1 Corinthians 11:31-32 - If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the world.
“Do not judge me!” We hear it all the time. Pop singers who do perverted things on stage say it. Movie stars who get DUIs say it. Politicians who have affairs say it. Co-workers who show up to work with a hangover say it. Friends who have made a real mess of their lives say it. Sometimes, we say it ourselves when someone points out our obvious faults.
Our culture has become obsessed with the idea that no one should say that any particular action is wrong. For the most part, people have accepted the idea that no one should think negatively of another person for his or her behavior. Such negative thinking is considered judging. Judging has become the ultimate bad behavior. If anyone does point out that someone's behavior was in poor taste, or just plain wrong, the speaker is the one who is criticized, not the person who actually did wrong.
This may be an acceptable line of reasoning for our culture, but it ultimately leads to disaster. If everyone does what is right in their own eyes, society devolves into chaos. That is why God gave us rules to follow. But who gets to interpret what God says the rules are?
I grew up in a very rigid religious environment in which we categorized everyone's behavior as either good or bad. This was often done without really knowing the person’s heart or any of the details of the actions. In our quest for purity we separated ourselves from those who engaged in actions we deemed bad. Many people were hurt by our judgmental behavior. I no longer want to be the behavior police with some mandate to classify every behavior that anyone around me does as being right or wrong. I also do not want to watch friends ruin their lives because I am too cold-hearted to speak to them about issues they are struggling with. Some behavior is just plain wrong, and one does not have to be a religious fundamentalist to recognize that truth. Somewhere between the two extremes of never saying anything and always pointing out everything is the thin line that we should walk that shows care and concern without being judgmental.
Finding that thin line is a constant struggle. One thing that helps is to ask people questions about the things they do. By asking them questions about certain behaviors, instead of just telling them it is wrong, their own thinking is often stirred up. Sometimes they are able to rethink their own behavior and state their own need to change. This can lead to a redemptive conversation about Christ and forgiveness. Even if they do not recognize the behavior as bad, it still makes them think, and sometimes that is the best thing we can help people do.
Ultimately, God is the one who judges all of us, and He is the one who gets to decide what is good or bad behavior. Though many of our non-believing friends may not care what God thinks, it is our responsibility as Christians to help them get to that place. By asking questions that force them to rethink their behavior, we can move on to a place where we can share what God’s Word teaches. It may take several conversations, over a period of time, to get there, but we will eventually get there, without having to negatively judge others.
Lord, help us know how and when to say something to a friend about his or her behavior. Guard us from having a judgmental spirit but also remind us of the importance of holiness. Amen.
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