Judge Not

It is not God’s wrath or judgment that leads to repentance, but rather God’s kindness. How many people have ever changed for the better through experiencing other people’s judgment?

As The Banner editor, I often feel judged for what I write and don’t write, for what I choose to publish and not publish. But God convicted me that I, too, have been judgmental of others.

In a 2007 Barna Group poll of young Americans (aged 16-29), 87% of non-churchgoers and 52% of active regular churchgoing youth agreed that Christianity is judgmental. There is clearly a disconnect between what Christians proclaim and what the world experiences.

What is judgmentalism? It is condemning other people’s faults while downplaying our own, creating a sense of moral superiority. Judging is focusing on the speck in someone’s eye but ignoring the log in your own eye (Matt. 7:3). It’s playing the, “Your sin is worse than mine,” game. It should not be confused, though, with holding people accountable or discerning between right and wrong or giving constructive criticism.

Our sinful nature predisposes us to being judgmental through two main ways. Firstly is our negativity bias. This is our tendency to focus more on and be affected more by negative things than positive or neutral things. For example, I could get five good compliments and one negative criticism on my editorial and my mind will dwell on that one negative. Our sinful natures have a great ability to find and focus on flaws, even as tiny as a speck in someone’s eye.

Secondly, we have a deep desire to avoid shame. Professor of Social Work Brene Brown, an expert on vulnerability, wrote, “What’s ironic (or perhaps natural) is that research tells us that we judge people in areas where we’re vulnerable to shame, especially picking folks who are doing worse than we’re doing. … We’re hard on each other because we’re using each other as a launching pad out of our own perceived shaming deficiency.” (Daring Greatly, p. 99) For example, if we are struggling with pornography in our lives, instead of dealing with it, we might subconsciously deflect our attention to judging people who have same-sex attraction or other sexual struggles. Our negativity bias coupled with our deep avoidance of shame make a potent recipe for judgmentalism.

How do we stop being judgmental? I believe we need to draw closer to God. The closer we are to God, the more likely we will see how sinful we are in relation to his holiness. We will be much more self-aware and humbled by our sins. Then, as Jesus told us, we need to first deal with the logs in our own eyes before we deal with the speck in our neighbors’ eyes (Matt. 7:5).

Secondly, we need to be merciful, kind and patient with others despite their sins and faults. Jesus commands us to be merciful just as God is merciful (Luke 6:36). The apostle Paul warns us that “at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. … Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?” (Romans 2:1, 4) It is not God’s wrath or judgment that leads to repentance, but rather God’s kindness. How many people have ever changed for the better through experiencing other people’s judgment? Rather, it is through grace, love and kindness that people are led to transforming their lives.

Let us rid ourselves of our hypocrisy, arrogance and judgmentalism. Let us turn the world’s perception of Christianity from a judgmental religion to one of a gracious and kind religion.

About the Author

Shiao Chong is editor-in-chief of The Banner. He attends Fellowship Christian Reformed Church in Toronto, Ont.

Shiao Chong es el redactor jefe de The Banner. El asiste a Iglesia Comunidad Cristiana Reformada en Toronto, Ont. 

시아오 총은 더 배너 (The Banner)의 편집장이다. 온타리오 주 토론토의 펠로우쉽 CRC에 출석한다.

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Comments

I often find judgmental statements by leaders of the white evangelical church who support Trump condemning people for being gay or against Muslims, and I'm sure a lot of the perception comes from that.  For my part I do my best to be as accepting as possible.  I suffered a lot of rejection because of my illness, and I made a promise to myself when I was still in my teens that I would not do to others what was done to me.

The thing about statements from leaders like Franklin Graham telling Peter Buttigieg to repent for being gay, is that the same guy says nothing to Trump about his lifestyle choices.  And being a homosexual is not a choice in itself.  It's a reality you learn to live with, preety much in the same way you learn to live with any difference from the majority.  People who realize they are gay would give anything to be like everybody else, and many young men who realize that this is their sexual identity take their own lives, so to condemn them because of that shows a dismal lack of understanding and empathy that is repulsive to people.

I have come across judgmental statements from CRC people who repeat the commandments to people writing that they sometimes find swearing therapeutic, and I'm sure the person talking about swearing knew the commandments, but when you're in the throes of an illness or whatever you get moved to say things a healthy person going through an easy period would probably not say.  There is lack of compassion in the church for those who are suffering.

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