nope!  Following Jesus is something that we do every single day.

Following in this way is disruptive and demanding.  It’s active and it requires all of us.

Following JESUS in the Real World

Who do we follow?  That answer’s easy, right?  Jesus!

But which Jesus?  Let’s be real for a second, we all want Jesus to be the kind of messiah that we want him to be.  If there’s something about the Jesus we meet in the Bible that extends beyond our comfortable messiah zone, we tend to ignore it or outright deny it.

And this is nothing new.  The disciples who first followed Jesus had this problem too.  Here’s Peter serving as a counter example again, this time in Mark 8.31-32:

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

Do you see it?  When Jesus said that he was going to suffer, be rejected, and ultimately die, this didn’t fit with Peter’s idea of who the messiah would be.  So Peter brashly decided to scold Jesus and tell him to get back into the comfortable messiah zone.

While it’s easy to scoff at Peter for his words here, don’t we all do the same thing today?  The Jesus we meet in the Bible doesn’t always line up with what we expect of him.

Maybe he focuses too much on the truth and sound ethical behavior for some of our likings.  And for others of us he may care too much about people who are marginalized, poor, and outcast.  And still others of us would prefer some vague disembodied notion of Jesus as our savior rather than the Second Person of the Trinity incarnated as a human that we meet in the Bible.

Friends, if we are to follow Jesus, then we are to follow the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus of our individual creation, not the Jesus of our church’s or denomination’s creation, not the Jesus of our political bent’s creation, and not the Jesus of anyone else’s creation either.  Instead, let’s look to the Gospels to learn about Jesus.  That’s who we are to follow!

One of my favorite authors and missional practitioners is Hugh Halter.  In his book entitled Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation down to Earth, he famously (at least in my book!) said that being missional means being disciples that live the human life of Jesus in our human lives.

In other words, following Jesus isn’t a game of cherry picking where we choose the parts of Jesus we want to follow.

Following Jesus IN THE REAL WORLD

Equally as important as the words “following” and “Jesus” is the phrase “in the real world.”  Here’s why…

All too often those of us who claim to follow Jesus do so in a fantasy world.  Let me explain.

Many of us surround ourselves with a Christian bubble.  We listen to Christian music, read Christian books, see Christian movies, visit Christian websites, hang out only with Christian friends, and even eat Christian breath mints!

This bubble mentality has gotten so bad that in America today one in five non-Christians do not know a Christian personally.  That’s crazy!  In a country with 80+% of us identifying as Christians, how is it that 20% of those who aren’t Christians don’t know any of us.

The answer is simple.  Those who don’t follow Jesus yet aren’t seeking us out and those of us following Jesus aren’t seeking them out.  We’re all okay with this fake bubble world.

Or perhaps more of us than any of us would like to admit are functional agnostics, saying that we follow Jesus but going about our lives as if the reality of God isn’t important enough to make an impact on our lives.

But, friends, Jesus didn’t live in a bubble like this, nor did he not allow the reality of God to impact his life.

He engaged people in his world.  He understood the culture of the world well.  He didn’t shy away from relationships with less-than-desirable people (like Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot).  And when he went about his daily life, Jesus regularly engaged in conversation with people of all stripes, including the socially, economically, religiously, etc. outcast.

But it’s important to note that Jesus also personally interacted with people that he disagreed with.  He had face-to-face encounters with Pharisees, entering into personal dialogue with them and even eating with them.

Jesus wasn’t scared of the world!  In fact, he came to be the light of the world (John 8.12).  How could he shine his light into the world unless he entered into it and all its messy reality?

And we’re called to do the same!  Jesus has commissioned all of us (not just those who are full-time ministers) to share this light of Jesus with the world too (Matthew 28.19-20; Acts 1.8).

So let’s burst our Christian bubbles and go out there are follow Jesus in the real world!

Next Steps

So what?  What are we to do with all of this information?

  1. If you’ve never begun to follow Jesus, you can do so today!  I’d love to chat with you about that.  Please contact me by going to my “About” page.  Also, you can simply start reading about Jesus in the Gospels.  I highly recommend starting with the Gospel of Mark.  Here’s a website where you can begin today.  Here’s a further suggestion — read a paragraph or two of Mark at a time and then pause.  Ask yourself these questions: What did I like about that?  What did I not like?  What’s weird or confusing?  What did I learn about Jesus?  And based on what I read, what is something I can do about it in my life?  Feel free to contact me and I’ll help in whatever way I can!
  2. If you’ve been following Jesus for a long time but you’ve cherry picked what to follow about Jesus, then I recommend that you get reconnected with the Jesus of the Bible.  Gather a group of friends to read the Gospel of Mark with you and see for yourself the kind of person that Jesus was.  In this group, ask the same questions that I outlined in point #1.  Then hold each other accountable to living the human life of Jesus in your human lives!
  3. If you’ve been following Jesus within the Christian bubble, it’s time to burst out!  Think about where you work, live, and play.  Who do you encounter in those places that doesn’t follow Jesus yet?  Maybe it’s time to start up a friendship with someone who is far from God.  But do this authentically.  Don’t force it.  Don’t push Jesus down their throat.  Instead, allow Jesus to bubble up through you into their lives.  BE the good news in their midst.  When the time is right, you can share with words.  But in the meantime, live the loving, caring, ethical, and honest life that you see Jesus living in the Gospels in the plain view of those who don’t know Jesus yet!


What do you think?  What does it mean to follow Jesus in the real world?  How would you recommend that we do that?  Let me know in the comments below!

#Purpose: New Wine Podcast #004

What is the goal or the purpose of following Jesus?  What are we supposed to be about?

In this podcast I explore these questions by looking at Matthew 28.18-20 and Acts 1.7-8.


You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!





The Baby’s Heartbeat

My wife and I are adopting.

Even though I have said and written those words many times, they still hit me in a surreal manner.  I instinctively think something like this: We’re not really adopting; this must just be a dream or something.

But it’s real!  In fact, yesterday it just got very, very real.

We heard our baby’s heartbeat for the first time.



A sample fetal heart rate monitor

The Baby’s Heartbeat

Wendy, my cousin and our birthmother, had a doctor’s appointment yesterday and we went with her.  The doctor and her assistant helped Wendy get into position and placed the listening end of a fetal heart rate monitor on her stomach.

And then we heard a series of sounds that brought this whole adoption thing out of the realm of “no way” right into the realm of “yup, it’s real.”

After listening for a little while the doctor told the assistant that the heart rate was 145 beats per minute.  But I wonder what the heart rates of my wife and I were?  I know that my heart was racing at a pace that felt like a million beats per minute!

That tiny baby’s heartbeat, which is in the normal range by the way (I Googled it!), represents a lifetime of stories, heartbreaks, love, and excitement.

That tiny heartbeat will change our lives forever.


Jesus’ Heartbeat

This whole experience kind of reminds me of when I first heard the heartbeat of Jesus.

Sadly, I lived for more than 20 years as a follower of Jesus before I really heard this heartbeat myself.

Don’t get me wrong.  Sometimes I would hear a faint sound that might have been Jesus’ heartbeat.  I certainly heard other people talk about experiencing his heartbeat firsthand.

But I hadn’t, at least not consistently.

But a few years ago I pulled my head out of my academic books (where it had been buried for 7 years at the time) and came up for air.  I realized that while I was on my self-imposed academic exile, an entire movement within the Church had taken on full form.

That movement is called the missional movement.  (Here’s a post where I talk about this process in more detail.)

That word, missional, has definitely hit buzzword status and, as such, it needs a bit of explaining.  So, here goes: “missional” means to be on mission with Jesus.  As Hugh Halter puts it in his book entitled Flesh: Bringing the Incarnation down to Earth — being missional means being disciples that live the human life of Jesus in our human lives.

So, if we see Jesus doing something, then we should be doing it too.  If we see him telling his disciples to do these sorts of things and not those sorts of things, then we should obey.  If we see Jesus caring for people, whoever they may be, then we should follow suit.

Here’s a way I like to think about it — being missional means letting Jesus’ heartbeat beat in our hearts.

And what is Jesus’ heartbeat?

I think we see it primarily in two places.  And each of these two places is of utmost importance and both should be pursued by followers of Jesus with all of our gumption.

The first is found in Luke 4.16-21:

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written:

 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Here we see Jesus’ heartbeat in this way: his heart beats for the downtrodden, for the oppressed, and for the forgotten.  When our hearts start to mimic Jesus’ heartbeat, then we’ll start caring for the poor, those who are imprisoned, those who are differently abled, and those who are oppressed.

The second is found in Matthew 28.18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Here we find the other side of Jesus’ heartbeat — his desire that his followers would help others follow him too.  And who are his followers supposed to help become disciples?  Everyone, all the nations.

And what are they to do with them when they start following Jesus?  They are to baptize them (making them part of the church family) and they are to teach them to obey Jesus (mentoring them to live the human life of Jesus in their lives).

Traditionally different sorts of Christians have focused on one aspect of Jesus’ heartbeat or the other.  Friends, this is simply a cop out.  We must focus on both.  All of us.  Each one of us.  Together.

We must be all about justice and we much be all about making disciples.

And hearing the heartbeat of Jesus can change our lives, even more so than hearing the heartbeat a baby.

When you think of the heartbeat of Jesus, what do you think of and why?  Let me know in the comments below!

If you would like to know how you can support my wife any I in this crazy process of adoption, click on the following link or copy and paste it into your browser: https://www.continuetogive.com/mattandalida.

To read some more of our adoption story, CLICK HERE.