Monday, September 13, 2010

Gah, you Christians are SO judgmental

Walker and I were just having one of those good, lie in bed, stare at the ceiling talks. The conversation bounced from reading books to Christian leaders who fall from grace to speculating how our children will one day disappoint us to what we would ever do if one of our children told us that he or she was gay.

"I'd love them," Walker said. "I would make it abundantly clear that we did not support the lifestyle, but that they had our never ending love. I think that if we were to get it wrong, by being too judgmental or too loving, Jesus would want us to err on the side of love."

The one criticism that I hear hurled the most at Christians is that we are so judgmental. It was hurled at me recently, during a conversation when I was being the exact opposite of judgmental. I realized that even though the person saying it had absolutely no evidence, and plenty to support the contrary, she so completely expected me to be judgmental of her situation that she couldn't even accept the fact that I wasn't. It's a stereotype utterly ingrained in the minds of non-Christians.

But y'all, stereotypes always come from somewhere.

Christians are judgmental. It's true. So are atheists and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and Mormons and, ironically, the judgmental woman who was calling me judgmental. But we Christians seem to have cornered the market on judgment. Why is this?

I have a theory.

Judgment, in and of itself, is not necessarily bad. To make a judgment means to form an opinion or a belief. I make a thousand judgments every day, and so do you. I judge Diet Coke to be good. I judge Diet Pepsi to be bad. I judge abortion to be wrong. I judge adoption to be good. I judge firefighters to be brave. I judge babies to be adorable. I judge teachers to be underpaid. Some of my beliefs are based on what the Bible teaches, other opinions, like the fact that Diet Pepsi stinks, aren't at all.

Here is another of my judgments: the problem among believers is that we often turn our beliefs into condemnation.

I'll repeat that.

We Christians often turn our beliefs into condemnation.


And while judgment is often not inherently wrong, Jesus tells us that condemning others is flat out not our job.

Let's take abortion. I'm 100% in judgment that abortion is wrong in just about every situation. Yes. I'm crazy judgmental like that. What about the women who get abortions? Do I judge them? Well, in a way, yes. I believe, based on what the Bible states, that the choice that they made was wrong. But do I condemn them?

Do I think women who have had abortions are bad people? Do I consider myself better than them?  Do I wish something bad would happen to them to punish them for their sin? Then I have crossed a line to condemnation.

How about the other hot button issue in the church today: homosexuality. Do I judge homosexuality? Yes. The bible is very clear that it is a sin. I am judging homosexual sex to be wrong - just like every other extramarital sex is wrong. But what about the homosexual person?

Do I think homosexuals are bad people? Do I consider them the enemy? Do I refuse to associate with them? Do I wish them punishment for their sin, or rejoice in their misery? Then I am condemning them.

The gay thing is a big one for me because several of my favorite people on the planet are gay. I do judge their lifestyle - I believe that it is outside of God's will for their lives and is therefore harmful to them. I pray for them to repent. But I don't condemn them as persons. In fact, I love them with all my heart.

In the bible, Jesus had a habit of seeking out the people whom the rest of society condemned: the women who slept around, the people with embarrassing diseases, the thieves, the prostitutes, the sinners. If the rest of the world thought you were too sinful to hang out with, chances were, Jesus was going to hunt you down and invite himself to dinner with you. I have long believed that if Jesus were to come back today and land in Houston, Texas, he would head straight to Montrose, a neighborhood in the heart of our city that is half gay and expensive and half very seedy. Montrose residents would be his kind of people, based on the company he kept in Israel.

Jesus would judge their behavior, yes. He would tell them it was wrong and call for them to repent of it.

But would he condemn them? When Jesus confronted sinners, was his evangelism strategy to disassociate from them and pull into a Christian bubble? Did he look down on them, or tell them that they were horrible people headed straight to hell in a handbasket?

There was one group of folks in the bible that Jesus did treat that way. He held those people in contempt and wasn't shy about letting them know it any chance he got. Who were they?

The people that disgusted Jesus to no end were the church ladies who looked down on the everybody else. (Okay, the church men.) The Pharisees, who spent their lives chasing bible study after bible study in an effort to be the holiest guys on the block. The ones who could quote scripture all day. The ones who wouldn't be caught dead even looking at a gay prostitute, much less hanging out with one, even much less loving one. 

They were the ones who were completely and utterly missing the point.
The ones who didn't have a clue what grace was.

Because while the Pharisees were wallowing in their own self-righteousness among others who shared their smug superiority, Jesus was out hunting down the prostitute.

Who do you hunt down?

When we condemn others, we are focusing on their sin instead of our own. And the sin of a gay prostitute is not one bit greater than the sin of my own judgmental heart. When we condemn instead of love, we are completely forgetting that Jesus came to set the captives free, to give sight to the blind, to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:16-21).

It's not easy. Personally, I have a very hard time not condemning child molesters, for instance. Heck, I have a hard time not condemning people who wear white shoes after Labor Day. And I know what you're saying - that God will judge us all one day, and some of us will indeed be condemned. He gets to do that, because he's God. And we're not. So let's not try to be.

Let's err on the side of love, as hard as it is to do. I think that's what Jesus would want.

Judge not, and you will not be judged; 
condemn not, and you will not be condemned; 
forgive, and you will be forgiven
Luke 6:37

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