Why So Judgmental?

Why are Christians so judgmental, when it’s obvious that God is all about love? This is a hard question to answer. It’s normal to judge. We all do it. We depend on judgment. We depend on a shared moral code. Distinguishing good from bad preserves the peace. It guides us in our common life, as a community and a nation.

But God tells us not to judge. God tells us to replace judgment with forgiveness. He tells us to love each other as He has loved us. How do we make sense of this?

Suppose you’re sitting in a park on a sunny day. Maybe you’re even reading your Bible. You happen to see a guy drinking a couple of six packs, and he’s getting pretty drunk. You know what the Bible says about drunkenness, so what do you do? It’s really hard not to say, “Man, that guy is a bad person. He needs to change. He needs to find Jesus.”

Well, maybe he does need to find Jesus! Maybe you are right. But before you judge him to be a bad person, think about Jesus. What would Jesus do? I think He would look at the guy and say, “I see his heart. He was born into sin. Who wasn’t? Now he’s sinning. Who isn’t? I think I’ll go talk to him. I’ll go love on him.”

That’s what Jesus does. He doesn’t look at the guy and say, “What a bad person.” Jesus looks at the guy with love and understanding.

If that’s what Jesus does, then why should a Christian, a follower of Jesus, look down on the guy? Some Christians even judge a guy and then expect his admiration. I’ll let you in on something. It doesn’t work.

Some people treat their kids the same way. They drag them to church. They tell them, “You’re bad! You need to do better!” Kids hear that, and guess what? They feel bad!

This is terrible. It’s terrible that kids live in fear of their parents. It turns into fear of God, and I’m not talking about reverential fear. I’m talking about actual, scared fear. They will look at God and literally be scared of His judgment. “Mom and Dad think I’m bad. God must think I’m bad too.”

Teaching children to fear just wounds them. It drives them away from God. That’s not what we want! We want our children’s hearts to fill with love! We want them to love themselves and love their neighbors! But love only happens when children experience God’s love. Not their parents’ judgment.

Let’s go back to the guy in the park, the one you were tempted to judge. Judging him does not help him. It hurts him. It pushes him further away from God. It doesn’t help you either. Judging others hurts you because it draws you away from grace and into a judgment mentality.

Here’s what I try to do. I see that guy in the park, and I think, “Well, in my view, what he’s doing is wrong. I’m not going to go and get drunk with him. Does he need Jesus? Yes. But I’m not going to bring him to Jesus by smacking him in the back of the head with a Bible. He’s not going to love Jesus because I’m standing there, telling him he’s wrong.”

How about just loving on the guy?

A Story Behind Every Face

God builds relationships of trust with us, and in those relationships, He heals us. He teaches how to parent our children the same way. How about if we do it with each other?

In case you don’t know the story, the Bible tells us that one day, Jesus rested by a well after walking all day. He was in Samaria, and lots of people in Jesus’s time had a pretty low opinion of Samaritans.

So when a Samaritan woman came to the well, she was surprised when Jesus asked her for a drink of water. “How is it that you’re talking to me?” she asked Him. And Jesus told her that He was going to give her living water. He said,

“Everyone who drinks this [well] water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst — not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.” John 4:13–14

Think about that day. Jesus sat at the well with the Samaritan woman and told her all about her life. “You’ve had five husbands,” He said. “Now you’re living with a man you barely know. You have an issue with your self-esteem! Believe in who you are, and know that I am God.”

I can imagine what she thought. “Man, this guy has told me everything I’ve ever done, and He still loves me.”

That’s right! He loved her. He sat there with her at a well, and asked for water, and then told her, “Drink the water I give you and you’ll never thirst again.”

I think most of us hear about a woman being married five times, and we can’t help but judge. We also speculate! It’s pretty natural to do it. I mean, who has five failed marriages? There must be some kind of mess there!

But that’s not what Jesus did. He helped her. He said, “I know your pain. Five marriages adds up to five large wounds. That is causing you to live with a man whose name you don’t even really know. And he doesn’t know you. You’re just living with him. You’re trying to figure out some sort of security. And now you’ve got women talking behind your back on your way to the well, because they think you’re the town whore.

“You’ve got all these condemnations coming at you, but man, I just want to give you living water. I love you. I created you! I love everything about you.”

He looked at her and said, “I will give you living water and you will never thirst again. That’s what I will give you, because that’s what you need.” There was no judgment there. He just let her know.

What is the lesson here? Well, how should Christians help sinners? “Sinners” includes pretty much everyone, including ourselves. How should we relate? Should we box people on the ears with our Bibles?

Here’s an idea. How about loving on them? Isn’t love better than judgment?

How about trying to figure out why they are not living the way they do? Maybe, like the Samaritan woman, they are struggling with wounds of their own.

When you understand that, it will keep you from judging. When you <emtruly seek to understand the drama of a person’s life, and then love on them just as we see Jesus do, you won’t judge. You’ll figure out how to help them.

You’ll help them get that living water, the water that quenches their thirst.

The church needs to do a whole lot more of this. It’s changing, but we need to do more, because there’s always a drama unfolding. There’s a drama behind every face. Why not look at somebody and really see them? Why not ask them what’s going on? The answer will probably surprise you. It will probably reveal an opportunity to love on them and help them.

The point is to create relationships and provide help. When one of my sons is acting out, my initial impulse is to get angry with him. But I don’t. Instead I try to figure out why he is acting out. What lies behind his behavior? How does he feel? What story does he want to tell? What is hurting him? If I can fix that hurt, then the acting out stops.

That’s what Jesus did. He did it with the woman at the well. He did it with the prostitute. He did it with the woman caught in the act of adultery. He didn’t judge any of them. He even said, “I’m not going to condemn you.”

Think about that. Jesus was the only one that had the authority to condemn people, but He didn’t.

That’s why people came to Him.

When we can learn to do that, people will come to us.

A Lottery Prayer That Works

I began this blog in 2011. Can you guess the top search term that lands readers here? It is “lottery prayer that works.” That phrase has shown up within the top search terms literally every week of this blog’s existence.

If that’s why you are here, then let me help you. Look at this awesome promise that Jesus made before He was arrested and crucified:

Believe me: I am in my Father and my Father is in me. If you can’t believe that, believe what you see—these works. The person who trusts me will not only do what I’m doing but even greater things, because I, on my way to the Father, am giving you the same work to do that I’ve been doing. You can count on it. From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I am doing, I’ll do it. That’s how the Father will be seen for who he is in the Son. I mean it. Whatever you request in this way, I’ll do. John 14: 11-14

What do you think about that? Jesus said that we will do greater things than He did, and that He will give us whatever we ask in His name! I think that’s awesome!

But even in the world of believers, there’s a lot of skepticism about this promise. We will receive anything we pray for? Really? You hear people say, “Oh really. You’re telling me that if I pray, ‘God, I want a Mercedes Benz,’ then all I have to do is believe, and I’ll get it?” Or, “I can pray to win the lottery, and if I really believe I’m going to win, then I will?”

Those are good questions! But my question is a little different. My question is, “Why do you ask for those things?”

Why? That question stands in advance of every prayer.

I believe it is God’s will to prosper you, but prosperity doesn’t always mean money or property. God can prosper you with a healthy family, or peace at your job. There are so many ways that God can prosper you! In the end, though, they all have one thing in common. It’s an issue of the heart.

God looks at the heart of all people. Men and women alike, He looks at your heart. If you sit there and say, “God, I pray for a million dollars,” I’m going to guess that the first thing God’s going to ask is why you want a million dollars. If you want a million dollars so that you can be rich, then I don’t know if He’s going to prosper you in that way.

Jesus promises to answer your prayer and give you what you ask for because “that’s how the Father will be seen for who He is in the Son.” That’s the context of His promise. God will give you what you ask for because you are doing His will.

I pray for finances. I really do. I pray for them, and I believe I’m going to get them. I can’t necessarily tell you why God grants my prayers, but I can tell you the reasons in my heart for wanting finances. I can see all the good that I can do with them.

I think God looks at your heart when it comes to everything. If your prayer is birthed in sin, it will never happen. Why would God answer prayers birthed in sin? I believe God answers prayers that are birthed in the hope of bringing grace and faith and power. I believe God answers prayers that are birthed in the desire to empower people to believe in Him and love Him. If that’s your reason for asking, then yes, I fully believe that you’re going to receive what you pray for.

In other words, if you’re going to do God’s will with those lottery winnings, then pray for them with all your heart!

I’ll say more on this next time. See you Tuesday.

Bring Grace Home

There are so many wonderful things to say about grace. I frequently write about the freedom that comes with grace because it’s awesome. Grace frees us from sin! Grace frees us from slavish obedience to rules! We are free, because Jesus helps us with our sin. We are free, because the Spirit guides us and advises us. Do you see what this means? We don’t have to be afraid. We have help!

Think about that. Grace frees us from fear!

When your family is founded in grace, there is no fear in your home. Instead there’s freedom. Your kids are happy, your husband or wife is happy, everyone is growing and thriving, and you are living righteous and loving lives. People will look at your family and say, “Man! What are you doing? We want that too!”

I mean, who wouldn’t?

But then they ask, “What rule did you make? What law did you give them, that they live so well?”

That’s not the right question! That’s legalism. When people don’t understand grace, they think about dropping a Bible verse and making a rule with it. But that’s not me. I’m not a legalistic father who wants to drop a Bible verse on my sons when they’re not doing right. I want them to know grace.

I can hear you saying, “But Jeremy, does that mean you never discipline your children?” Not at all. It means I don’t use anger to control them.

We parents want so much to let our kids express their emotions. But have you noticed that we only really encourage it when those emotions feel good to us? We don’t get mad at them for being happy. We don’t get mad at them for laughing. We don’t get mad at them for being joyful. We don’t even get mad at them when they’re sad and crying.

But when they get angry, we get mad at them!

This is backwards. It makes no sense to tell them, “I’m going to get angry at you for being angry.”

Obviously we don’t want our kids to be angry. But it happens. What do they learn from us if we respond with anger? Nothing! It’s a vicious cycle.

I think our anger comes from trying to control our children. We want to control them so that we can control how we react to them. This is typical of legalism in the home. An angry child is not a reason to get angry. In fact, I think responding with anger is the worst thing you could possibly do.

Why not just accept them and be with them? You can acknowledge that there’s something going on. Maybe it’s something that you don’t know about. Maybe there’s something troubling them. Whatever it is, getting angry with them won’t help either of you. But grace can transform the situation. Grace says, “How can I help you? How can I love on you? How can I make you feel better? I can see that you’re having a bad time. How can I be here for you?”

When you do that for your child, then all of a sudden a bad day can become a good day. Now in their bad day, you’re not just someone else pounding on them. You are with them as a loving help to them.

I’m far from perfect, but I try not to get angry at my sons for getting angry. I let them be angry. And then we talk about it.

This is the difference between grace and legalism. My family loves and laughs and thrives because I didn’t give them a rule. I didn’t give them a law to live by. I gave my family freedom. My wife and I brought grace into our home and we are happy. With God’s grace, we are really truly free!

See you Friday.

We Can’t Do This Without Him

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

In a Spirit-led life, our deeds are righteous. But they don’t belong to us. If I am a righteous man, it’s only because I have the blood of Jesus on me. If I live a righteous life and make the right decisions, it will be because Jesus is in me and works through me. I can’t boast about that.

I can’t do this without Him.

We feel like we need to control things. Maybe we even want to control other people, even though we know that things will go wrong when we try.

I’ve given that up. In fact, I’ve given up my life — to Jesus Christ. You have to do that in order to live in grace. Now I don’t try to control my family. I prefer to live with them in grace. This is the basis for a true relationship with Jesus.

The Bible says that we love Jesus because He first loved us. So I don’t go to my wife and children and tell them to love and respect me. They will love and respect me when I first love and respect them.

If you try to control your family, they will fight you. If you only love them when they perform, then you’ll have a battle on your hands. I think that’s why it was so hard for us before Jesus came. You see the battle in the Old Testament. We had to live a certain way and act a certain way. We had to follow the Ten Commandments. It was too hard, and we could never do it, so we always had to make sacrifices to make up for our transgressions.

I think there was a plan all along. God saw that we wanted rules. We sent Moses up to Mt. Sinai because we wanted rules. Rules cause problems, but we wanted them, so God gave them to us. Then we had the law, and we couldn’t follow it. We broke it all the time! Then we had to offer sacrifices — burnt offerings — all the time, in order to make things right with Him. There were a lot of burnt offerings!

God wanted to free us from this, so He sent His Son to make the ultimate sacrifice. After that one perfect sacrifice, there was only one commandment. Love your neighbor as yourself, and love God.

The only way that we can possibly fulfill that commandment is through the blood of Jesus Christ. You can’t do it without Him. That’s why you can’t boast about the good things you do. You can’t say, “Look at me! Look at what I did!” Instead, say, “Look at Jesus! Look at what He did!” Jesus is the only reason that we can love as God has commanded us to do.

When you can give up legalism, and give your life up to Jesus, then His Spirit will live in you and through you. Then you will walk in grace. You won’t walk in condemnation. You won’t walk in judgment. You won’t walk in expectation. You’ll live your life in freedom, not bound by all those laws. You’ll be free to do the work God has prepared for you.

And what is that work? God’s work is love. With Him, you can truly love.

See you Tuesday.

Head of the Family

The Bible says men should love their wives just as Christ loved the church. It also says that the husband is the head of the family, just as Christ is the head of the church.

So as men, our families look to us for leadership.

It’s a funny thing, though. When I look at Jesus, I don’t see someone standing on a pedestal and dictating. I don’t see that at all! When I look at Jesus, I see Him leading by becoming a servant. He served us, and He serves us still. We respond by following Him. We made Jesus our leader because we wanted to.

I didn’t always understand this. I used to come home and insist that my family follow my rules. My attitude was, “Hey, I’m the Dad here, so I should lead. It’s important that I lead.” So I would go to my family and say, “Listen up! I’m the head of the family, so you will do what I say.” In other words, I put my family under me. That was my legalism. And it stressed me out! It stressed me out for years, always trying to make my family be a certain way and act a certain way.

You know what? Do that to your family, and you will get resistance. They will shut you down, they will quit listening to you, and they will rebel against you. That’s what happens when you force them under you.

Then where will you be? You’ll be out in the emotional cold.

Your family doesn’t want a dictatorship. They can’t thrive in a dictatorship. Trying to control them is like pushing them down. They cannot grow if you’re pushing them down. My job as a husband and a father is to nurture each member of my family into becoming the fullness of who they are, and I can only do this by living with them in grace. I have to let them be free, and to deal with situations as they arise.

So I no longer tell my family, “I’m the head of the family, so do what I say.” In fact, I don’t want to be in control of everything! It’s so much better to co-lead my family with my wife. My wife and I are co-leaders, as Eve and Adam were intended to be.

How do we do this? We co-lead in grace. If my wife needs me, my first question is, “How can I help?” I ask, “How can I be available? What can I do?” I don’t judge her. I don’t tell her how I would do things, or tell her how to act. I just ask, “How can I help?” And since my wife doesn’t feel judged, she can tell me. She can express herself to me, and I get to just love on her. Man, it is amazing how free and happy my wife is now.

It’s the same thing with my kids. They’re just happy! They don’t have to worry that I’ll judge them. They don’t have to fear that I’ll get angry. You should see how they are growing! Free from judgment and fear, they are thriving. There is so much freedom in grace! It is absolutely amazing to me.

Our families need us to lead as Jesus led. They need us to be servant leaders. When we lead with an attitude of servant leadership, our families will look to us. They will trust us. We won’t have to put them under us. When we serve them, they will respond by following us.

I love my family, and I am learning more every day to serve them as Jesus served us. I am learning to love them in grace, and to love them with understanding. If, as men, we can learn to lead our families with an attitude of servant leadership, then we’ll experience something wonderful. Our families will trust us, and draw near.

Did You Brush Your Teeth?

It can get pretty comical when one of my sons gets caught doing something, and he lies about it.

The other night I put my son to bed and I asked him, “Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes,” he said.

So I asked him, “When? When did you brush your teeth? Remember, I’ve been downstairs with you all evening. Then I walked you up to your bedroom. I put you in your pajamas, and you jumped in bed. In all that time, you never brushed your teeth. So let me ask you again: Did you brush your teeth?”

“Yes!” he said. “I brushed my teeth!”

“Now,” I said, “I highly advise you not to lie! I’m going to give you a few minutes. I want you to think about whether you should lie to me, because I know you didn’t brush your teeth. If you lie to me, there’s going to be a consequence. You know I don’t want you to lie! So think about it.”

My sons know there are consequences to lying. They also know that the consequences don’t come from anger. They know it’s just because I don’t want them to lie. Lying is breaking trust! So I have to teach them to be truthful. I will take away an iPad, or whatever else I’ve got to do, to let them know that they can’t break trust. We have to trust each other.

Well, after a few minutes, my son said, “Dad, I didn’t brush my teeth.”

I said, “Okay! And remember, you don’t have to lie. You’re not in trouble. I just want you to brush your teeth.”

When it comes to our children, it’s best if we’re able to encourage them. We don’t have to condemn them and we don’t have to judge them. We don’t have to use fear tactics to manage or control them. We can just encourage them.

I try to constantly remind my sons of the leaders I think they are. I tell them I’m proud of them. And I teach them that they don’t have to lie. They can always be truthful. They need to be! A truthful leader will always attract more followers than a liar.

In the same way, the Holy Spirit encourages us. Maybe you’re not lying, but you might have something else going on. You might be looking at something you shouldn’t look at, or wanting something you shouldn’t want. Perhaps you are thinking about doing something you shouldn’t do. In those moments, there’s a feeling. There’s an intuition inside of you saying, “Hey, I wouldn’t do that. Here’s why.”

That’s the Holy Spirit!

I knew my son hadn’t brushed his teeth, because I’d been with him the whole time. It’s the same with the Holy Spirit.The Holy Spirit is always with you. The Spirit sees everything you do, or don’t do. My son couldn’t get away with not brushing his teeth, because I was there the whole time. It’s the same with us. The Spirit is there the whole time! And you know what? He forgives everything.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14:26

That’s what Jesus told the apostles about the Spirit, the Helper. I think that this is what families can do for each other. This is what it’s all about.

More on this next time. See you Tuesday.