On August 28, 2012

The Agony of Judgment

It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live together.-Dedrich Bonhoeffer in Life Together (written from a prison cell)

It’s been said that the most quoted verse by my generation is Matthew 7:1, Where Jesus says “Do not Judge” And to be honest, I can relate to that. I  have seen some of the most heinous things done in the name of religion. In the name of their god, people have flown planes into buildings, committed genocide, drank Kool-aid, and started Christian Cable Television programming. We’ve seen street preachers, and regular preachers stand on their soapboxes and name everything and everyone they hate, and then throw Jesus’ name on it. We have seen religion divide relationships and make people more hateful.

But the truth is that we haven’t gotten less judgmental, we’ve just changed the criteria.

Almost everyday on Facebook I get a notification by some application asking me to compare my friends. We are accosted by people asking us if they are “Hot or Not” We are constantly looking to our left and our right to figure out how we are doing in comparison to others. We want to gauge ourselves so we look to our peers wondering if  I’m smarter/dumber, faster/slower, funnier/boring than someone else.

My generation has seen the rise of peer-rating sites like no other. We’re constantly being taught to ask am I hot or not? We’re being conditioned to wonder if I am acceptable, and now we even have a convenient 1-10 scale.

We live in a beauty pageant.

We judge people all the time.

And the real tragedy is, that we’ve also used that command  of Jesus to live in pseudo-community.

We have developed the ability to live around people, but not necessarily with people. And the great irony of our day, is that we live in a world where so many of us feel alone and isolated, but not many of us are willing to do the hard work that it takes to live together. Here’s what I mean by that.

Almost everytime I see a brother or sister who is doing something that I think they are going to regret in the long run, I have a kind of internal dialogue. Should I tell them, should I just be present to help them pick up the pieces when they crash? Should I lovingly confront, or just do damage control after the fact? And the reason that I sometimes don’t approach them is because I am terrified. There have been times that I was about to talk to someone and started having a near panic attack. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For some of us, this is your gift, you’ve felt since birth that you were called to help people come to realize where they have missed the mark. You told your preschool teacher that her teaching style was bland and ineffective. This isn’t a blog for you, and the bad news is that you’re probably not as good as this as you think. Sure it doesn’t bother you, but it probably means that you are the kind of person who is really hard to listen to for correction.

I heard a preacher soy one time that only about 5-8% of the world’s population really likes confrontation. The rest of us don’t like it all. And the good news, and I think for those of us who fall in that category, than that  means that we are perfectly equipped to do this well.

Because think about it, who would you rather receive a word from, someone who sits down with 10 pages of notes about why the dresses you wear have started to become inappropriate.Or would you like to hear from someone who is nervous, and might just break into tears, but you can tell that by their very presence there, they are suffering to tell you this. I think that when someone comes to me who is absolutely miserable it communicates that this is important to them, because I am  important to them.

Like most of us, I’ve been on both ends of this before. I have seen friends do things that I knew weren’t going to end well, and tried to step in to warn them. And I’ve been approached by people who care about me, and see something in me they are concerned about.And I have friends who like to do this kind of conflict recreationally. When Saturday night rolls around, they don’t go to movies, they go judge people.

But in the Scripture, there is an important theological distinction between being a prophet and being a jerk.

So I’d like to show you what Jesus is really talking about when he says this stuff. Look again at what Jesus actually says here:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “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?How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

He says get the plank out of your own eye, so that you might help your brother or sister. In other words, deal with your sin first, so that you might help your brother or sister.

And that’s what I appreciate so much about people who are extremely nervous when confronting. I think the root of the apprehension (much of the time) is an awareness of our own brokenness.  So we take a deep breath, we begin with being vulnerable and honest about our own deep brokenness and then we try to be as gently honest as possible. We know how jacked up we actually are…and so the question we are really asking under all those nerves is, “Who am I to tell them how to live?” “Which, according to Jesus, means you just might be the exactly right person to do so.

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  • Jeff

    It sounds like if we judge with the measure we are willing to be judged it will all work out. As you say, when we deal with our own sin it gives us credibility to help others with theirs. I have experienced far too many people who want to offer me advice/judgment without ever knowing my story (I’m under the impression Jesus knew the people he was talking to, whether by having spent time with them or supernaturally) and it’s those people who’s words seldom make it past my ear. Too often advice follows pride instead of humbleness.

  • John Wallace

    Good thoughts, Jonathan. In coaching, mentoring or advising — the process for the Christ follower should be a simple one. First and foremost: earnestly entreat the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and actions — listen … and follow.

  • Danny Gill

    Thanks, Jonathan. People use that verse to hide behind, but do not keep reading. Good to see you show that.

  • Bett

    Love what you explained John! Hope all sermons are going well for others and yourself! It’s true what you said. Once you take a pivotal point to turn around, your eyes begin to open in seeing how Gods love is supposed to be more clear. It’s like not knowing you had Stigmatism. Lol You begin to walk, talk, as He is. I had ran into someone doesn’t know me and vice versa, in a restaurant. Kept judging anything she can find on my outer appearance in front of many customers as I stood silent not responding back.Someone else who didn’t know me across table, said you are glowing. Why? I said, bc I just told her I have forgiven her and that God will bless her. Just sharing the only one time, I ran into a situation like that. Lets just pray, people don’t do so. Bc it plays a vital role to ones life.

  • Bett

    Wherever your foot walks as whatever leading role you have, home, work, pastor, minister, teacher, relative,…wherever your foot steps, you should be same else where. Not different faces. God Bless Jonathan!

  • Robb

    The funny twist to all of this is that we cannot always see our own sin like we can so clearly see other’s sin. We really do need each other to help build us up and it requires us to remain humble. Gentle correction is like oil on my head and a blessing

  • http://stormented.com Jonathan Storment

    Good word Robb!