It is a common thing in our society to call Christians in general judgmental. It is an easy attack and so many people make it. To be sure there are a number of people who claim Christianity who are quite judgmental. I do not excuse their actions whatsoever. In fact I have given numerous lectures on how if someone claims Christianity, then they should not be judgmental (I even touched on it in a previous blog). However, most true followers of Christ are the least judgmental people you will ever meet. It is just that a few bad run-ins can ruin it for the rest of the crowd. I have been around churches and Christianity (there is a difference) my whole life and I can safely say that the vast majority of true followers of Christ are the least judgmental people you will ever meet.
Judgmental is defined as the tendency to judge others harshly (Merriam-Webster) and too quickly and critically (Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary). I want to clarify that there is nothing wrong with accurate, humble, and gracious correction. Humbly pointing out a wrong, offering forgiveness, and suggesting alternative actions is not being judgmental. Unfortunately many people mistake the latter for judgmentalism. Many people simply do not like any form of correction no matter how accurate and gracious it is and so they wrongly label any form of correction as judgmental. However, being judgmental is to rashly criticize someone without all the information, jumping to conclusions, and not trying to be understanding.
When Christ said “do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1), He was talking about hypocritical judgment, not humble, accurate, and gracious correction. This is apparent because He followed up the last quote with “first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5) So Christ actually advocated people to help others notice their flaws, but only after careful humble self-reflection and repentance.
The secular world is an interesting one. They love to use the first quote of Christ that I gave. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard someone use that quote without knowing the full context of the quote. Yet at the same time, the secular world loves to harshly and quickly judge people for their errors. It is very difficult to go on any social media outlet without seeing someone judging another with a news article attached.
Personally it upsets me very much to see all this easy shaming going around. Judging others is not that hard to do, but the internet has made it all that much easier. And the thing is that a lot of these judgmental reports are not from religious people or sources; they are from atheistic or secular people or sources. I really have been shocked that people have not been noticing this. Secular people are quick to judge the church as judgmental but somehow are completely blind to their own habit of judgmentalism. Being judgmental is a sign of self-righteousness, and I have certainly seen secular self-righteousness on the rise lately. (I have written on the rise of secular self-righteousness here and here.)
Allow me to give you a few examples.
Just the other day a talented running back named Joe Mixon was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals. Mr. Mixon was mired by the fact that he punched a woman in the face in the early hours of his 18th birthday. There are many people who are saying it is literally a crying shame that he is in the NFL. According to them, Mixon should not receive a chance to play in the NFL because of his act three years ago.
One article started with, “Like it or not, Joe Mixon is in the NFL.” Another writer said he felt like crying when Mixon was drafted. He tried to sound not so judgmental when he said, “[his action] doesn’t make him despicable today. No one’s life should be defined by a heinous act at age 18.” But all those seemingly gracious words fade to nothing when the writer does exactly that: define the Bengals’ selection by what Mixon did at 18. And of course a news station called on fans to boycott the Bengals. So there has been plenty of secular judgmentalism hovering over Mixon.
Most people know of Ray Rice’s assault on his then fiancee, and now wife, in an elevator in 2014. Of course the outcry was tremendous. He will most likely never play in the NFL again and many people are still refusing to forgive him … even though his wife, the victim of the assault, has. In fact, many people judged his wife, Janay Palmer, for forgiving him. They called her an enabler of other abusers. Rice has been very apologetic and has taken many steps that reveal how serious he is about changing who he was so that he can be a better man. Even still, this has not quieted the voices of many.
Recently former president Barack Obama was judged for giving a speech at a Wall Street health conference and was paid $400,000 for doing so. Did you hear all the attacks on him? Senators Sanders and Warren, Bill Maher, and a host of other people slammed him for doing so. Can anybody tell me what is wrong with that without rushing to ignorant judgment of Mr. Obama? Or can anybody tell me what is wrong with that without rushing to ignorant judgment of people on Wall Street? Anybody who is rich is an easy target these days for judgment. For some reason being rich qualifies you for unmitigated judgment (seemingly unless you are an entertainer of some kind).
I listened as Peter Sagal compared Mr. Obama to Jesus. He has been disappointed with how Mr. Obama has spent his time out of office. Mr. Obama has been spotted spending time with wealthy people. Sagal said, “Since Inauguration Day, Democrats have yearned for Obama to lead the resistance, but all he’s done is party with rich people. It’s like everybody was waiting for the second coming of Jesus, and Jesus comes back and all he does is party with Richard Branson. And people are like, Jesus, what are you doing? And he’s, like, hey, you know, walking on water is fine, but have you tried kitesurfing?” Admittedly, that is funny, but notice how quick he is to judge a man who for the past 8 years led the free world, doing the hardest job on planet Earth. Do you not think the man has earned the right for a lot of time off? (Side note: you put your hope in anybody but Jesus, and you will be let down eventually.)
Christian Response to Failure
Because there have been people who call themselves Christians (whether they truly are Christ followers or not is another discussion) who have been very judgmental, people assume that Christianity itself is judgmental. However, we have to separate the people who claim a belief and the belief itself. As Emy Vazquez, the pastor of my church says, “Scripture is not crazy; people are crazy.”
Scripture outlines how Christians are to respond to people who fail. Believe it or not, Scripture does not say, “When you see someone sin, shame them into a corner and beat down on them.” This is actually what Scripture says and it is world-changing:
Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
There is a whole lot to say about this passage, but I want to key in on just one aspect. Notice what the goal is after someone is caught red handed in some sin: Restoration!
This is huge. The goal is not to permanently remove someone from their position, but to restore someone back to their previous position. Looking at social media now-a-days, there is no grace, no forgiveness, and almost no room for error. As soon as someone makes one mistake the pitchforks are out. And again, I want to point out that it is not always religious people calling for the heads of those who have messed up.
So the Christian response to someone failing is to look for restoration. This restoration process may take time, but it is a noble and caring goal. Imagine if social media took up this method instead of rashly judging through a computer screen everyone who fails.
One of the problems with being quick to judge another is that we are only making our own judgment that much quicker and harsh (as Christ said above). Of course when someone rushes to judge us, we ask for grace, but we did not bother to extend it to anyone else. Quoting Emy Vazquez again, “Isn’t funny how we are unwilling to give people time to change, but we are always asking time for ourselves?”
Scripture has more teachings on how to deal with people who fail, but I would like to stop here and let this point sink in.
The next time you are tempted to join your voice in judgment of someone, consider what Scripture says about restoring someone who has fallen. I think the secular world could learn a whole lot from just this one passage.