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So who then, are you to judge?

HOWARD-JEROMEY-SIGLately it feels as if I have constantly encountered Christianity in the form of the desire to judge others, even based on what they have interpreted the word of God to mean.  It seems that the Golden Rule that was once taught to so many of us has morphed into, “Judge others because you are better than them.”  This reality in the world of Christians brings to mind James 4: 11-12; “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?”

Who are we to judge anyone? We are called to proclaim the liberating message of the Gospel, to be disciples of Christ, to bring to others the overflowing cup of love and grace that has been poured out for each and every one of the beloved children of God.  Love each other – not judgment!  But even the love I have witnessed lately from Christians has been tainted by the desire to judge. I have even been the recipient of this judging love in my own life as a Christian.

But I think this was expressed very well by Matthias Roberts in an piece for the Huffington Post, “You speak about me in the third person, ‘We must respond with unconditional love to people like you.’ People like me. I am less than you. I am something to tolerate. I am a project for you to bear until I am fixed. I am someone to invite to coffee so you can tell me all the ways that I am wrong. Is that really love?

“Sure, you’re being patient. Patient as you wait for me to stop talking so you can open your Bible and show me where I’m wrong. Sure, you’re being kind. Kind as you hold yourself back from shaking your head when I share about my walk with Jesus. Sure, you’re not being self seeking. Because this is all about concern for me. You’re just helping me see that. Sure, you’re not delighting in evil. It would be evil not to invite me out for coffee and show me my sin.”

You see I am all too familiar with this style of judging love or even more honestly said, “hateful love.”  It is the type of love I was exposed to and taught in much of my very early life as a Christian.  I heard sermon after sermon, prayer after prayer, Sunday school lesson after lesson, which told me that what we were doing was Christian, and to look at all those others in judgment – those evil people.

It was our job to let them know their wrongs and to be more like us. That was loving them.  Now I know what it really was.  We were the Pharisee of Jesus’ parable in Luke 18, “He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people: thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Let us turn away from this judging love that in all honesty does violence to the Gospel. Instead, turn to a humble, grace-filled love that sees everyone through the eyes of Jesus Christ.  Let us truly strive to live by a more appropriate Golden Rule; do unto others, as THEY would have you do unto THEM.  For this Christ-centered love is a powerful thing.

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