So When Can We Judge?

The Bible tells us, “Do not judge.” It’s so easy to believe that we’re really good at this. We like to think that we are giving grace to everybody, but the truth is, judging is a really natural thing to do.

Here’s a great example. You hear somebody say, “Well, I don’t have a problem judging.” What’s the first thought you have? “I doubt that.” See? You’ve just judged them!

And you did it about whether they judge! Talk about irony. Judging each other is that natural.

Sometimes our discipleship makes it even harder. You’re trying so hard to be a good Christian that it heightens your awareness of your beliefs about other people. You’re so conscious of trying to be good that you might look at a guy and think, “Well, I’m good. He’s not.”

You’ve judged him, but really, you don’t know anything about him. You might think you do. You might even look at him and say, “I know he’s bad, because I know what he did.” But if he could look inside your soul, and if he could hear your thoughts, he could probably say the same thing.

If we really think about it, we’ll realize that we’re not better than other people, even if we think we are.

So is there ever a time when it’s proper to make a judgment call? When the Bible says, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” is it really saying, “Don’t judge somebody?”

Or is it saying, “Be careful how you judge somebody?”

Or is it saying, “Judge only people in the church,” because of the fruit of the Spirit?

“Judge not.” It’s difficult for me to wrap my brain around this, even though it’s something I really want to live by. I really want to love my neighbor as myself, and that means not going around judging everyone. It’s the only way to get along. It’s the cure for most of the issues that come into play in relationships. And whether you’re fighting injustice, or merely dealing with people who think differently, things get a lot more clear when you don’t judge.

Jesus said there’s only two commandments: love me and love your neighbors. How simple this sounds! But it’s actually a very difficult thing to do. It’s all about being selfless. It’s all about not judging. It’s all about not doing the things that come naturally!

You know how people say, “Christianity is a crutch.” They say, “Christianity is the easy way out.” But Christianity is not a crutch and it’s certainly not easy. The Christian life is a very difficult way to live. It’s so easy to judge. It’s so easy to be hypocritical.

If I’m going to choose a crutch, I’m not picking Christianity, because Christianity is hard, man. It asks us to transform ourselves.

But it’s worth the hard work. It’s worth it. And so I pray about it. I say, “God, I want to understand what you meant when you told us not to judge. I want to understand it fully and completely.”

There’s never a good time to judge each other. The reason is that if we don’t judge each other, we will be better off.

We will live in peace and harmony.

See you next Wednesday.

Can Christians Be Loved?

It would be so cool to feel like I could walk down the street and be loved for who I stand for. I wish that I could walk up to people and stand for Jesus, and they would not be wary of me.

That isn’t what happens right now! Now they say, “Oh, here we go, Bible thumper guy.” Or they say, “You know what, I hate you Christians because of how you act.”

Jesus was loved by the majority of the people that He walked around with. But His followers now are not.

There are times when people want to go to a Christian and ask for help. They have nowhere else to go! They’re struggling! They think, “Maybe this Christian will pray for me. Maybe he can help me.”

How do you think they feel when they go to that Christian, and instead of getting love and help, they get judged? There is immediate anger.

Of course they get angry. They ask Christians for help, and they get judged! We’re not helping them, we’re just telling them how bad they are. I confess, sometimes I do it. Sometimes I don’t access God’s Spirit quickly enough. I try to, but sometimes it’s too late or I’m too tired, or I just feel like getting mad. I’ve done it!

I also understand that there’s no room for that in the Christian life. Grace leaves no room for judgment. The only person that should be telling people how bad they are is the guy that died for them. That’s the only guy that has a right to say anything to anybody. No one else. And He didn’t judge us. He loved us. He freed us!

Sinners loved Jesus. These were the outsiders. They were outcasts, and their society called them evil. Sinners! They loved that guy.

This really intrigues me. I’m really intrigued by a guy that was so well loved. If anybody had an issue with Him, it was the leaders. Think about that. The people who couldn’t deal with Jesus were the same authorities that served His Father.

What if I had been like that? If I had been there, would I have been one of the people rejecting Jesus? What if I saw Him in the streets, healing and teaching, and failed to believe in who He is? What if I had avoided Him? What if I had judged Him? I’m afraid of that. I don’t want to be one of those Christians that makes people wary. I want to make people feel loved.

I’m trying to change the public’s perception of Christians. I think a New Testament Christian should be someone that walks in love, and simply loves his neighbor as himself. I crave to be able to look at everybody the same, to love on them, to be able to help and encourage them, and to recall at all times that this happens because His Spirit is in me.

It’s so hard to do, but I try to do it the best I can. I try not to judge. When I do, I try to replace that judgment with love and encouragement.

I think I do it better now than I’ve ever done it before, because I’m starting to understand these concepts. I’m nowhere near where I need to be, but we’re all in that boat. We’re all learning.

See you Saturday.

You’re Not Alone In Your Struggles

(Don’t forget: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

Jesus told us, “Do not judge,” but this can be a big struggle, man. Big. If you try to just “not judge,” you’re going to have a really difficult time.

I wish I could look in the mirror and say, “I don’t ever judge people.” But I do! I don’t like this about myself, but I still do it.

I think sometimes we judge because we can be a bit cowardly, at least in certain areas. We don’t want to go to a guy and talk to him directly about why we don’t like him. We don’t want to dialogue with him about what we think he’s doing wrong, or how he frustrates us.

All we really want is to feel that way about him without having to do anything about it. We want to just look at him and say, “This guy is driving me nuts. He’s doing all these things wrong and he’s an idiot.” You know? We’re happy enough to just think these things and then walk away.

The problem is, we’ve just judged that guy seven or eight times, and yet we still want to think, “I’m a good person.”

The reality is, we can strive to be good people, but no one is a good person until Jesus is in them saying, “This is what you do. This is how you can be good.”

We all have demons hidden in our closets. We’re not going to get rid of them on our own. If you try to live without Jesus, those demons are going to frustrate you. If you continue to live just for yourself, you’re going to fail yourself. Every day.

Life in Christ is a good way of life, because Jesus is where we find joy. When I think about Jesus, I realize, “This is where heaven is.” My struggles in life are not necessarily going to go away, but Jesus is where I am going to find my peace. With His help, I’m going to receive peace in my struggles.

When you have Jesus, you have something inside of you that’s different.

That’s why Paul said, “Hey man, I take joy in my trials and tribulations. You know, I lean on God during these times and this is where I find the ultimate peace. Because I’ve found Him. And in Christ, I can have all things. When I have the Spirit of God living in me, I have all things.”

The key is to replace judgment with love. I can go around trying to “not judge” with all my might, but I’m still going to judge.“Not judging” is too hard, unless I turn to God for help.

When I am filled with His Spirit, then judging my neighbor is replaced by loving my neighbor. Not judging is so much easier when you do something in its place, like listen and help.

I know I’m going to mess up. I know I’m going to have issues. I’m going to struggle with my own problems. But with Jesus, I have someone to turn to. I have peace in the midst of my struggles. I’m not alone.

Can I be that way for others? More on that next time. See you Wednesday.

Praying off the Judgment

Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Luke 6:37-38)

There’s Jesus in Luke, telling us not to judge. But judgment is such a basic part of being human! Baseball is a good example. Baseball is full of judgments.

Think of the fans. Part of being a fan is being engaged with the players. They’ll tell you when you’re good, and they’ll tell you when you’re not. They’ll tell you why you should be traded. They’ll even question why the GM signed you!

Everyone is full of judgment because judging is a normal human thing.

You know what else it says there in Luke? It says,

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. (Luke 6: 27-28)

But that’s nearly impossible! Do we really pray for those that hate us? There is no way we do that. There’s no way that you can look at yourself in the mirror and say, you know what, this person hates me and I just pray that he or she is blessed today. Face it! We do not do that. Not without giving ourselves a little push!

But there’s more to this. As I study the scriptures on judgment, I realize that every time Jesus talks about judging, He immediately talks about hope and forgiveness. He immediately describes abundance. He says it right there in Luke:

Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.

I remember late September 2010. I wasn’t getting called into many games. In fact, I didn’t pitch for two weeks! I grew angry and frustrated, and then, I read this scripture. It really hit me. I mean, I knew these scriptures, and I knew these things, but did I really pray for those that hate me? I didn’t. It’s not a normal human thing to do.

But we’re Christians. We’re called to more, right? So I prayed about this. I said, “I know it’s normal to judge, and I know it’s not normal to pray for those that hate us. But God, I am yours. I am a child of the King! I am a new creature in Christ! I have been reborn. I have been remade. Now my spirit drives me, so truly, I have to strive to do these things.”

Then I really started listening. If someone judged a teammate, or something negative was said about him — by the media or any another person — I would walk over to that teammate and I would just speak the opposite over him. I would basically give him a positive in place of the negative.

I did this randomly. Sometimes he didn’t know why I was doing it, because he hadn’t heard the judgment. But that’s not why I did it. I was just trying to break up the judgments off of every player on our team. I was praying the judgments away.

I began walking the outfield, praying for every guy on the team. If I found myself accidentally judging again, I’d ask for forgiveness.

I am not the reason the Giants won the World Series that year. We won it as a team. No, that was the year I learned to replace judgment with prayer.

See you Wednesday.

Always More Grace Than Sin

It can be uncomfortable hanging out with Christians. I might feel like having a beer, but I don’t know if they’ll accept that. Sometimes I’m not even sure if my thoughts will be acceptable. I might literally say to myself, “Is it okay to have this thought? Should I admit to this frustration?”

Meanwhile, my non-Christian friends do not judge me. They don’t care if I have a beer or not. They don’t judge me for my thoughts or frustrations. If I’m feeling frustrated about something and talk about it, they really don’t care. They just accept it. They say, “I know what you mean. I’ve been frustrated that way too.” Their attitude is, “Yeah. You’re normal. Just like everybody else.”

I can sympathize with people who are struggling with something. We’re all human. So I don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable around me. Believer or non-believer, I don’t judge them. I listen to them and love on them.

A guy can come to me in struggle and pain, and he can confide in me without fear of judgment. He can say, “Hey Jeremy, I’m struggling with something right now, and I want to tell my wife, but I’m afraid. I feel like a bad person.” I’m comfortable with this. I can say, “Yeah, I understand. I could probably go there too. And if I made the choices you made, I would be in the exact same spot.”

I don’t fear becoming like him in his sin. I think this is the mentality that Christians fall into sometimes, but it’s faulty. We have Jesus! He is with us always! There’s always going to be more grace than sin.

If I live by the Spirit, then I will act by the Spirit. So when someone confides in me, I can say, “Let’s figure out a way where we can help each other. I don’t want you to feel condemned around me. I want to love on you, man. I want to help you.”

I look at everybody, believers and non-believers, the same. We all sin. We all struggle. We all feel pain. I want to understand people’s pain. I want to understand their struggles. I want to be able to say, “You know what? I’ve been there, or I could easily go there.” And I want to help.

How many more people would feel comfortable around followers of Jesus if they were treated this way?

The night before Jesus was arrested, He celebrated Passover with the apostles, and then He washed their feet, telling them,

You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. (John 13:13-15)

Jesus is our judge, and yet He came as a servant king. When He knew His time with His beloved followers was ending, He did a job reserved for the lowest servant of the house. Why did He do that? He lowered himself in order to show humility. He said, “I have given you an example. Do as I have done.”

Humility doesn’t say, “I judge you.” Humility says, “I want to help you in your struggle and pain.”

That’s what He taught us. Let’s do that.

See you next Saturday.

Comfortable in the World

Have you heard comments like these?

“You Christian people think you’re better than us. Christians judge everything everybody does.”

“It’s the Christians who are always saying, ‘Oh my gosh, you’re doing this, you’re bad.’”

People who don’t even know me will look at me and say, “Don’t you make mistakes? Don’t you have flaws?”

Well, of course I do!

Obviously somebody along the way has told these people that if they become Christian, then they’ll be perfect in everything they do. Someone has told them that if they become Christian, then they’ll never make another mistake, and they’ll be better than all the non-Christians who do make mistakes.

I pity the people who think that way. As followers of Jesus, we’ve somehow convinced ourselves that we are better than other people in our flesh. That’s why we judge. That’s why we start saying things like, “Man, I don’t think you should be drinking. You shouldn’t have beer. You shouldn’t even have wine.” Or we say, “You know what? I heard what came out of your mouth the other day. You cussed the other day. That’s really not good. The Bible says no unhealthy thing should come out of your mouth.”

Well, you know what? Whether I cuss in anger or I say “Shoot!” in anger, it’s the same thing. Some believers think the sin lies in the actual word, but it doesn’t. It’s the emotion behind the word that is the sin. I was angry. That was my sin. Yet somehow we think we’re better than others because we say “Shoot” instead of its coarser cousin.

I hang out with believers that are really comfortable in the world. They’re totally comfortable hanging out with everybody. They can hang out with people that aren’t Christian and feel totally fine around them. They’re comfortable because they aren’t judging everything people do or judging every motive.

The believers that have problems with judging are the ones that tell me, “Oh, you’re not supposed to hang out with outsiders, because they probably don’t live like you, and they probably don’t think like you.” They’ll say, “I don’t want to hang out with outsiders or non-believers, because they’re not good to be around. It’s evil.” I hear that and I say, then what was Jesus doing? That’s all he hung out with!

Christians have just got to quit judging. We have to stop. As long as we are judging, we will never be comfortable in the world. People in the faith will always have outsiders in their lives, and we can’t live comfortably with them if we’re always judging.

You know what else? When we’re judging them, we can’t witness to them.

Worst of all, we certainly can’t love them.

See you Wednesday.

Even Saints are Sinners

The more I focus on Jesus, the more peace I find. I’m focused on what’s in the present. I’m aware of what’s going on at any given moment. I’m mindful of my own feelings and reactions.

I might be driving down the road and a guy cuts me off and gives me the finger. It makes me so mad! I just want to snap on that guy. But I don’t. Instead I just notice how irritable I am, and breathe in the sweet love of Jesus.

In the past, I have snapped on that guy. I’ve been angry. I’ve been frustrated. I’ve cussed people out. And yes, I have flipped people off. I’ve done all those things. As a believer!

I still feel anger and frustration. The difference is that I’m getting a lot better at not acting on it. I have the ability to calm down. I can head off the anger and frustration. I do it by living in the peace of God.

You can always run into a believer who says, “Well, before I met Jesus I did all those things too. Yeah, before I met Jesus, man, I swore all the time. Before I met Jesus I was drinking and smoking. Before I met Jesus I was lusting. That’s all over with now.”

I always want to say, “But I have Jesus! And I was angry just this morning! I sin all the time, and I have to keep a penitential heart! So how come it’s so easy for you? That doesn’t seem fair. In fact, it kind of stinks!”

Okay, obviously I don’t believe it when people tell me that they don’t sin because they have Jesus. That’s a fairy tale. We all sin. But when you get the wrong idea, and believe that accepting Jesus means that you don’t sin, then you have to try to look the part. You think, “I’m a Christian, so I’m not supposed to cuss. I’m a Christian, so I’m not supposed to lust, or get angry or jealous. I’m a Christian, so I’m supposed to have a perfect marriage. And my children should be perfect too.”

We try so hard to play the part of “sinners that are saved,” that we forget who we truly are, “saints that sin.”

Nobody is perfect, no matter how much they try to look the part. Seriously! Nobody! If you never sin and your marriage and children are perfect, then what do you need Jesus for?

See you Saturday.