I’m Not Supposed to Judge?
Nobody wants to be a “holier than thou, judgmental hypocrite.” And most of the time we aren’t. I often read of surveys where atheists and agnostics suggest that most Christians are “judgmental” and “hateful towards those with different beliefs.” And I know that there are times when some Christians might demonstrate those traits, but most of the Christians I come across are not that way. In fact, I find that sometimes, those who accuse Christians of being judgmental are actually more judgmental than the Christians they are accusing. Still, judgmental-ism is an unattractive quality that we should try to avoid. But life requires us to make judgments all the time. So how can we be “discerning” and make wise judgments without being “judgmental?”
We can cultivate two qualities that Jesus often demonstrated.
- Curiosity. Curiosity allows me to resist the temptation to jump to conclusions about people and circumstances. Rather than making assumptions based on limited evidence, we ask questions and seek clarity. Rather than hurling an insult at someone who has a different political persuasion than me, I choose to ask clarifying questions to try and understand this person’s point of view. I may end up disagreeing with an opinion, but I don’t have to assume the worst about the person who holds that opinion. I often talk about the importance of turning our frustration into fascination. When I am frustrated, I tend to get judgmental. When I am fascinated, I tend to get curious. If I get frustrated with a person, I start to lash out and attack. But if I will get fascinated, I will seek to understand a person’s story and perspective, which typically helps me respond in a more patient and loving way. Curiosity about people and perspectives can help us avoid the tendency toward judgmentalism.
- Humility. Humility isn’t a quality where we beat myself up and tell ourselves how awful we are, but humility does acknowledge our own faults and frailties. Knowing that I have received God’s grace in spite of my own sinfulness, I can see others through a more gracious perspective. This is the real beauty of Christianity. We don’t assume an attitude of arrogance or superiority, we assume an attitude of humble gratitude that recognizes our need for God’s love in our lives. We then become instruments of God’s love in the lives of others.
When Jesus tells us that we are not to judge, he is not suggesting that we should not make decisions or stand up for what we believe in or stand against evil and injustice. He is telling us to go through life with a curiosity and a humility that helps us avoid the tendency to become arrogant and assume the worst about others. Let’s work hard to become discerning, but avoid becoming judgmental.
Pastor Mark Miller