The other night, I asked a friend via text message if I was too critical.
They responded, “Yes”.
I asked them to provide an example.
They referenced my stance on churches using music made by current, heretical ministries in their worship as evidence, saying that I dismiss the fact that people were blessed through this music, while the songs were doctrinally sound. I may not have read the entire Bible in a year, but I’ve read many parts over my 20+ years on the planet.
Once we become aware of God and learn who He reveals Himself to be through scripture, we have no excuse to follow any pagan ritual or custom that attempts to commune with God in any way, because that would be ignoring His commandments. It would be like choosing to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil again. God tells us through His Word to reject what is Pagan and to draw near to the Lord, to become Holy and Set Apart like He is. Without being all religious and caught up in a performance based mentality, this simply means to have a heart to only do things we are confident will please the Father, and we can safely say that God doesn’t want His children to behave like heathens.
This friend revealed another reason I often come across as judgmental, the very one I suspected. They used the “Bad Worship v. Acceptable Worship” example, because they didn’t like talking about the other topic with me. Out of respect for this friend, I’m not going to divulge the reason. Instead, I’m going to use a different example in place of their reason. I’m going to pick the second most popular sin (in my opinion) that all (American) Christians struggle with and that is: GOSSIP.
Say your BFF (Best Friend Forever), Sally, starts telling you that she heard from Kathy, one of the choir members, that Tom, the worship leader, was having an affair with the pastor’s wife (This is an exaggerated example). And Sally says, “I’m only telling you this so you know how to pray.”
Now, this GOSSIP is bad for a multitude of reasons. Worship at church is ruined now for me because any time Tom talks about laying our sin at the foot of the cross, all I’m thinking about is him knocking boots with the pastor’s wife. I already didn’t like the pastor’s wife because she was closed off and seemed unfriendly, but now I really don’t like her because she’s an adulterer. Now, since Kathy said this, since she’s on the worship team, she must be right because she’s around Tom all the time. Kathy is also an assistant for the church office and she works for the pastor and his wife all the time, so if anyone would be an expert on this topic it is her. But this just shows Kathy is a gossip and I have to be careful what I say around her or to her because she’ll go spreading my business all over the place!
I could go on, but you see the damage this does with fellowship. And what if Kathy doesn’t know with certainty Tom is cheating with the pastor’s wife, but only suspects it, and it turns out that “the affair scandal” is a lie? Then this whole thing is worse than GOSSIP, it is now SLANDER.
What do I say to Sally, in a loving way, to encourage both of us not to give in to the gossip bug?
A) “Sally, you’re such a gossip! You should know better than to tell me this stuff. I’m trying NOT to GOSSIP myself anymore. I can’t believe you!”
B) “Girl, I knew it! We seriously need to pray for Tom. He is clearly such a womanizer, he hit on me the other day. I feel SO BAD for his wife.”
C) “Sally, are you certain this is true? If so, this is very serious. I definitely want to pray, and we will, but how did Kathy even find out about this?”
Clearly not (A) or (B).
(A) is too judgmental and selfish. With an answer like (A), I’m more concerned about my own spiritual well being than my friend’s, when at the very least I should care mutually about both of our spiritual welfare.
(B) is reinforcing the desire of the flesh and giving into GOSSIP, because I spread more GOSSIP in return. I probably said something others have noticed or Sally may have experienced. Or worse, maybe I told a little white lie so I can seem like I “knew something” too. (Don’t tell me you’ve never done that.)
I’m picking (C). Launching a mini investigation to see how Kathy came about this info will open up a dialogue and create room to get to the root issue, which is GOSSIP. This conversation isn’t meant to find out what Kathy knows, it is meant to reveal how much Sally doesn’t know and serve as a gentle reminder that we shouldn’t be talking about members of our church family like this.
Also, if it were all true and we weren’t friends with the pastor’s wife or in a leadership position over her, we couldn’t do anything but pray because going up to another believer who is a total stranger to us and passing judgment on their sin we discovered through GOSSIP is hypocritical. We’re correcting sin through sin. (We’ll assess later why this is VERY WRONG.)
Plus, if the pastor’s wife is saved and the affair is taking place, hopefully, she would be convicted by the Holy Spirit in time to confess her sin, and let things progress as they should, whatever consequences may come. And in this best scenario, the only way we would find out about her affair, and the details about who she cheated with, would be from her directly, possibly confessing before the congregation. I don’t think any church would do this, so, basically, we would likely never know about this affair in great detail.
I hope you can detect my bottomline to this entire article: yes, Christians can be too judgmental at times, and most, like those Extremist Christian Judges, are big fat hypocrites. No one can perfectly keep God’s Word, therefore, no one should act like they’re doing it perfectly. We should live to get praise from God, not from people. We live changed lives through action because God’s Spirit changes our heart (Romans 2).
People who know me understand that I don’t pick up on sarcasm too well. Sometimes I seem like I’m being sarcastic when I’m being completely serious. A friend may crack a sarcastic joke with me and I think their statement was serious, and if their joke was about them committing sin they’ve done in the past but aren’t doing now, I’m absolutely going to remind them how someone who loves Jesus wouldn’t be sinning in the manner they joked about.
Does this make me “a rotten, holier than thou, snooty person,” being “too judgmental” and not Christ-like?
I honestly don’t know.
I once heard that 80% of a joke we tell is based on truth.
Since I was teased as a kid on the playground where unkind humor was used against me, I don’t do well with jokes, even when they’re not against me.
I do, however, love a good laugh. I still watch comedies, so I’m not terribly traumatized.
I’m working out my salvation with fear and trembling like all the other saints out there (Philippians 2:12-13). When I mess up, I ask people to forgive me, and I actually put conscious effort into not making the same horrible error again. I fail a bunch frequently, but in time, with the Lord’s grace, He transforms me and I miraculously, barely mess up the same way toward someone again, or best case scenario, anyone again.
Granted, our works— our own idea of righteousness – are like filthy rags (used feminine products as the Hebrew better translates to English) to God. I’m not saying resisting GOSSIP or discouraging it alone pleases God. Jesus said someone commits murder in their heart when they look at someone with hate. You can be real passive-aggressive in your faith and state, “We shouldn’t be gossiping like this,” and be thinking in your head what you just heard is completely true and you intend to ask “so-and-so” if it is.
I’ve been there. Where I have every full intention in my heart to not gossip, and to correct a friend in love about gossip, and then I go and gossip the next hour. I think we all do it. At some point, I have to mature in my faith and ask the Holy Spirit to convict me about gossip to the point that I don’t do it on purpose and continue giving into my flesh.
In the Old Testament, when Israel was given the Mosaic laws, the Israelites had to give sacrifices for unintentional sins they didn’t even know they may have committed (Leviticus 4 and 5; Numbers 15). This is the high standard of holiness God has for His people: an impossible standard that no human will ever live up to. No human will ever stop committing unintentional sin. But now, under the new covenant, we have Jesus as the ultimate sacrifice. When the Holy Spirit reveals our sin through the Word, a friend, family member, or maybe a church member, and graciously makes us aware right after we unintentionally sinned moments before– we can reflect, wrestle with God’s truth, and if we’re repentant, which a real Christian will be (eventually), we go, “Lord, forgive me for what I did. I don’t want to be that way. Lead me to do better, to be different.”
The sin we committed will determine how far we have to go to complete our repentance. With gossip, if we didn’t start the rumor, and it didn’t turn into slander ruining someone’s reputation then we just stop the gossip bug at us. We refuse to be bitten. We have the convo in love with the gossiper. We pray. We move on.
Remember, our sin doesn’t just impact our standing with God, our sin impacts our relationships with those in our lives. To build a healthy community, we need to live our lives to honor God, because in turn, He leads us to honor people.
I believe that is why Bible-Practicing-Christians should judge one another, but we need to follow the prescription Dr. Jesus gave us. A lot of Christians are quick to jump to examples of Jesus’ love, but use such examples incorrectly.
For instance, the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Those “at-risk” to be “Poser Christians”, will use this scripture to tell their loving friend, who is passing judgement, that they are in the wrong. Those defending their sin try to misuse Jesus’ position in this particular scripture and quote Him, saying “he who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” Their point is that we’re all sinners, so we should stay quiet about their sin and stop making them feel bad by reminding them what God thinks about it.
First of all, the only one worthy to cast a stone according to Jesus’ words was Him. He is the only sinless man to ever walk that planet and that is because He was and is God, who can’t sin, and if He could He wouldn’t because it isn’t His nature. Second of all, I admire how folks ignore that she got caught in her sin. She was guilty, and the only one who was able to pass judgement by God’s standard wasn’t looking for a good stoning rock. The Pharisees were ready to stone her, just like we Christians can pick up the Word of God, set those words in the sling of our tongues, and beat someone to death in our hearts. We don’t know what Jesus wrote on the ground to put the fear of God in them Pharisees. I love that scripture doesn’t expose their sin. I think that proves how loving God is and He didn’t want people to know for all eternity how sinful His children were being through Christian History and until the end of time. But Jesus then told the woman, after He forgave her, “to go and sin no more”. Jesus passed judgement on her sin. He knew she did it. He weighed the situation and He ruled His forgiveness would give her a new outlook on life and inspire her to change her ways. He was confident that His grace and His mercy would be redemptive for her. He used her as an example to us. Jesus forgives us of our sins, so that we need not sin and give into our flesh.
The takeaway we should receive from Jesus in this part of scripture is to have a forgiving attitude when our fellow saint confesses their sin to us, and not hold it against them, thinking they will forever continue in it. We should encourage them to remember who they are in Christ and why they confessed their sin, which was because they’re ready to commit to Jesus to NOT sin like that anymore. Offer to be their accountability partner. Say, “Hey, if you’re tempted to do this again, text me to pray for you or call me and we can pray together.” Make sure this person doesn’t feel added shame from you, so they can trust coming to you in their hour of need (in the future) if their own strength isn’t enough. Encourage them to read scripture on that topic of sin, to get God’s viewpoint deep in their hearts and let Him do the rest, by keeping them from sinning. It is mainly God’s job to lead every saint, but we are called to help one another when we can see they need the assistance.
We need to renew our minds daily in the Word of God (Romans 12:2-3). Only it can reveal the standard that God wants us to live by and keep it fresh on our hearts. God’s forgiveness through Christ is the fuel that drives us to live as God wants us to. Without remembering that God forgave us while we were still sinners, we are blinded to His Truth, and will build this performance-based attitude: that in order to earn God’s love, we have to behave like He tells us to in scripture. When the reality is, because we love the Lord, we long to live according to His commandments.
How did Dr. Jesus tell us to judge one another? What was His prescription?
We can find His medicine to address the infection of sin amongst fellow believers in Matthew 7:1-6. The following is the dosage He prescribes, and He warns against misusing this medicine on others as it can cause damaging side effects.
Jesus said if you’re going to pass judgment, be prepared for people to judge you with the same level of intensity as you dish it out. He said to be aware of, and deal with, your sin first, especially the type of sin you battle that you like to call out in others, before you judge someone else. He said to deal with your mess first, because if you don’t and you pass judgement, while continuing to sin the same way, or ignore people’s loving correction and continue to sin again and again, you’re a hypocrite. I don’t know how often you’ve read the New Testament and the Gospel accounts, but JESUS HATES HYPOCRITES! He doesn’t like fake people or posers. Jesus wants people who are real, but also disciplined.
If one of your dearest friends is having that hard convo with you about your sin, maybe they’re doing it right or maybe they’re doing it wrong, but try to understand why they’re doing it. They love you and NOT having the conversation isn’t doing you any favors. However, if your friend keeps beating you with the Bible about that one time you sinned, gently remind them that love keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13). Trust me, something like that will work on a person with a repentant heart. Or, you can just remind them, “Hey, I don’t do that anymore. I’d really appreciate it if you could stop bringing it up. I feel like I’m being shamed and it is hurtful. I know God has forgiven me, but it doesn’t always feel like it. I don’t do that anymore.” And if your friend fails to respect you and keeps going against the boundary you set, well, maybe reevaluate your friend’s list or, if you really love this person, lovingly remind them that you changed and to stop treating you like you haven’t. Hard to do, but worth it.
Let me answer the question that sparked the flame to type this article: Can a Christian be too judgmental? Of course, when they have the wrong motive in their heart while correcting another Christian. A biblical, practicing Christian is not being too judgmental for making it clear what sin is or offering suggestions and giving advice on how not to sin like that again. A Christian doesn’t have to be guilty of the same sin in the past to lovingly correct a friend; if that was a prerequisite, then none of us should listen to Jesus because He was sinless. We need to let saints be like our family in that sense; as long as a fellow believer treats us with love and respect, we can trust them to have those “uncomfortable talks of correction” with us. We should want more friends who will be truthful with us when we have the courage to practice the Bible and confess our sins. Don’t forget to end the conversation in prayer. For it was by grace we were saved, and it is only by His grace will we finish this race of faith strong.
*Edited by Aly Fry