Two Ways to “Stop Being So Judgmental”
“You’re so judgmental.”
Stings, doesn’t it? Begs the question “How can I stop being so judgmental?”
Short answer: curl up and die.
Not helpful? Okay, I’ll give you the long answer. But, for context, I have to go way above my pay grade and make a football analogy:
Any pass has at least three parts: the ball, the throw and the receiver. Throw a perfectly good ball poorly and the receiver will need a miracle to catch it. But, even with a regulation ball and a great pass, there are three things that will result in an incomplete every time: wickedness, pride (mockery), or a wounded receiver.
“Gimme the Ball”!
A friend asks for advice. A regulation football represents God’s wisdom. So, you throw it to them where they are. Should be a complete, right? Instead, they snap back at you and accuse you of being judgmental and “holier than thou”. For weeks, there’s enmity between you. You feel rejected. They’re offended. Yet, in your heart, you’re between a rock and a hard place because they asked for the ball and you delivered. What the dilly?!
What’s Their Problem That Was a Great Pass?!
Wisdom invites two distinct responses: a “toward” response “growing wisdom” (complete) or an “away” response of insult/abuse/hate (incomplete). The toward response is born at the intersection of a healthy heart and the tendency of wisdom to add to itself. The away shows up at the intersection of unhealthy conditions of the heart and a natural tendency to protect that heart from further harm.
Scripture tells us:
“Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult;
whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse.
Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you;
rebuke a wise man and he will love you.
Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still;
teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning. (Prov. 9.7-9)”
Ultimately, how we react to wisdom is a symptom of our overall spiritual health: your doctor may run tests to tell what’s wrong with you, yes? If he gives you a plate of wisdom and you eat it, the proverb above tells us you’re healthy – you were just suffering from a slight case of ignorance in that particular area, but if you add this wisdom to your learning – you’re cured! Reject it though, our proverb says you’ve got a case of wickedness or mockeritis.
We have to judge. We’re designed to judge. Our brain is constantly comparing and contrasting things and making conclusions that could easily be classified as “judgments”. If you or I saw someone about to fall into an open manhole, we’d warn them, right? But, if we’re a Christian following the above logic, we’d be considered “judgmental”. If we lied down on the warm pavement of a busy street, we could easily be classified as “having poor judgment”.
Jesus’s teaching on the plank and the speck of sawdust (see Matthew 7) illustrates that we are not to pass final judgment (Greek: krino) on others, but to judge them or their behavior in light of our own faults and the fact that we, too will be judged. This implies a more compassionate confrontation than I or my friend may have in mind above. But, Jude 23 tells us we must “snatch” them from the fire – which may be abrupt and could be considered harsh if not explained.
Judging is necessary for survival. But in Christ, we are free to judge a behavior and free from having to condemn the “behaver” in the process (Greek: krino, brings a connotation of final judgment and condemnation). We are also called to love one another, abruptly pull someone in danger from their danger, and to consider others better than ourselves. Not everyone receives wisdom well. Thus, the only other way to win 100% of the time is to pass wisdom only to people who are “all-wisdom, all-the-time” instead of those who are wounded, wicked, or proud.
Good luck with that.
In a Genesis 3 world, we will never fully get this to work seamlessly. There are creases, folds, and tears in everyone’s life and even godly advice delivered with best intentions can set off a fire storm of resent. There is great news for those situations – Jesus died for the fire starter and the fire breather. But, He also promises reward to for everything we have done in obedience for His name and by the Spirit. Suffer persecution, even from followers of Christ, and you will be rewarded as an overcomer. Perhaps not right now… but God promises a retirement plan that is out of this world.