Judging 2 (aka I’ma tell ya how ta live)
So I had a post that generated discussion. Weird. Judgment 1 looked at a situation specific to one pastor judging another for perceived heresy, but judgement and judgmentalness is a common theme both among Christians that I talk to and people of other faiths or non-faiths that I talk to about Christians. The word “hypocrite” gets thrown around much more often than “heretic” and the perception is of a people that think they’re Better-thans, Always-rights, and… well… jerks. This is what people think of those living in the shadow of the Humble King. Apparently we suck.
A lot of Christians find confusion between passages that say “do not judge lest ye shall be judged,” and others that say “expel the immoral brother,” or show Jesus tearing someone a new one for being a giant douche. As Christians are we called to judge people? Scripture seems to imply it, but it also says we shouldn’t? What’s up with that?
The balance that I’ve found comes in understanding the difference between a constructive judgment and a coercive judgement. A constructive judgement seeks to hold someone accountable to the standards that they profess to hold, while a coercive judgment tries to hold them to YOUR standard. When Paul said that apart from the Law there was no sin, he’s giving a nod to this. You can’t judge someone for failing to live up to a benchmark they’ve never subscribed to. It’s jumping the cue. It’s the cart before the horse. It’s arrogance. It’s destructive.
“Mehwahwahwah, the Gospel is offensive, Aaron, wah wah,” some people are saying. Maybe. Maybe it’s the way you present it. The Gospel is Good News. Start with Good News. First people need to accept the Gospel. Then they need to accept the standard. Then you can constructively encourage them in their desire to keep it. Well, quite honestly, first they need to accept you, but that’s another post.
“Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ,” Paul said. We should all aspire to that, so here it is: Whenever Jesus is getting judgy, he’s always holding someone up to the standard they’ve set for themselves. I want to quickly take a look at three examples of Jesus dealing with people who’s actions didn’t meet with his approval:
These were the world-class, always-right, religious jerkasses. They had hundreds of rules about the Right Way to go about faith and liked people to see them Doing It Right. They were constantly calling out Jesus for preaching a faith with more grace than theirs, or living in ways “not consistent” with their faith, or hanging out with people who didn’t follow the rules. Jesus called them Sons of Ghenna. He ripped into them for keeping nitpicky rules and missing the big ones, the heart of what God wanted from them.
2. The woman caught in adultery
There was this Jewish woman (a member of Jesus’ religion) who was caught by the above jerkasses in the act of adultery. Under Jewish Law, that was a capital crime, and she could be killed by being bludgeoned to death with large rocks. The religious people brought her to Jesus thinking that they could put him in a catch 22 with the situation. Jesus says fine, but you can only throw the first rock if you haven’t screwed up sometime in your life (sinned). They all disappeared, and Jesus told her he didn’t condemn her. Huge grace. Mind blowing intervention. It didn’t stop there, though. Jesus told her to “go and leave your life of sin.” He called what she had done sin! He held her to the standard of her faith. The difference was that his correction was gentle and full of grace. He didn’t make “sin” okay. He called her to a better life, and he did it without berating her, calling her names, or threatening her with death and the fires of hell to follow it.
3. The Samaritan woman at the well
At one point, Jesus arrives at a town well in the heat of the day. No one comes to the town well in the heat of the day. It sucks. It’s hot and crappy. No one wants to carry huge jugs of water when it’s 40 degrees C outside. Yet here comes this Samaritan woman (not Jewish, in fact, despised by Jews). She’s willing to brave the heat of the day so she won’t have to talk to people. Her conscience is bothering her, or at least she’s expecting condemnation. Shock #1 – Jesus talks to her. Jesus, a religious leader, a Jewish man, talks to a Samaritan woman. Shock #2 – in the course of conversation he points out that she’s had multiple husbands and is living with a man who isn’t her husband. Shock #3 – He leaves it at that. He doesn’t tell her to go leave the dude she’s shacking up with. He doesn’t call her a slut. He reveals himself as the gracious messiah, and she runs off in joy to tell everyone she knows. This is the woman that Jesus choses to be his representative to the Gentiles. I’m sure the rest took care of itself in time.
So here we are: People who believe we are in possession of “the Truth”. How do we live with that? How do we live out our beliefs in the presence of people who don’t believe what we do? How do we deal with people who believe that they have “the Truth” but it’s different from what we believe “the Truth” is? The fact is, among Christians, we do have the responsibility to call into question actions that don’t line up with the faith we profess, if only to “keep the name of God from being blasphemed among the Gentiles”. Sometimes that may mean having a frank discussion about theology. Sometimes that might mean pointing out to someone that they’re being a judgmental douchebag. Some people might want to point out that it’s inappropriate to call someone a douchebag. I’d point out that Douchebag is a much less harsh thing to call someone than Son of Ghenna, but that’s neither here nor there. I’d expect (and regularly receive) the same correction, whether I’m happy to hear it or not. The thing of it is that, unlike Jesus, we don’t have the license to always be right. There are things that are veiled. There is definitely some Black and White in the Christian faith, but in between is the Greyce we live most of our lives in.
Judge me with a gracious heart. Call me out on stuff because you love me and want to see my life become better. Respect that I’m living as best as I know how. Understand that I have reasons, well-thought and considered, for believing what I do. I’ll do the same for you, and maybe something more productive will happen than throwing stones.