We hear it and read it all the time.
“Don’t judge me!”
“I’m looking for a church that will not judge me, but will accept me just the way I am.”
“When I began to make foolish choices in my life, many Christians judged me instead of loving me.”
For most people, it’s a foregone conclusion that we shouldn’t judge others. But is judging always a bad practice? Certainly it can be, but it doesn’t always have to be. What if judging and loving are not mutually exclusive?
The New Testament verb for “judge” is quite elastic. It can range from “condemn” to “lovingly correct.” There is good judgment and there is bad judgment. Bad judgment is self-righteous and condemning; good judgment is helpful, loving, and correcting. Bad judgment seeks to elevate the one who is judging; good judgment seeks to elevate the one judged. I want to be judged with good judgment.
We’re actually commanded by Jesus to judge one another with “righteous judgment” (John 7:24).
But wait! What about that most famous verse in Matthew 7:1, “Judge not lest ye be judged”? Doesn’t this clearly condemn all forms of judging? Maybe not.
Jesus goes on to explain himself. He calls for self-examination before attempting to correct anyone else. First take the log out of your own eye, he says, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. In other words, examine yourself carefully before turning your attention to another.
Jesus did not teach a “live and let live” Christian ethic. When we put it all together, here’s what we get:
1) Examine yourself first.
2) Lovingly correct others (don’t condemn).
3) Correct others using biblical standards, not your own.
4) Pray before, during, and after the conversation.
5) Be prepared to receive correction with grace.
Instead of looking for a church that will not judge you, why not look for a community of believers who will love you enough to not leave you alone? I want to be sharpened; I want to be lovingly corrected; I want my blind spots pointed out.
I want to be pushed in the direction of God’s uncomfortable holiness.
Isn’t that sorta the point of the believing community?