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In all honesty, this post should be titled, “Why I Try Not to Judge People.” Because the fact is that, try as I might not to, I do still pass judgment on people in my mind and in my heart sometimes. I write people off as being weird, or not funny, or dumb, or immature, or a whole host of other things that I’ve decided in my sinful heart are beneath me or distasteful. Sometimes in my head, I box these people into the categories I’ve selected for them, and until the judgmental mood is broken in me, it is nearly impossible for me to think about them outside of the box I’ve placed them in.
Now there are about a million reasons why I don’t want to be judgmental towards other people. For starters, judgmental people are jerks, and nobody wants to be a jerk. Well, some people do, but they’re in the minority for sure. For the most part, we all want to be liked by the people around us. We want to be highly thought of, but we sort of shoot ourselves in the foot when we’re always calling people out and judging them, and putting them in boxes.
Then there’s the scriptural reasons to not judge people that you’re probably at least passingly familiar with. Jesus said, in his sermon on the mount, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judge, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2). Jesus then goes on to talk about how strange it would be if you had a 4×4 sticking out of your head, but you were worried about a speck of sawdust that had flown into someone else’s eye. His point is that we all have enough sin in our own lives to worry about without trying to keep tabs on the sin in someone else’s life. Every time I reread this passage and think about what Jesus is saying, my first thought afterwards is, “Crap.” Because I know that he’s right. There is plenty of sin in my own life that I should be trying to get rid of before I start worrying about other people’s sin. Stuff like, well, being judgmental towards others…
And then today I ran across a scriptural reason not to be judgmental that I hadn’t ever really noticed before. The Bible reading plan I’m doing right now had us in Proverbs 16-18. Proverbs 16:5 (ESV) says, “Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished.”
Now, when I tell you what my initial reaction to this was, you’re probably going to think, “Wow, Joe, that was kind of judgmental.” And, honestly, you’re probably right if you do think that. But when I read that this morning, my first thought was, “Man, I’ve heard so many jerky Christians use that word ‘abomination’ almost exclusively to bash gay people. But I wonder if they realize that the judgmental pride in their own hearts is also an abomination to God?”
Seriously, that’s where my head was at at 7:50 this morning. And even if I was being judgmental towards my jerky Christian brothers and sisters, I think the point still stands. We shouldn’t be judgmental towards others because inevitably when we judge others, we place ourselves above them. I don’t believe it’s possible for one human to place themselves above another human on a spiritual/existence level without being guilty of pride and arrogance. You know what I mean. “Well, yes I have sin in my life. But I’m not as bad as Charles Manson. I’m not as bad as Hitler. I’m not as bad as a gay person.” We arrogantly place ourselves above these “notorious sinners.” Guess who else did this very thing in scripture – the Pharisees. And Jesus didn’t have very many nice things to say about them. That same arrogance in our hearts, the arrogance of the Pharisees, is what Proverbs 16:5 says is an abomination to God himself.
So, I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, but this really struck a chord with me this morning. I think we all need to work towards a place where we can say, with honesty, that we understand and recognize that apart from the grace of God we could very well become the next Hitler, the next Manson. Without God’s grace in our lives, we could easily fall into some sin that would utterly destroy us and those around us. There’s a quote attributed to John Bradford, the English reformer and martyr, that helps me remember this (mostly because it’s sort of poetic and beautiful): “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”