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TEXT: Ecclesiastes 7:16
SUBJECT: Gospel Changes Everything #21: Judgmentalism
Last week I sat down at my computer, clicked on a search engine, and typed in the words, 'Why are Christians so _____?' The first two sites came up, 'Why are Christians so mean? And 'Why are Christians so judgmental?' 'Mean' and 'judgmental'; this is how a great many people think of us, and we've go to ask ourselves why.
It is easy to dismiss their criticism by saying it is another example of light coming into the world and men loving darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil. This is true. But it's not the whole truth. Many believers in Christ are very judgmental, and not one of us is entirely free from that sin.
Yes, judgmentalism is a sin, and it's a subtle one, too, because it often feels like something else: it feels like holiness, zeal for the Lord, and maintaining the standards of the Bible. These are good things, and we ought to pursue them, but we've got to do it with wisdom and humility lest our enthusiasm for God become the leaven of the Pharisees.
Nobody wants to be 'judgmental', of course, and only two things can save you from it. One is to surrender your standards and believe that nothing is more true or good than anything else. The Bible is true for me, the Koran is true for you; I think fidelity is good, you think adultery is good. Patriotism works for me, treason works for you.
This will keep you from being judgmental, but at what cost? You've got to lose your mind and numb your conscience to believe there's no difference between truth and error, good and evil-helping the little old lady cross the street and pushing her in front of the speeding bus!
The other cure for judgmentalism is the Gospel. Only it enables us to hate sin and love sinners at the same time and to the same degree. The Gospel frees us from the very real and common sin of judgmentalism. This is today's topic as we move on in our afternoon study, The Gospel Changes Everything.
THE MEANINGWhat does it mean to be 'judgmental'? My dictionary defines it as 'involving the use or exercise of judgment'. In this narrow sense, being 'judgmental' can be either good or bad, depending on what judgment you pass on a thing. If you say, 'Bob Dylan is a better singer than Marvin Gaye', your judgment is bad. If you say "Michael Jordan is a better basketball player than Michael Phillips' your judgment is good. In this latter sense our Lord wants us to be judgmental-to know what a thing really is, to-
Separate the precious from the vile.
And to not say that vile things are precious or that precious things are vile or that there's no difference between the precious and the vile.
Jesus wants us to be judgmental in this sense-
Abhor what is evil, cleave to what is good.
Truthfully, this is what many people mean by 'judgmental', and there's nothing we can do for them. At times, being loyal to Christ means hurting people's feelings and inviting their criticism.
This, however, is not what I mean by being 'judgmental'. What do I mean? I can't define the word as well as I can point it out to you. Turning to the Bible, this means taking a hard look at the Pharisees who were prime examples of it.
Was our Lord against all judging? No, He wasn't. He Himself judged people, and told His disciples to as well. Thus, it wasn't the judging He had a problem with, but how they did it. What was wrong with the Pharisees' judgment? I thought of five things:
This is the kind of judgment our Lord condemns-and not only in the Pharisees. If it was bad in them, it is worse in us, for we know the Lord better than they did, and renewed by His Spirit, we ought to be-
Swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath, for the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God.
No one is above this sin, of course, but are we more liable to it than our unbelieving neighbors? I think we are, and there's a reason for it. Most of them do not believe in absolute truth, fixed morality, or the effect our choices will have on our eternal destinies.
We know better. We know Jesus is the only way; we know fornication is always wrong (even if you're 'in love'); and we know that choosing to ignore the former and live in the latter means damnation of body and soul forever.
Knowing this moves us to speak out, to plead with people to turn from the evil ways and to find the forgiveness of sin in Jesus Christ. This is all good. But then the devil gets in there and sows pride and scorn among the good seeds of zeal and compassion. Before you know it, the Tree of Life becomes a club to beat people over the head with!
Instead of being humbled by God's choice of us for salvation, we start to congratulate ourselves, as though we deserve it more than they do. We forget the words of Paul-
Who made you to differ one from another?
And what do you have that you did not receive?
Now, if you received it, why do you boast as if
you did not receive it?
I fear the search engine was right: we are mean and judgmental, and we need to do something about it. We need to renounce all pride, repent of every scornful thought, and apologize to people we've looked down on and mistreated because they did not meet our expectations.
But how are we going to move from what we are to what we ought to be? One thing is sure: guilt is not going to do it, and neither is the Law, read in the Bible, preached in the pulpit, or shouted in the conscience!
The only thing that will replace our pride and meanness with humility and compassion is.the Gospel. How?
Firstly, the Gospel tells us what we are. We are so bad, so wicked, so stubborn and stupid and hopeless, that nothing could remove our guilt and change our lives short of the full judgment of God crashing down on the head of our Savior, Jesus Christ!
As I believe this part of the Gospel, the pride I feel dissipates and when that happens I cannot point out the faults of other people without pointing out my own as well.
Secondly, the Gospel reminds us that we are living on God's mercy. We are not justified because we are just, or the next thing to it. We're justified because God is merciful-
Not by works of righteousness that we have done, but by His mercy He has saved us.
When I believe in God's mercy to me, I start doling out mercy to others. This is the motive Paul uses in teaching forgiveness, patience, and kindness in the church-
And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another just as God for Christ's sake has forgiven you.
Thirdly, the Gospel brings us to the cross where Jesus Christ did not revile the men who crucified Him, but prayed for them. In light of His words-
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do
We cannot be quick or harsh in our judgment. If any man ever had the right to be mean and judgmental, it was Jesus on the cross-the only innocent man, He died as a criminal. But He wasn't mean or judgmental. He was Love. And He still is. And He wants us to be like Him.
Finally, the Gospel tells us where we are on God's calendar. Where are we? We're on the Day of Salvation. The Day of Judgment is coming, whether soon or not, only God knows. That will be a day for settling scores, for accusing the wicked and giving them what they've got coming. But this is not that day! The Gospel Age is to be characterized by mercy extended to all who will have it, no matter how unworthy they are of it. In the Gospel God reaches out in love to the whole world, and, for now, He wants us to follow Him.
CHALLENGE AND CLOSE
Are you a judgmental person? I know you've got another name for it, but are you? There's no time to bandy words, no time for nuancing the nuances!
For all the faults of the Early Church, they had a good witness to the world, a testimony better than ours! Our neighbors say, 'Why are Christians so mean? Why are Christians so judgmental?'
But the Roman Empire said something else-
Look, only look, how they love one another!
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