It seems like everybody is always calling everybody else out for being judgmental, and it makes me feel so cringey, because I really think a world without judgement would suck. It would SUCK.
I am dead serious.
Let's just be honest – I'm totally judging you right now.
I'm forming all kinds of opinions about you based on the way you look, the way you talk, the way you treat other people, the way you spend your money, and the way you eat. I'm judging your haircut, your makeup, your muffin top, and your weird dietary restrictions. I'm pondering your choice of partner and appraising your ability to parent your own children. I am questioning your motives right this very second.
It's true, I am judgmental. And so are you.
I know what you're thinking. You're like, “But, but, but, the Bible says!” And, yes, I also know what the Bible says. It says,
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.
For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
It even says it in red.
But is Jesus telling us not to form opinions? Is that what he means? Are we being threatened to not make observations and form opinions about anyone or anything, or else?
If that's the case, if God is going to form opinions about me based on the way I've formed opinions about others, I'm not all that torn up about it. On judgement day, God is gonna look me up and down and be like, “Oh, honey, no. Those pants make you look fat. And you have cankles. And that angry eyebrow is like whoa. I will say your hair has always been pretty good, except for that short bob you got in the 90's. I was sooooo glad you never did that again. Ugh! It gives me the shivers just thinking about it. And remember when you drove that minivan with a missing hubcap? That was hilarious. Hashtag whitetrash. Also, you were kind of a whore in high school. And your attempts at parenting? Pathetic. Like, I was embarrassed for you the whole time...” And on and on and on and on and on.
And I'll just be standing there, rolling my eyes, like, “Jeez, God is so judgmental.”
But I'm pretty sure that's not gonna happen, because I'm pretty sure that's not what Jesus meant. I don't think he was talking about that kind of judgement.
Judgement in the form of observing and opining is a really healthy, necessary part of life and growth. I ask my children to use good judgment every day. I want them to look at the people around them and be able to make thoughtful choices about who they do and do not want to be like. In my own life, I want to emulate the positive behavior I see in others, and I want to recognize and reject that which is not beneficial to me. But how can we do that if we're not permitted to think critically about the world around us?
I know, I know, “YOU CAN'T JUDGE ME!” is the battle cry of our people. We live in the age of the opinion police, where personal thoughts made public can be swept aside by the opposition with the clutching of pearls or grasping of vape pens, and a smarmy, “Who are you to judge?!” or maybe a defensive, “Judgemental much?” This is almost inevitably followed by a counter attack comment like, “Now who's being judgmental?” or, my favorite, “Aren't you judging her for judging you?”
And so begins the annoying, never ending circle of judgment to infinity. But what if we are allowed to have opinions? And what if our opinions are just that, opinions; not fact or truth or even reality - just our own sincere beliefs about the life we think God wants for us.
I do think we get to form opinions, even about our friends and neighbors and favorite bloggers. But Jesus is warning his followers against using those carefully formed opinions to condemn the people around us. I don't get to decide your worth as a human being or your fate or your future based on what I think of you or your life. I don't decide who's in or who's out. It's not for me to impose my will or my ways on everyone else. It's not my place to issue edicts of eternal fate, no matter how opposed I am to someone else's beliefs.
I am not The Judge.
Condemn not, or you too will be condemned.
For in the same way you condemn others, you will be condemned,
and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
It sounds so much more serious when you put it like that, it's almost scary. But this is not a threat, it's a brilliant gift from God -- because when you drop the judge's gavel, what you're left with is an open hand.
If you've found yourself unable to extend a hand to the people you disagree with, then perhaps your judgement has crossed over to condemnation. Tread lightly, my friend, you are stepping on God's toes. He has already given us permission to love generously and wholly and to the best of our dynamic understanding, and He's released us from the pressure of trying to change people to fit into our narrow views.
We get to have opinions, even unpopular ones, and we get to say them out loud if we want to - this two way street is how we grow and challenge and learn from each other - but we need more good judgement and less reckless condemnation. Our conversations are more productive when they're open-handed and open-ended, more invitational than confrontational, filled with personal thoughts, but free of personal demands.
Because see, actually? I can judge you. And you can judge me. But, no matter how tightly we hold to our
gavels convictions, we don't get to condemn each other to hell or to poverty or to solitary confinement or to celibacy, or to a life or death apart from Christ.
He calls us to love freely and then He frees us to love fully.
And that's it, and that's all, and that's enough.
...But, hey, that's just my opinion.