Many of us are grateful that COVID regulations, mandates, and lockdowns have largely been eliminated or lessened. In the past two difficult years, it was easy to slip into harsh judgementalism towards those who had different ways of navigating this strange pandemic. Even local churches have had to fight against the temptation to judgemental divisiveness over one’s vaccine status. We know of families who are still not speaking because they intensely disagreed on this issue. What might happen if we stopped judging each other on this difficult topic?
Perhaps the best known and most misunderstood bible saying is ‘Judge not, lest you be judged’ from Matthew 7:1. Most of us find it painful to be around people, including spouses, who are being very judgmental and negative. Dr. John Gottman talks about the ‘four horsemen of the Apocalypse’ that can predict with 94% accuracy the likelihood of divorce: 1) criticism 2) contempt 3) defensiveness and 4) stonewalling. When Jesus famously tells us not to judge, he is not telling us to be undiscerning, but rather not to condemn and reject other people with whom we may disagree. Yes, there is a place for constructive criticism with our spouses, family, coworkers and friends, but it needs to be rooted in an environment of love, acceptance and encouragement. This is why Dr John Gottman found that in healthy marriages and relationships, people make five positive comments for every negative comment.
The late Billy Graham insightfully said that being judgmental and constantly criticizing others is wrong in the eyes of God. It is not one of the gifts of the Spirit, like the gift of encouragement. Dr. Graham, who spoke in person to over 260 million people, observed that a judgmental attitude also blinds us to our own faults. (Have you ever noticed that judgmental people almost never criticize themselves?) Jesus said that such judgmentalism is like having a log in our eye while trying to doing eye surgery on someone else’s speck of sawdust. Judgmental people are often very insecure, and are constantly seeking to build themselves up. One way they do this is by tearing other people down. But in reality, said Dr. Graham, they end up tearing themselves down also, because no one wants to be their friend. Judgmental people are often the loneliest people on earth.
Jesus gave us a difficult task: to judge or discern nonjudgmentally: “Why don’t you judge for yourselves what is right?” (Luke 12:54) At the heart of judgmentalism is prejudice, which means to pre-judge, to judge too quickly before you have taken time to examine the facts. It is not a sin to have moral convictions about right and wrong, but we need to take the time to carefully listen to other people’s viewpoints and never condemn other people when we disagree with them. I will always remember my sister advising me about a difficult situation: “Be kind.” We can all learn to be more kind like Jesus, gentle like Jesus, humble like Jesus, and nonjudgmental like Jesus. Even when Jesus challenged people to repent and turn from sin and selfishness, he was always loving, tolerant, and kind.
You can’t reach people for Christ to whom you are being judgmental. Judgmentalism just drives them away. The Great Commission suffers when we would rather judge people than wash their feet. What if we stopped self-righteously treating each other as lepers over vaccine or political differences? What might happen if we pulled the log of judgmentalism out of our eyes? Is there anyone in your life that you need to stop judging? Is there anyone you need to phone? Don’t wait till it is too late.