Do you ever find yourself making snap judgments about a person based on his “look,” or the way he talks, or the work he does? It’s a pretty easy sin to slip into—but we often don’t see it as sin. We Christians can really get into our “Christian bubbles” and become wary of welcoming people into our communities who don’t look, talk and act just like us. But Jesus set an entirely different example for us to follow.
Preston Sprinkle has written a great trending post over at Relevant discussing this problem. In his post, Being a Christian Doesn’t Always Look Like You Think It Should, Preston challenges us to recognize our preconceived notions of what a “good Christian” should look like, and to stop being so judgmental of those who don’t fit the mold we’ve created.
He writes, “When you try to cut out Christians with a religious cookie cutter, you not only tarnish diversity, but you trample on grace. It’s one thing for Christian subcultures to cultivate unique values. But it becomes destructive when those values are chiseled on Sinaitic tablets for all to obey.”
“It’s even worse when Christians expect instant holiness from recent converts—holiness, that is, in areas where we think we’ve nailed it.”
Ah- guilty. I know I’ve been frustrated by my “baby Christian” friends who can’t seem to let go of certain sinful behaviors. But who am I to judge? My sins are no better.
As author Eric J. Bargerhuff addresses this in his Crosswalk article, Judging Others: A Closer Look at Matthew 7:1. Our hypocrisy in calling out sin while not dealing with our own will not go unpunished. “You hear another believer cursing and in humility you gently and lovingly correct him in private, but not a moment later you get on the phone with a friend and share some juicy gossip about someone in church,” says Bargerhuff. “Do you correct someone else’s tongue, but are not willing to correct and restrain your own?”
If we want to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ who are new to the faith, our position should be one of humility and grace, where we acknowledge our own sinful tendencies and mutually encourage one another toward holiness. “Bad language may take years to weed out. Even more difficult to extract is the pride that drives judgmental Christians to mock the Spirit’s work in a man seeking his Creator,” Preston writes. “That sin could take decades to discover. Grace means that we are all works in progress, and God shaves off our rough edges in His timing.”
iBelieve writer Amanda Casanova hits on this point in her article, We’re Not All Cookie-Cutter Women. “I’m often sarcastic and I wear T-shirts all the time. It bothers me that I feel like I’m not poised enough to be called a Christian woman,” she writes. “We’re not meant to be an army of perfect wives and daughters and friends and sisters. We’re not meant to maintain that image. The church isn’t supposed to be a place for women with great hair and perfect families. It’s really a crowd of broken souls.”
Do you have Christian friends who look, act and talk pretty differently from you? Or, do you know any Christians really new to their faith, who seem to keep struggling with old sinful habits? Make a point to encourage the good you do see in them, and instead of judging their shortcomings, be a model of Christian love and grace toward them. That’s certainly the model Jesus gave us when interacting with his twelve disciples—none of whom fit the cookie-cutter Christian mold.
“You cannot sanitize grace,” says Preston. “You can’t stuff it into a blue blazer and make it wear khakis. Grace is messy, offensive, and it sometimes misses church. To expect God to pump prefabricated plastic moral people out of a religious factory is to neuter grace and chain it inside a gated community. If God’s scandalous relationship with the 12 thugs means anything, then we should expect a variegated spectrum of righteousness and be patient—or repentant—when such sanctification doesn’t meet out expectations. God meets us in our mess and pushes holiness out the other side.”
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.