Don’t judge me.
If I had a nickel…
But what are we asking? Don’t judge me ever? Don’t condemn me? Don’t question me? Don’t judge me if you don’t know me? Don’t tell me I’m wrong? Get the whole story first?
First, some definitions, courtesy of dictionary.com:
1. to pass legal judgment on; pass sentence on (a person):
The court judged him guilty.
The Supreme Court is judging that case.
3. to form a judgment or opinion of; decide upon critically:
You can’t judge a book by its cover.
4. to decide or settle authoritatively; adjudge:
The censor judged the book obscene and forbade its sale.
5. to infer, think, or hold as an opinion; conclude about or assess:
He judged her to be correct.
6. to make a careful guess about; estimate:
Let’s first agree that all of these things are at times necessary. We must pass some sort of sentence on a murderer. We form opinions. We can narrow judging down to two actions: actually passing a judgment on someone to where we name some consequence as a result of some action, or taking in some sort of information in order to form an opinion.
On the second basic action: Asking each other to not form an opinion about the things that we see is quite impossible. It’s difficult to ask me to watch someone strong abuse someone weak and not think them cruel. Our powers of deduction are useful. Might they be wrong? Of course. But not useless, not always wrong. What have we to go on besides each other’s actions? We can’t see each other’s hearts, only our outward display. We are all understood in part, misunderstood in part; that is the nature of lacking omniscience.
So let’s try to form opinions slowly, carefully. Let’s care for individuals with the understanding that one action does not a whole person make. Let us have compassion, let us make as few assumptions as possible. But let us also worry less about asking others not to judge us and more about the fact that they will regardless, that we live as honest a life as possible so that when people form an opinion of us, it is as close to who we are as possible. What I mean is: only be upset if the view people have of you is inaccurate, and if it is, ask yourself what you displayed that made them think that way. Because that’s something you can do something about, if you want.
On the first action, passing a sentence: this requires an agreement on standards or law. This is where it can get very complicated. But an initial look makes it somewhat less so. My foundation always begins with God and His son Jesus. If yours does not, we will have different standards. God knows that, and He talks about it:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. (1 Corinthians Ch. 5)
Let me explain this very simply, as best I understand. If you have received Christ as your Savior, as Lord of all, you ought to have the Bible’s set of standards, and we ought to judge one another according to those standards. If you do not claim Jesus, we ought not to expect you to conform to those standards, ought not to judge you. That is between you and God. (And He WILL judge you. I would be horribly hateful not to confirm that fact). If you do not believe in God, we are still to associate with you in certain ways, to talk to you, to minister to you, to share His offer of salvation. If you believe in God, we are to judge you, to dissociate with you if you refuse to change, because we love you, because God has directed us to. This love is on display differently, because if you have tasted the love of Jesus, the power of His mercy, there is value in shame, there is goodness in it. If you have not received the gift of salvation, you cannot receive His commandments, and you definitely cannot please Him with an outward following of them.
So if you are my friend and you do not believe, don’t fear right now that I’m judging every single action that you take, condemning you to hellfire. My concern now is that first your heart is flooded with the grace that only Jesus can provide, that you are brought to surrender. Because all this talk about morality means little until we’ve surrendered. But you know what? His grace is sufficient for you. No matter what moral issues you have, He is sufficient for you. He came exactly to bring people out of darkness and into light, to wash away sins and set captives of it free. That’s what He died for.
Now if you are a brother or sister in Christ? You are redeemed already. Now you are in that fold, representing the same Savior, reading the same book, being guided by the same Holy Spirit. And once you have that, you can’t wait to make it contagious. But that’s an incredible responsibility, one that we have to hold each other accountable for. Because we aren’t representing only ourselves anymore, we are a living example that our God is real, that His love is unfathomable, that every ounce of belief and every cost is worth it. So when my sister in Christ is living in a way that doesn’t display Him accurately, it is absolutely my job to tell her, because I love her and everyone she influences. And wholly, because I love my God.
Because you all know that you’re watching! You’re always watching, always judging, always looking for a reason to believe that God isn’t really that awesome, that living for Him doesn’t really require work. People pick apart the lives of Christians in hopes of finding inconsistencies that help them sleep at night, hoping that they don’t have to change. And that’s why God tells us to judge each other, to help each other honestly represent Him. Because although we are flawed, we ought to all be able to call a spade a spade. So when my Christian sister calls a spade a diamond, we’re in trouble. If you are a Christian and you decide that being drunk is okay on the weekends, you are confusing the whole world, and you ought to feel very bad. More importantly, your Christian friends should love you enough to help make you feel very bad. Above that, you should fear if the Holy Spirit isn’t bringing on you guilt that you can’t escape. No guilt? You should question if He is there. You should question if you know the Lord.
But back to if you don’t believe. If you take your best friend out for coffee and you have a conundrum in life that you need help sorting out, do you not desire from him the truth? Even if it hurts? This is all we do as Christians as well, we just have a book that makes those truths consistent across the board. We don’t want pure sugar from our friends. We want salt, too. We want that hard truth that comes in love, those words we don’t want to hear, but need to. That’s what Christian judging is. It’s words of truth, spoken in love, that help us change, always for the better.
I could say it a million times: It’s all because God loves us. It’s because He loves us. He calls us again and again, shows Himself to us again and again, nudges us away from that cliff again and again, gives us chance after chance, gives us rule after rule that protects us from pain, pinches us when we need to wake up, before we run into that ditch, offers us a hand if we ignore Him and drive into it anyway. He is reaching out to you with every breath you take, loving you through every kind gesture of the others He created. (And you know when you find comfort in your puppy? When he senses your bad day? Yeah, God made him that way. Just a note.)
“Judge not, lest you be judged”(Matthew Ch. 7), is not the whole story. In that context, it was a directive not to judge with hypocrisy. It was never an excuse to call a spade a diamond. When Jesus said that, it was very much in terms of reciprocity. But remember that when you believe, you DO want other believers to judge you, to help keep you on the right path. So you should want to judge your sisters and brothers in Christ the same way, as a kindness. Remember that 1 Corinthians chapter 5 exists just as Matthew chapter 7 does. They each have a place. They do not contradict each other.
Judge me, if you care. Because I need it. We all need it. It’s not a bad thing. If done cruelly, it can be a bad thing, but it’s not always a bad thing. Speak the truth in love, and desire that others speak truth to you in love as well. And have faith that God’s grace is sufficient, that His strength can be made perfect in your weakness, that having your flaws being pointed out to you is useful, because He is strong enough to help you with that. He desires to perfect you. He promises to do it. And He has the power to do it. Have joy in that prospect.