“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs—beautiful on the outside but filled on the inside with dead people’s bones and all sorts of impurity. Outwardly you look like righteous people, but inwardly your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
- Matthew 23:27-28
I am aware that judgmental and critical people exist. I am in fact guilty of being judgmental and critical. We are all guilty. The church (as well as the world) is full of judgment. Typically, there is not a place safe from people’s negativity and criticism.
I always dismissed judgment as unimportant as long as I was not doing it. I have done my share of making snap judgment calls against someone but it is something that I am keenly aware of when I do it. I overlooked it in others.
As I have gone through my trials over the past couple of years, I have experienced the judgmental tendencies of God’s people firsthand. I have experienced the crippling effect of the harshness of words and actions. The results that follow are devastating and lead people even further from God. Because of my experience, I have met many others who have experienced the same devastation in their own lives.
God has softened my heart toward those who judge. I even find myself hurting for those who judge because they are truly missing something great in their lives.
Before going any further, I want to say that this particular article is for those who have been hurt by “the church,” by their “church family,” and by the words and gossip of “God’s people.”
I am quite certain that at one time or another we each have been harmed by the malicious words of another. With that said, let me explain that for many, you know nothing more than the pain that comes from being gossiped about or left out by a group of people. Yes that hurts but this article is not for you. Those who have been spiritually bullied by a church know they have been bullied. They know the kind of pain and the loneliness that envelopes you. They know the feeling of being “kicked out” of church and the feeling of betrayal. This article is for you.
I was involved in a legalistic church but did not know it until God removed me. I feel that men who were much like the Pharisees led this church. Their concern was more about outward appearances and rules. They preached grace and mercy but did not practice it. They talked the talk but did not walk the walk.
Within church communities, you will often come across those riding into town on their beautiful white horses, flashing their shiny badges and pointing out those who have “sinned.” They torture and humiliate those “sinners” into repentance believing that they are doing “good” in the name of God. The truth of the matter is that God weeps and is heartbroken over these kinds of actions.
Jesus was our perfect example. He constantly reached out to the “rejects” of His day. He did not criticize or condemn. Instead, He loved. The prostitutes, the lepers, the thieves and adulterers—when the world cast them to the side, He showed them the love of God.
When there are life-altering decisions confronting someone, we are quick to judge. But those people do not need criticism. They do need our gentleness, patience, and love. As someone who dealt with judgment instead of love, I know firsthand where it leads, and it is a dark and scary place. I fell into the dark pit of depression. I found myself desperate and weak. I found myself confused and doubting my faith. I found myself down a sinful path.
This is what we as Christians NEED to know. There can be NO condemnation when a person is in the middle of a life-altering crisis. When a person is choosing to do what they believe is right, we HAVE to strive to offer some kind of support, even if it contradicts our own beliefs. If we truly desire to steer them in the right direction, then we must choose to walk beside them. Instead of criticism and judgment, we should use prayer. Instead of writing them off as a “sinner,” we should see them in the way in which God sees them, His child.
I was written off. Judgments were made of me based on gossip and appearances. It was said that I walked away from God and church. It was remarkable to me the conclusions that people based on judgment and gossip.
I understand how very easy it is to judge another person and judge the decisions they make or other things that we might see. We declare them to be cold and uncaring because their choices were not the choices we would have made. The church is plagued with people who are wounded, made outcasts because of choices they made in a moment of weakness or desperation. What I have witnessed is that many Christians have a quiver full of arrows aimed and ready to shoot at those they feel have “messed up.” Those people totally miss that they should be pointing those same arrows back at themselves.
We should remember that we are ill-equipped to take on the massive task of judgment. We, simply put, do NOT have enough information. The fact is that not one of us is smart enough to judge anyone. God, on the other hand, can handle it all.
When we take on the challenge of judging other people, we pretty much push God out of the way. It’s as if we’re saying, “I’ve got it, God. I can take it from here. This person has sinned and needs to be judged now. This cannot wait for Your time. If I don’t step in now they just might escape.” Sound familiar? Are we not a conceited group of people? Do we really want to sound like that? Of course not, but we do.
We all are guilty of breaking God’s Law. If we each are guilty then where do we find that we have the right to judge others? How can we judge when we don’t know all the facts and we certainly do not know the hearts of anyone else? We have a hard enough time knowing what’s going on in our own desperately wicked hearts.
God is the only Judge that doesn’t make mistakes; we usually do nothing but make mistakes. God knows our innermost thoughts and the intent of our hearts; we know little or nothing.
As the body of Christ, our time needs to be spent supporting and praying for one another instead of judging. If we actually invested our energy in helping one another deal with life situations instead of condemning, we could actually make a difference in the lives of those around us.
We are all so incredibly guilty of sin. No one is innocent and if we claim that we are, we are in fact in sin. The next time you are shot down by those judgmental arrows, remind yourself that the one shooting is just as guilty of sin. Pray for them and forgive their sinful ways. You are only harming yourself by holding on to the anger and hurt that come from their judgment.