Thursday, March 7, 2013

Does the Fear of Judgment Lead to Judgment?

It seems that the one unpardonable sin in our current culture is judgment. Having grown up in a fairly judgmental religious system, I can understand why it is such a powerful negative influence on our thinking processes. But lately, it seems that our culture has allowed our fear of being judging to become an excuse for continuing poor behavior.

Let’s be honest, we all make mistakes (Romans 3:23). None of us are perfect (Romans 3:10) and those who pretend to be are liars (1 John 1:10). Though our culture pretends that there is nothing really worthy of judgment, deep inside we all know we have a few things in our lives that are worthy of judgment (Romans 2:14-16).

The big question becomes, how do we deal with those behaviors, thoughts, attitudes or feelings that we wish were not present in our lives? In the past, when our culture was based on more religion, the church told us what to do. Often, whether we agreed or not, we just did it. There were some advantages to this, because some less desirable behaviors were less prominent in our society than they are now. But there were also some real disadvantages because different people have different ways of looking at certain things. Those that looked at them in ways that might not fit the “majority” opinion of the church based culture faced significant pressure to conform to something they may not even believe in. And it was easy to jump to conclusions about people without knowing the full details, which is always a dangerous situation. The way many people in our culture responded was to drop out of the organized church.

The fear of being judged by the organized church led many people to abandon the organized church. The problem with this approach is that that does nothing to address the behavior that brought out the negative feelings to begin with. If we have things in our lives that we know should not be there, simply avoiding people who may point those things out will not solve our problem. It is much like a person with a heart condition refusing to go to the doctor out of fear of what the doctor may say. If the condition goes on long enough without treatment, the result is not going to be positive and the treatment for the condition will be much more invasive than what could have been done if it had been addressed earlier. The same is true when we have poor behavior in our lives that we have not yet addressed. Eventually we will reap the consequences of that behavior. By the time all those consequences finally hit us, it may cost us far more than we ever intended to pay. In essence, our fear of minor judgment will cause us to experience major judgment.

Perhaps it is time to try a different approach. Perhaps it is time to start exploring church again. Obviously there are some overly judgmental types of churches that may not help us become healthy again. But there are many churches that understand that in our human weakness we made bad choices and now we are trying to fix those issues. Those churches will walk with us through the journey until we get where we need to be. They will not tell us that all of our behavior is acceptable, but we already know that. But they will remind us that God loves us in spite of our behavior and that He will help us become the person we always wanted to be. It is time for us to overcome our fear of judgment and start dealing with the baggage in our lives and we are going to need the help of other people to do that. That is what church is all about. It is a group of sinners encouraging each other to do better as we see the return of Christ approach (Hebrews 10:25). There may be some painful moments in the short term, but the joy over the long term will be worth it.

For more devotionals like this one, consider Touching the Footprints of Jesus

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