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.

The Ultimate Parent

I want to raise my sons to follow in the footsteps of Jesus and become servant leaders. In order to do that, I need to parent my sons the same way that God parents me. I mean, God is the ultimate leader! There is no better example I can give them, if I want my sons to grow up to lead by serving.

But this means that I have to think about how I’m parenting them. There can be a very tight connection between the way we view our parents and the way we view God, so I need to be thoughtful with my sons. To be a good parent, I need to look at how God parents me.

It’s very common for us reflect our feelings about our parents onto God. Our parents become a filter through which we see God. Until we’ve had a chance to think this through and grow in maturity, we might expect the same things from God that we got from our parents. This isn’t good if we were parented without grace.

For example, if your parents managed you by punishing you, then you might think of God as a punisher. That causes you to think in negative terms about yourself. When you have trouble in your life, you might think that you deserve it, or that you brought it on yourself. We all bring trouble on ourselves sometimes, sure, but when you think God is punishing you, you don’t realize that He wants to help you.

If your mom or dad was a heavy disciplinarian, or you had an abusive parent, then you might have some really negative ideas about how God sees you. You might believe that God looks at you and says the kinds of things they said, like, “You can’t do anything right.” You might believe that God shames you. You might truly believe that this is how God works.

We can also reflect our feelings about God onto our parents. So if we are angry with God, then we might show it as anger with our mothers or fathers. If we are experiencing God’s forgiveness, then we might be at peace with our parents.

All of this belongs to the ways that we, in our human flesh, portray God. That’s why we have to think about how we’re parenting, so that we don’t put ourselves or our feelings in the way of God. We want to reflect Jesus into our children’s lives, not ourselves as substitutes for Him.

Since we are sinners, we don’t have God’s purity. But we can do this. I start by asking, okay, what do I know about God? Well, I know that God regards me as His child, and He is the ultimate parent. He parents me with grace. God parents us with a ton of grace. He parents us with a ton of love and mercy.

So that’s what I do with my children. I do my best. I mess up! I don’t always do it right. But there is no condemnation. I see that everywhere in scripture. I see it in the Gospels and in Paul’s letters. There is no condemnation because we’re in Christ now. We’re part of God’s family. And in His family, there is no condemnation when we do wrong.

That’s how I parent my sons. God parents me, His child, with grace, so I parent my children with grace. That does not mean that my children get a free pass. I don’t get a free pass either. That’s not the point. The point is that we are living in Christ.

If you live in Christ, you will reflect Him. You will live in relationship with love, grace, and mercy. And when you do mess up, there is no condemnation. There is no shame. There is love, and grace abounds.

More on this next time. See you Friday.

Hiding in Shame

The consequences of hiding in shame are deep and damaging.

When you hide in shame, you don’t reveal who you truly are. You don’t let your husband in. You don’t let your wife in. You don’t let your children in and you don’t let your friends in. This is very serious. If you don’t let them in, then they can’t protect you.

You will fall.

Eventually you’ll get to the point where you won’t even let Jesus in.

That’s when you get entrenched in addiction, whether it be alcohol, gossip, porn, lying, negative thoughts, anger, rage, or something else. Whatever it is, it all comes from the absence of grace. In the absence of grace, shame moves in.

If you can extend grace to other people, then you can give them permission to speak into your life and protect you.

People who affect you deeply are the hardest to give grace to. I’ve seen it. It can create a nasty cycle of anger, fear, despair, and distrust. And it all happens because of shame. So the one thing I never want to hear in my home is, “How dare you do that? You should be ashamed of yourself!”

That is not said in my home. But in how many homes is it said? I was raised in it. I had it said to me. And I’m sure my parents had it said to them. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”

I’ve heard it from the pulpit! “You should be ashamed of yourself for doing that.” No I shouldn’t! I shouldn’t be ashamed. None of us should be ashamed of our weaknesses. We should recognize them and ask for help. 

When you ask for help, you give your loved ones permission to protect you in the areas where you are weak. If you don’t ask them to help you, then you will hurt them, because you’ll react out of the weakness you are trying to hide. You can avoid this. You only have to reveal your true self. That includes your weakness.

It’s not easy! I know it’s not. It’s very hard to reveal our weaknesses when we have been shamed. Shame makes it very hard to ask for help. But we have to ask. If we can’t overcome shame, then we will die in our weakness, and we can’t let this happen! It contradicts what Jesus did on the cross. He hung on a cross to take away our sin and our shame! 

And yet Christians shame each other all the time. We can’t seem to acknowledge that everybody will react out of weakness now and then. We are shamed so much that we end up hiding in it.

No matter how hard it seems, it’s okay. We already have all the help we need. We have Jesus. Jesus loves us! We are so precious to Him! We can give Him permission to protect us, because He longs to do it. Then through Him, we can give permission to our loved ones. We can allow them to love us as we truly are, and they will allow us to love and protect them in return.

Jesus will help us before we react out of weakness, whether it be anger, rage, fear, pride, greed, laziness, envy, or something else. Other people can protect us too. They can stop us when they see what we are doing, or are about to do. They can protect us from circumstances that trigger our weakness, either by intervening directly with us or running interference for us.

In your shame, you might ask, why would they do this for me? Easy! They’ll do it because they love you.

A lot of things go into relationships. A lot of things go into marriage, and parenting, and friendships. These relationships are very important and we need them to be healthy. But a relationship is only healthy when the people in it protect each other. You have to allow this. You have to protect others and allow them to protect you. It takes a lot of patience, but it honors what Jesus did for us on the cross. His sacrifice was for our sake. It was for the forgiveness of our sins. Look at what He did! He took away our shame, and gave us the gift of life!

This is a big deal. It’s a deep deal. It needs to be addressed, and very quickly among Christians. Grace is the way to Christian unity, and our unity in love and fellowship is something that Jesus deeply desires for us.

So let’s love one another in truth. Let’s love each other openly, not hiding in shame. “By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

See you Tuesday.

All Messed Up, and It’s Okay

“I know you’re a mess.” That’s what God says.

He knows. He knows that every single one of us is a mess. We’ve messed up before, we’re messing up now, and pretty soon, we’re going to mess up again. God’s promise is that there will be no condemnation. There will be no shame. (Romans 8:1)

There are plenty of people who hear that and are incredulous. “Wait a minute!” they say. “No condemnation? No shame? How is that possible? You have to be punished for breaking a rule.”

And God says, “How did that work out for you guys the first time?”

He says, “That’s why I sent my Son to the ultimate punishment. He died! And now, because of His sacrifice, you don’t have to sacrifice lambs or sheep. You’re already right with me.

“You also don’t condemn people and stone them. Don’t do that! Jesus died for everyone.”

In His death, Jesus also took away shame. So now God says, “Don’t sacrifice your souls by keeping yourselves in shame. Don’t keep other people in their shame either. Don’t sacrifice your relationships by trying to control people. You’re never going to have control. You’re not!

“Why not just trust me instead? Trust that I sent Jesus because I know you people are a mess.

“If you give me permission to speak into your lives, then I can protect you. Trust me to protect you. When you mess up, I won’t punish you. I’ll help guide you. Some of my guidance will include discipline, yes. Sometimes there will be ramifications. But it won’t be because I’m mad at you. It will be because your choices can really hurt you. That’s why sometimes a slap on the hand is okay. The sting helps. It lets me tell you no, you don’t want to do that, and here’s why.” 

God says, “Do you know what? No matter what you do, I’m still going to love you. If you will let me, I’m still going to speak into your life. I’m still going to guide you. I know you’re going to mess up again, and when you do, I’m going to say it’s okay. In your flesh, you have weaknesses. You have weaknesses that are unique to you. I know what they are, because I know what has happened in your life. That’s also why I know that you’re going to mess up. It’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect for me.

“If you can trust me and give me permission to speak to you, then I can protect your heart. That way, you don’t have to make the same mistakes as often. Hopefully, you won’t have to make them at all.”

In the wake of His passion and resurrection, this is God’s message to us.

You only have to allow God to do it.

See you Friday.

Grace is not a Chore

In a life filled with grace, you receive such joy and fulfillment from loving your neighbor and doing the right thing that the law becomes unnecessary. You want to love, so you love. You want to give, so you give. You don’t need a set of rules to tell you to do it!

There are ways to teach our children about this. How often do we meet resistance when we say, “Clean your room!” When I tell one of my sons that he has to do something, the resistance can be incredible. There might be yelling, and jumping and stomping of feet. Doors might be slammed.

But what if I can look at him and say, “Hey bud, you know what? It’s your call.”

In other words, what if I take my son’s freedom into account? When I do, it is amazing. No one gets angry! I don’t yell at him and he doesn’t yell at me.

If you can allow your children to make their own decisions, then you may not meet quite so much resistance.

I have learned to talk with my sons, instead of making demands. I tell them, “You need to clean your room, because Mama has asked you to clean your room. I’m just letting you know that you can make your own call here. There are two roads you can take, and you’re the one who has to choose. If you take the wrong road, there will be consequences, but we’ll deal with them together. I’m going to help you, and I’m still going to love you. So it’s your call.”

That way, when it comes to doing chores, my sons knows it’s their choice. And I also tell them, “You can be angry. It’s okay to be angry. I’m not going to force you to clean your room. We’re living in grace here. I’m not going to tell you what you have to do. I’m going to help you understand what you should do. And then after that, it’s your call. If you make the wrong choice, we’ll handle it as we need to, in love. It’s up to you.”

After explaining it to one of my sons this way, I just look at him. He looks at me. And then he says, “Okay, I’ll clean my room,” and he does. He cleans his room and we go on with our day.

I’ve had to learn. My way of making decisions is not necessarily the way any of my sons make decisions. My boys don’t have the same personality as mine. God has given each of them their own personalities. It’s tough to learn the different personalities of your children. It’s a challenge! But when we can do it, there’s freedom. There’s freedom in being able to allow our children to live in grace. There’s freedom in saying, “Hey, look, it’s going to be better for you if you choose to do right, but it is your choice.”

I think God treats us the same way. We have the freedom to choose between right and wrong, and when we choose wrong, there are consequences. But there is no condemnation. We’re living in grace here. God has brought us into His family, and He will help us deal with the consequences of our choices. He will help us in love.

I’m going to love my son just as much if he doesn’t clean his room, even though my wife and I will discipline him. I will never love my son less. I couldn’t!

How much more does God love us?

See you Tuesday.

The Difference Between Joy and Hell

Jesus is grace. This is a very, very big idea. It’s huge. It’s almost too big to fully grasp, because it sums everything up.

Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?”

Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)

“No other commandment greater than these.” Love is the golden rule of relationships. Our lives happen in relationship. God is a relational God. He dwells within and among us. He teaches us, heals us, and loves us, in relationship. And the key to relationship is grace. That’s the big idea.

To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind is to love the One whose grace is infinite. Our love for Him brings us into the community of grace. Our love for our neighbor reflects His grace. Grace is It! Without grace, there is chaos.

Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”…And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split, and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many. (Matthew 27:45-46, 50-53)

Just for a moment, Jesus felt forsaken. The world was devoid of grace, and there was chaos. There was darkness in the middle of the day! The temple curtain was torn in two. There was an earthquake that split rocks and opened tombs. The bodies of saints rose from their graves and went into the city!

If this is what happens when grace leaves, then oh, my goodness! God, don’t turn your back!

No grace. That’s hell.

People ask, “Is hell a real place?” I don’t know, but I can tell you this: hell is devoid of God. When there is a lack of God, there is a lack of grace. That’s why there is gnashing of teeth, arguing, bitterness, shaming, judgments, and fighting. It’s hell. A relationship without grace is hell.

Can you be in a living hell? Yes, if you have no grace. Relationships without grace become relationships without trust.

When there’s no grace in a marriage, it’s a hellacious marriage. When there’s no grace with your children, it’s a hellacious life for you and them. When you don’t have a relationship of grace with your family, you will not have them, and they will not be yours. 

This is not what I want! This is how huge grace is. It’s the difference between joy and hell.

See you Friday.