Judging and NOT being Judgmental
Commentary on Luke 6:How to not be Judgmental
The Bible is not actually meant to be read in chapters and verses. These were added later so we’d have an easier time finding things to misquote and put on our coffee cups. Everything was originally meant to be read in a larger context in order to really understand it. It’s not just the literature-loving English teacher part of me that believes this. It’s actually true that in order to understand what the Bible really teaches, you need to understand the context (also, audience, genre, culture, tone, but those are lessons for another day!)
This passage from Luke, about being judgmental, clearly demonstrates how easily the meaning of a verse can be skewed. We run around decrying that Christians aren't supposed to judge while simultaneously being seen as the most judgmental people on the planet. We need a deeper understanding of what Jesus actually taught.
Everyone seems to be saying "don't judge me" these days. It's even a popular tattoo "only God can judge me" (which I frankly find scary because all you can do to me is not like me... God is, well God, the creator of the universe, he could do a lot... but that's me judging tattoos...). We all say it. I say it every time I reach for another piece of chocolate.
Ironically, many of us are saying "don't judge me" when we know that we are messing up. We know we are guilty. We are judging ourselves in those moments.
I know I should eat more healthy. So when I'm around people and cramming junk food in my gullet, I laugh and say, "don't judge me". I've already judged myself. I know I'm messing up, so stay out of my business. I don't meet my own criteria for how I should live, I don't need to hear anything from you!
We need to see that we judge others but want grace for ourselves
But as much as we don’t want to be judged, we sure do love judging others. Our whole society is more divided than we ever have been. We are screaming “don’t judge me” and then hating everyone who disagrees with us.
Look at recent politics. It’s beyond ridiculous that we seem to think that there are only two sides and everyone on the opposing side is all the same. Our side is full of all kinds of people but their side is all _________ (fill in your insults based on political affiliation). Then we convince ourselves that Jesus agrees with us (but not them).
So how did we get here? Screaming “don’t judge ME” but being the most judgmental people on the planet? Maybe it's because we haven't dealt with our own guilt. Maybe it's not understanding what Jesus actually taught and how it frees us to be better people!
Not Judging Doesn't free us from Accountability
Actual followers of Jesus need to step up and be different. But first, we need to know what Jesus really taught about judging others.
Part of the problem is that at face value in English, the commands: do not judge and do not condemn, are IMPOSSIBLE to live out. You cannot go through life without judging anyone.
As a friend of mine said, “Not making any judgments is stupid. I mean you aren’t going to ask Uncle Touchy Feelie to babysit.”
And my friend showed a lot more wisdom in that sentence than a whole lot of church leaders who in the name of "not judging", “forgive” Pastor Touchy Feelie and let him keep working in ministry.
It seems like we are constantly hearing stories about churches forgiving a church leader who abused his position of authority to molest kids or have affairs. It feels super holy to forgive such a horrific deed, and I believe that many in those churches are truly seeking to follow God. However, they are incredibly misinformed about what the Bible says.
In the name of “not judging” and “forgiving” they end up doing the opposite of what Jesus taught. He was quite clear how he felt about abuse:
If anyone causes one of these little ones--those who believe in me--to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. Mark 9:42
It is natural to form opinions about people
“Do not judge” does not mean “do not have any opinion about.” It is impossible to turn off that part of your brain that notices how people are different from you. It is impossible not to find some people more attractive than others. So, quit trying to shut down that part of your brain. You can’t and God doesn’t ask you to. You will need it someday.
“Do not judge” does not mean “don’t hold people responsible for their actions.” The original Greek words translated to “judge” and “condemn” in this passage are talking about passing a sentence on someone, coming to a conclusion about a person, or separating people.
In other words, what God is telling us is: Do NOT make conclusions about the value of a person, their heart, their story, or their standing with God.
You can still tell that youth pastor who molested a kid that he should never work with youth again. He should also go to jail. He could still be used by God. He could be forgiven. His story could be one of the greatest redemption stories ever and we should all hope that for him. Part of hoping that he has a great redemption story is keeping him from being in a position to be tempted to misuse his authority again. He wouldn’t be allowed to teach in a public school or volunteer with any non-profit. So why should any Christian be proud of having lower moral standards for our leaders than the world has for theirs?
This is why I believe we have to look at Jesus’ teaching as a whole. In Luke 6:36-49, Jesus is finishing a sermon where he laid down a lot of hard truths and explained how to live them. We can't understand the full meaning of how not to be judgmental from just one verse that tells us not to be judgmental.
In this final segment of his sermon, he illustrates how not to be judgmental, by condemning the main thing that religious leaders did:
Religious leaders would actually tell people why they deserved to be suffering with some ailment or other hardship. Things like “you are blind because you sinned in the womb.” (Yup! That happened. Look it up in John.)
Jesus is teaching a new way. It’s completely different. Don’t condemn. Don’t decide why people deserve to suffer. Instead, help them out.
Forgive like you’d like to be forgiven. Give like you wish people would give to you. Use the measure with other people that you want used with you.
That, my friends, is a tall order. I wonder if realizing the magnitude of what Jesus called us to do is what leads Christians to make grandiose displays of forgiveness by not holding leaders accountable for their heinous acts against those they were supposed to be helping. (uggh! Yup! I'm totally bitter about this!)
Grand displays of forgiveness, can make us feel super holy, but Jesus called us to something far more demanding (and less stupid). We don’t get off the hook with just one grandiose public display of not judging. He called us to change our whole system of thinking.
Not being judgmental means valuing people
Frankly, this section of Luke left me with a truth hangover. I actually felt like I needed to throw up several times when I realized how wrong I’ve been in a few areas of my life. I also felt overwhelmed. How can I possibly live up to this standard?
Thankfully, the final section of this passage gives us a little insight into how we are supposed to live this out. And it has nothing at all to do with will power, wanting it more, or working harder.
The Rules for "How to not be Judgmental"
1. Be careful who you follow.
Jesus said, Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into a pit? The student is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like their teacher. (vs 39-40)
It seems like an obvious truth, but people are always following the most dynamic leader and not considering where he/she is taking them. If your goal is to follow Jesus, then find leaders who do the things Jesus did.
2. Judge your own actions critically and others’ graciously.
41 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
We only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what is going on in other people’s lives. At one church I went to, a young man was condemned for “looking high”, only coming to fun things, and wearing only black to youth group meetings. “He’s obviously one of those emo Satan worshippers,” some said. I actually laughed out loud when I heard this conversation. I don’t remember what I said but it was probably snarky and not helpful.
Because I was judging them hard for judging this kid! I was thinking “Yeah, ‘cause Satan worshippers totally love coming to church youth groups!” What they didn’t know was that he worked 30 hours a week to help his single mom support his younger brother and sisters. He got off work early to come to youth group and he never came to church on Sunday because that’s when he got the most tips.”
Of course, lots of people wearing all black and sitting around droopy eyed really were emo back in the day and some of them did drugs. It was an easy mistake to make. But before they condemned, they should have at least had a 5-minute conversation with the kid and they would have been praising him for being such dedicated believer.
(Yes! I see the irony. I condemned them for condemning and never listened to their story. I can only judge that the condemning was wrong…My bitterness about such things is definitely an area where I need growth)
3. The only way to learn how to not be judgmental is to let God work on your heart.
43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
You can’t fake it ‘til you make it. If you are not changed on the inside, it will eventually show up in how you live.
For example, when I apply this to myself, the most condemning thing is how it shows up in the way I talk about people when I’m with those closest to me. It’s not always good stuff flowing from this heart of mine as can be heard in the words that spew out of my mouth.
4. The foundation for not being judgmental is wanting to do the things Jesus taught.
46 “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? 47 As for everyone who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice, I will show you what they are like. 48 They are like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. 49 But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete.”
I often say that American church culture makes becoming a Christian too hard and being a Christian too easy. This meaning you have to understand a whole lot of doctrine to “get in” but after you agree to all that stuff and speak the right lingo, not much else is required.
I actually think that becoming a Christian is super easy. Jesus just said, “follow me.” So, I’d say a Christ-follower is someone who recognizes that Jesus is awesome and wants to follow him. Like the verse says, it’s people who hear what Jesus said and want to do what he said to do. That is the foundation that changes everything.
As long as we live on that foundation of following Jesus, we will keep discovering new and challenging things. It may not always be easy, but we will change and grow and get better. And, as we grow, we will find that we are being less judgmental as we begin to "build" grace, forgiveness, and wisdom on that foundation of trying to be more like Jesus in how we accept others.
5. Focus on the growth you need to do rather than on judging others
There isn’t a single person on the planet who has arrived at perfection. We all are continuing to grow and be more like Jesus. We never reach a place where we just get to sit back and say, “Well, I’m better than most people so that’s good enough.”
Continually focusing on your own need doesn’t always sound like a good thing. But I actually think it is the most amazing part of being a Christian. I am so completely free from guilt and shame that I get to keep getting better. I absolutely love the hope that this brings.
The more I focus on the growth I need to do, the more I feel compassion for other people. I quit trying to "fix" them and all of their faults. I realize, faults are part of the human condition.
Judgmentalism ends when I recognize fellow humans wrestling with human frailty and brokenness. Suddenly, I have no desire to condemn: only to show them the hope I have in my own brokenness. (tweet this)
Final thoughts and prayer for us all as we fight our own judgmentalism.
As I wrestled through this post, I learned that I need to depend on God for the strength to rant less about bitterness from past church experiences. I am challenged to see that I should not condemn those people. I understand that they, too, are broken. I only see the tip of the iceberg that is their life. I can judge that their actions were wrong and need to change. But they could be building on the right foundation, too (maybe, possibly, I guess... I am still a work in progress my friends!)
Praying for us all that we learn how to be less judgmental and more accepting of others!!!
Thank you for reading and sharing!!!!