“Please don’t judge my bagel-eating in church!” I said to my friend yesterday morning. I was kidding; I go to a casual church service and I knew that my friend would not mind that I ate my breakfast during the announcement time.
But now I’m thinking...Why did I feel the need to justify my behavior (even jokingly)?
Judgment has become a real and prevalent problem in the church today. And it goes so far beyond the silly things like eating bagels.
In the Relevant article “Why Are Christians So Judgmental?” author and pastor Michael Hidalgo says that the tendency for Christians to judge others is an epidemic that has created a toxic atmosphere in the church.
Christians tend to go on the offensive when someone makes a mistake. We attack them with hurtful words and cruel jokes that we often publicize on Facebook. We forget that Jesus said, “Do not judge,” and judgment becomes our first reflex.
Why is this is go-to response?
Yes, we need to discern good from evil, Hidalgo writes. But judgement is not discernment. Judgement is a form of condemnation and it is causing our brothers and sisters hurt and pain.
When we condemn another person, we cause them unnecessary suffering. And in an age when social media allows us to broadcast our opinions to thousands with one easy click, we only cause further harm.
Judgment gives us a feeling of superiority. We become prideful that we did not succumb to the sin that they did. We boast of our own righteousness through the judgement of others and it satiates our human hunger to feel like we are better than everyone else.
But there is a better way, a way that Jesus has called us to follow.
Hidalgo says we must seek “to reconcile, restore and renew.” We must start by loving those who have wronged us. And the love that we give cannot be passive, but “violent,” the kind of love that is demonstrated on the cross.
“The cross was the single greatest act of love in human history, and it was, at the same time, extremely violent. The difference is Jesus took the violence on Himself. He did not strike out at those who mocked Him or fight against those who nailed Him in place; He forgave them,” Hidalgo writes.
It is impossible to demonstrate violent love and judge at the same time. When another’s pain becomes our own, we no longer feel the need to judge their mistake. Instead, we become ministers of reconciliation, easing the pain of others.
Until now, we have relentlessly judged our brothers and sisters. Our opinions and uncompassionate words have driven others out of the church with emotional wounds, some of which are carried throughout their lives.
It is time to change our first response to one of love, not judgement. And we need to heal the wounds we have caused.
In the article “How to Support a Friend Who Has Been Hurt by the Church,” Bronwyn Lea writes that Christians are to demonstrate Jesus’ love to those who have suffered.
“When we have friends who are hurting because they’ve suffered at the hands of the church, we need to be the church to them: asking their forgiveness where we’ve wronged them, and making every effort to ‘keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace’ (Ephesians 4:3),” Lea writes.
Remember Jesus has called us to not to judge or condemn, but to forgive (Luke 6:37). Our sins have been forgiven through the greatest act of love the world has ever known. The least we can do in return is to stop judging the mistakes of others, and instead demonstrate love.
Carrie Dedrick is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com.