Christians have a lousy rep these days for being overly judgmental. This is bad for a lot of reasons. The first reason is, of course, that judgment hurts. It hurts the minds and hearts of those burdened under the weight of the sneers and grumbles, and it also hurts the person judging, as they themselves fall into the darkness surrounding ignorance, and get stuck in that sightless space, blindly doing far more harm than good to the life inside of them and around them.
The second reason this is bad for our faith as Christians is that in feeling puffed up enough to say something negative about the way another person is living, is in direct contradiction to the very foundation of belief which causes some to unjustly feel they have a right to judge. In short, it’s the complete opposite of everything Jesus taught and stood for, while he was alive and with us (Ref: Matt7:1-3 , John 8:7, Luke 6:37, and on and on it goes. Basically, just open The Book and you’ll find this truth, there).
As Christians, if we are faithful to our belief, we’re called to do something different. We’re supposed to be the people in the world who accept anyone and everyone, regardless of the countless ways they’re shunned by the rest. And, in fact, if we’re doing our jobs, if we’re living into our belief, the more someone is condemned and pushed away by larger society, the more deeply we should be led to embrace them, and help them find sanctuary inside our doors. When someone faces a sneer, we’re called to smile. When someone is pushed away, we’re called to take them in our arms and show them the real meaning of unconditional love. That is the heart of the gospels, and the true passion of the life of Christ.
To use Christianity as a justification for judgment is to destroy whatever Christianity dwells inside of us.
But alright—let’s be honest. It’s unfortunately a natural thing to judge. It’s a human thing to judge. This is one of the reasons the teachings of Jesus were so startling to begin with. To hold back from judging someone is entirely awkward to our experience as people. It’s a pushing away of a very natural urge (as dark as it may be) inside of us.
So it takes a lot of practice. If we’re being honest with ourselves, and hope to truly face that dark stuff inside of us, we have to first acknowledge that it’s there. We have to admit the fact that holding back from judgement against others—whether we’re Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, agnostic, atheist, etc— unfortunately takes a lot of work and attention, if we hope to one day get it right. Judgement sneaks up on us, in some of the quietest places in our minds and souls.
As a pastor, I’ve been a part of a lot of conversations with fellow Christians about some horrible thing that had happened to someone else at the hands of another who’d committed a brutal crime against them. Often, the response goes something like this:
“Well, it’s not my place to judge. God will do the judging, and I just hope God will give them the punishment they deserve.”
Seems simple enough, right? But—youch. Even beneath that very simple statement, the darkness of judgment still bites at each word.
It sneaks up on you.
Mentioning the harsh punishment someone “deserves,” is basically just a deferred judgment, rather than the absence of judgment, itself. And if we’re trying to reflect from inside of us what we hope to see shine down on our own experience of this life (Ref: Matt 7:12)—our own experience of God —we can’t hope that God will “punish” those who’ve done wrong, unless we’re hoping God will “punish” us for each of the wrongs we’ve committed in our own lives, right?
And it becomes even sneakier, here. In mentioning all of this, am I right now being judgmental toward judgmental people? Ugh! Really sends the mind for a loop, doesn’t it?
When we try to stand high enough to look out at the world and see what’s “right” and what’s “wrong,” we’re standing atop a very slippery slope. One which usually sends us tumbling down to fall flat on our asses.
So maybe we can find balance here: Maybe what we’re called to do, is not to try and climb up to a higher place than we belong, but to let ourselves settle into that down-to-earth place that is our home, with everybody else. Knowing that we’re all in this together. Knowing that we all do things which are sometimes okay, and sometimes not. Knowing that we’re all screwed up, just in different ways. Knowing that not one of us lives a perfect life, free from flaw (and what is a “perfect life,” anyway, aside from the Holy Living God?). Knowing that what’s “right” and what’s “wrong” is always, always, always, in the eye of the beholder, changing from mind to mind, experience to experience. Knowing that when we look into the eyes of another, we’re only looking into a different part of ourselves, all being one in God; and that when we condemn others, we’re only condemning ourselves. … And in knowing all of this, letting ourselves love each other—love ourselves—no matter which different imperfect part of us we look into as we walk around.
Living into the heart of Christianity is to live with a heart of acceptance, love, compassion, and care for all parts of the one Life of God, which lives and breathes and moves through each one of us as tiny fragments of the Holy Whole.
So to make a long blog longer with a short, simple thought: Unconditional love is the way of Christ. Hate over particulars is something else. If we are Christians, we will love all people, at all times, in all circumstances, and in all places, just as we know we are loved by God.
And as complicated as some of the questions in our minds might sometimes seem, if love is our response, I think we’ve found the answer.