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5 Ways Judgmental Christians Are Killing Your Church

Judged anyone lately?

Sadly, the answer for most of us (including me) is… yes.

From the guy who cut you off in traffic, to the off-beat person who’s not picking up the social cues you’re sending, to your weed-smoking neighbour… it’s so easy to judge.  And judgment just gets worse from there. It’s the basis of racism, sexism and almost every other ‘ism’ you can think of.

It’s also fundamentally incompatible with authentic Christian faith.

Jesus said Christians should be known for how deeply we love. Yet studies show that in the eyes of many non-Christians, we’re known for how deeply we judge, not for how deeply we love.

The problem in many cases is not that unchurched people don’t know any Christians. The problem is that they do. And they don’t like us—for good reason.

Christians will argue: well, who’s going to stand up for truth?

Understood.

Yet in Jesus, grace and truth are perfectly fused.

Remove grace from the truth and you don’t actually have truth at all, but a cold, steely imitation. (This is the shadow side of conservatism.)

The opposite is also true, of course. Remove truth from grace and you don’t have grace, but a spineless imitation. (As you’ve already figured out, this is the shadow side of liberalism.)

Fusing grace and truth is an exceptionally difficult venture and is usually only successful when you spend significant amounts of time on your knees and when the source of your attempt is actually Christ himself. I am rarely good at it, flipping from one side to the other too quickly.

But when you see grace and truth fused, it takes your breath away. Why did people travel for days on foot in extreme conditions to meet Jesus? Grace fused to truth is what our hearts most deeply long for.

But in the evangelical church today (and I’m an evangelical), the hard edge of truth has crushed many. And one of the most frequent expressions of loveless truth is found in judgment.

Judgmentalism is incompatible with at least 5 wonderful things. Keep judging, and your church will miss all 5 of these Christian virtues that can advance your church’s mission.

judgmental Christians

1. Love

The presence of judgment almost always guarantees an absence of love.

Think about it through the lens of your marriage, a friendship or even someone you work with: it is virtually impossible to love someone and judge someone at the same time.

But wait, you ask: what if they’re making a mistake and I need to correct them?

First of all, look at your mistakes and the depth of your sin, and deal with your issues first. In the process, you’ll encounter a loving God who forgives you despite your rather egregious sin.

And having been loved, you can love others.

I try to remember this rule: If I’m judging someone, I’m not loving them. You can’t judge someone and love them at the same time.

2. Help

Ever notice that people who judge almost never help and people who help almost never judge?

That’s because judgment creates a line. The line is labeled “better than” or “smarter than” or “more righteous than” the person who needs help.

Help knows no such line. It just knows how to help.

When Jesus taught on judgment, not only did he tell us not to judge, and to remove the massive timber from our own eye before trying to find the speck of dust in someone else’s eye first, but he then showed us the purpose of removing the speck from someone else’s eye: it’s to help them.

The Christian purpose of stepping into someone else’s world is not to judge someone, but to help them.

If you’re not trying to help, don’t bother. You’ll probably only make it worse.

And if you are trying to help, you’ll likely notice something else has disappeared: any sense of judgment you once carried.

3. Humility

Judgment is never grounded in humility (As in oh my, I’m also a mess. Let’s figure this out together.)

Judgment is grounded in arrogance. That’s because a judgmental person almost always carries with them a sense of condescension (I never get into this kind of situation myself…you should be as good as I am) or a sense of pity (poor, stupid you).

Judgment always says I’m better than you, I know more than you and I’m also superior to you.

No wonder people run from it.

Very few people get judged into life change. Many people get loved into it.

Humility, by contrast, fosters empathy. It says “I’m like you. I get that. Maybe we can help each other.”

Many people would run to that.

4. Prayer

There’s also a connection between judgment and prayer.

Judging someone and praying for someone are pretty much mutually exclusive.

You can’t pray for someone you judge because you’re actually not for them. Sure, you can pray about them, but again, your prayer won’t be grounded in humility. It might be grounded in anger, or in arrogance, or superiority, but it won’t be grounded in love.

You never truly pray for someone you judge.

Conversely, if you want to stop judging someone, pray for them.

It’s impossible to judge someone and truly pray for them at the same time.

5. Evangelism

If you want to kill evangelism at your church, fill your church with judgmental Christians.

People run from people who judge them. They run to people who love them. Think about it; that’s what you do: you run from people who judge you.

When grace and truth are fused, people usually run toward it because the combination of truth and grace describes a reality they’re facing and brings actual hope that things can get better.

God never asked you to judge the world. He did ask you to love it.

Judgment is a terrible evangelism strategy.

A Giant Hypocrite?

But wait, you say, isn’t this entire article just one big piece of judgment? You are a complete hypocrite, you say.

First of all, you’re totally right. You could completely read this as a judgmental invective. And I definitely write it as someone who is part of the problem.

But when it comes to judgment, Paul makes it clear we are NOT to judge the world, but we are to practice discernment in the church.

There is also a distinction (at least in my mind) between judgment and discernment.

This is a very fine line, and I don’t stand on it well at all. This article could be a complete failure in what it sets out to accomplish.

One of the things I struggle with in the church today is that we rush to judge outsiders and rarely look in the mirror. That’s the exact opposite of what Paul instructed us to do.

The reality is that people’s lives are plagued by problems. There is an epic battle raging in this life, and people get taken down every day over addictions, failed relationships, misguided beliefs and things that we think will give life, but, in the end, only destroy.

We need to help outsiders because we have been helped. We need to help each other on the inside and thereby better realize our mission.

True judgment is reserved for God. Discernment seeks to help.

Discernment says there is a problem, but lovingly, humbly, prayerfully, empathetically I’d love to help with that.

And guess what? The person on the receiving end of the help senses it. They know when they’re being judged. And they know when they’re being loved and help.

That’s what I hope to do. And that’s what I hope, in the end, this article does. Because I, too, am a judger who is seeking to become a loving helper.

And if this article still strikes you as harsh, remember that Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for arrogant, judgemental leaders inside the faith. At times, we’ve likely all been that insider. I have been anyway.  Conversely, Jesus was pretty much never harsh to people outside the faith.

We’d be so much better as a church if we did the same.

What Are You Learning?

What are you learning about judgment and discernment? Scroll down and leave a comment.

A Quick, Before-It’s-Too-Late Invitation

Hey readers… just a gentle reminder that next week is your final chance to get the the High Impact Leader Course this until much later this year.

Registration opens next Monday, January 16th and is only open for a few days.

The High Impact Leader Course is a 10 part online course designed to help you get time, energy and priorities working in your favour in 2017.

The High Impact Leader course is available for four days (until midnight PST on January 19, 2017). Act fast! After January 19th, registration for the High Impact Leader course will be closed until summer 2017. If you purchase it now, you’ll get the course at a discounted price. Learn more or sign up here.

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  • Christine A Johnson

    This was refreshing to read. Thank you for writing it. I have an autistic son (7 years old now). He’s been in church from infancy, like his brother before him, and his sister from about 3 (now 16). We suffered through many years of judgment about our son. Last year, I had enough. Leaving the church has been so difficult, but there is no physical way I could have stayed. I was always in the nursery, or helping with something, but rarely in service. And, of course, always trying to keep my son from offending anyone or doing the wrong thing and embarrasing his extended family. My heart has been completely shattered by judgment. I don’t know how to recover from it spiritually. Life otherwise has improved for us since we left, but Easter Sunday was hard. I WANT to be in church. I just don’t want to be around snippy comments or judging glares. I made myself do it for too long. This conversation needs to happen more. The Autism rate is climbing, and families like us need a place to worship, too.

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  • Vicky kajengo, Zimbabwe

    Thank you Pastor Carey. We fail here many times, and when we judge we lose an opportunity to minister as Christ would have us do. As a minister of the gospel myself, I’m not yet a Pastor, I have been found wanting many times and whenever I judge, thank God for His grace.. He corrects me immediately and am able to see a better way. The word says judge not for with the same measure it will be used against you. When we learn not to judge, we grow in our understanding of what it means to really love. God is opening opportunities for me to work with the mentally challenged vagabonds in a way that shows them a deeper love whereas before I would only go as far as sharing the gospel with them and not want to further associate with them. When we judge we really hinder God’s work in those 5 areas you mention and more. I had an issue with another minister just yesterday and have been battling with how to correct it. This morning God was showing me a better way – affirm the good she did, offer to pray for her in her struggles before pointing out areas of improvement, and in pointing out the weak areas be open to mention similar areas where I also need to work on. Your article has helped to encourage me.

  • John Martin

    Paul tells Christians in Corinth to judge a man living in sin with his dad’s wife (surely not his own mom). He prescribes a judgment of removal from fellowship so he can see his sin. “Judgment shall begin at the house of the Lord.” We are to treat everyone kindly, but honestly. In the West, where all is seen as OK unless it interferes with someone else’s license, the church runs the risk of being seen as judgmental due in part to a society that enables sin. No such enablement went on in the Palestine of Jesus’ day. Also, the biblical consensus of yesterday in the West is gone. How will it ever be brought back without truth? I have been around very judgmental Christians as a pastor. The problem is that they lived in the flesh and were simple minded, lacking empathy. As a Weselyan-Arminian they assumed we were better than the Calvinist because when we tell people “they’re going to hell for sinning, we meant it,” unlike the Calvinist who say we sin every day. All churches need to think deeply about the seriousness of sin. Jesus says “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” We shouldn’t expect the world to long for righteousness if we aren’t. Today’s church seems to hunger and thirst after the things of the flesh. NO WONDER WE’VE LOST THE CULTURE WAR SINCE THE 60’S. Ya’ll are welcome to judge me. “Come now, let us reason together.”

  • Diane Hagni

    This is such a difficult line to walk, and I appreciate the insights you provided. Perhaps the more we can see ourselves and every other person as created by God in His image to reflect some aspect of Him — no matter how badly we have messed that up — it will help us keep a proper perspective. Then we can all help each other get back to that original purpose in God’s heart and mind for us,

  • Hawkeye

    We are taught to pray earnestly for spiritual gifts, one of which is discernment. I like the emphasis on that principle in this article. Discernment will show us how to be welcoming and full of grace to those with whom we may disagree, and to do so without compromising biblical principles and our own beliefs.

    There are so many “groups” in our society. Christians are the only ones who are actually fully equipped to take on the task of bridging the gap to authentically engage others in a sinful world. Yet, as this article has pointed out we regularly fail to follow through. A challenge and an opportunity to be saltand light in this world.

  • Canbuhay

    “And if this article still strikes you as harsh, remember that Jesus’ harshest words were reserved for arrogant, judgemental leaders inside the faith.”

    So are you saying Pastor Carey that the pharisees were Christians or followers of the true God? Isn’t that a judgment you’re making about their faith?