“Do you recycle?” someone asked me the other day. “No, I don’t,” I responded. “I hate recycling. In fact, I hate the environment.”
I like to preempt people’s final thoughts so as to cut to the chase. Well, this is not the chase, but when I say “No, I don’t,” it is where the chase goes in some people’s minds. I could never be accused of doing all things well. Let me list some of my entanglements: My schedule is erratic, my organizational abilities a mess, I spend money that could feed a child in Africa for a month on little toys like this Batarang, I am addicted to nicotine (and I have a very addictive personality), I can “tap out” of life for a time, I watch too many TV shows (part of my “tap out” process), I break promises, I don’t like Apple, I don’t home-school (well, for the most part), most of my kids struggle in school and I don’t help enough, my marriage is far from ideal, I get depressed often, I am very moody, and, most importantly, I DON’T eat organic. I could go on with my bad qualities, but you get the idea.
Let me focus for a bit. I don’t really curse. It just sounds so unnatural coming out of my mouth. My mother never cursed and I never heard it from my dad. Saying bad words was not part of my upbringing. I will sometimes curse intentionally around certain people just to send a message that my faith has little to do with whether or not one curses. You should see the looks on someone’s face when I do! But there is no need to pat me on the back for not cursing. It is just not me. And I don’t really care too much when other people curse. I grew up in public schools and got used to it very early on. So, I neither curse nor look down on others who do (even Christians).
However, it is very easy for me to look down on people who are engaged in a homosexual lifestyle. It is even easier for me to look down upon them if they are homosexual activists. I have very little grace here and a lot of self-righteous judgement. I am working on it. Why am I so hard on people here? Because it is easy. It is really easy for me to not be a homosexual. And it is emotionally and physically repulsive to me. I don’t have any family members who have struggled with this, so it is foreign to my psychology, physiology, and upbringing.
Judgmentalism is a funny thing. It is usually a very emotional thing. Judgmentalism is not limited to Christianity or any other religious belief. It is not a religion thing. It is a human thing. Judgmentalism comes in all shapes and sizes. Those who follow a certain diet are often judgmental of those who eat whatever they want. Those who get up early judge those who sleep late. The person who gets all As looks down on those with Cs. The person who was a virgin when they were married judges those who were promiscuous. Those who home-school hammer those who don’t (and vice versa). Those who are married judge the divorced. Those who teach their kids to play catch look down on those who let their kids watch too much TV. Those who go to church on Sunday try to straighten out those who go on Saturday. Those who are involved in politics correct those who couldn’t care less. Those who have a date night every Friday try to fix the marriages of those who don’t. Those who don’t have a Facebook account correct those who do. You don’t have to believe in God, go to church, or open a Bible to be judgmental.
There is hardly a worse place to be than in the presence of someone who is continually looking down on you. It does not matter how large or how small the issue is, the oppression that is brought about by those who evaluate you primarily through the lens of their particular hot button issue is tremendous. It is the cause of many ended marriages and friendships. It hurts to be judged. It hurts to feel small. It hurts to have a blind eye continually turned on your good qualities as you are only evaluated based on those things that people have decided determine your worthiness. Of course, the person on the perfect diet may neglect his children. The person who doesn’t drink may never give of her time to help someone move. The person who saves the environment may cheat on his taxes. The person who has no television in their house may physically abuse her kids. The irony knows no bounds.
Here is our state of affairs: we condition ourselves to place a higher priority on those things we do well. These are normally the things that come easily for us. These are normally things that we learned early in life from our family. These are normally things that are visible. And these are the things we judge others for not doing well. All the while, we have learned to look past our own faults, making them less serious than others’ faults. When this happens, we become judgmental. When this happens, we become painful to be around.
You see, what happens when we are judgmental is that no one can tolerate to be around us. We don’t lift people up, we bring them down filling them with guilt and insecurity. The result is that the judged go in search of those who don’t continually complain about the stench of their sin. Normally, this is found in communities of people who struggle with the same sins. And this is not a good place to be, as it normally fosters apathy toward resolving their problems (if they are truly problems). More than this, it creates a community of sameness where no diversity is present. Here there are no challenges in thinking or practice and these begin to judge those who are not like them! And the cycle goes on and on.
A story is told of a group of Oxford professors who were discussing what the primary uniqueness that Christianity offered the world of religion was. Some people said it was creation. Some said it was the cross. Others suggested the Bible, miracles, and hope. When C.S. Lewis came in the room, the group asked him what he thought Christianity brought to the table that others did not. Without hesitation he responded, “That’s easy. It’s grace.”
Grace is probably the most radical concept humanity has ever known. It is the only thing that is really different in a world filled with isolated judgmentalism. It is the balm that cures all relationships. It is the most attractive personality characteristic that any human could possess. It demands diversity in order for it to work. Grace is understanding, kind, warm, and disarming. Grace was illustrated by Christ, who is the only one who has ever had a reason to be judgmental, yet only sought to be around those who were outcast, hated, and looked down upon. Grace is reaching down to those places you don’t go to and accepting those who do the things you don’t.
How to overcome judgmentalism:
1. Know Thyself: I think the way to heal the disease of judgmntalism is to take a long hard look at ourselves. We must recognize the severity of our own shortcomings. I can only judge homosexuals when I am feeling pretty good about myself. I can only look down upon them when I fail to see the mire of sin my life is sinking in. Take a long hard look into God’s word and ask yourself this one question: What are the camels that God cares about most? Humility, caring for those in need, giving of yourself and your wealth, loving your spouse more than yourself and, without question, showing grace would make my list. I fail here. Cursing: easy. All these camels: hard. Judgmentalism can only arise in the delusion of self-righteousness.
2. Know Christ: Christ is a pretty solid example to follow. It is very hard to read too much of Christ’s engagement with people and not be convinced of how attractive he was to sinners and how unattractive he was to the self-righteous. In fact, they had a name they called him. No, it was not “goody two-shoes,” “Bible banger,” or “Mr. Perfect.” It was “friend of sinners.” Have we ever been called this? Could we ever be accused of being a friend of sinners? If not, I imagine we are judgmental.
3. Know the Pharisees: The only people I see who hated Christ were the self-righteous people who had it all figured out. Among the Jews in Christ’s day, these were the Pharisees. People were scared of the Pharisees. They were not ever accused of being friends of sinners. Yet Christ didn’t have much good to say about them. In one candid moment he told them that they strain out gnats and swallow camels (Matt. 23:24). Translation: they kept the parts of the law that were easy, visible, and insignificant compared to the parts they did not keep (which where were difficult, invisible, and significant). They did not curse, drink, or go to parties (gnats). Yet they were unkind, without mercy, and graceless (camels).
4. Confess Thyself: These alone don’t solve it. There is a hard part. We have to let others know about our sins. This does not mean become a lush and vomit our problems all over people at every turn, it just means we go public with those things that are so easy to keep in private. Once we do this, it is hard to idolize ourselves, much less look down on others. We simple don’t have a leg to stand on and others know it.
Showing grace is radical. But if we are able to do this, we will save our lives from the prison of self-righteousness. We might even be radical enough to gain friends and influence people for the cause of Christ.
Finally, let’s let the fear of this verse sink deep into our hearts:
“Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.”