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.

The Last Christian?

“In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross. . . . What has been called ‘evangel’ from that moment was actually the opposite of that which he had lived.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Nietzsche said the last Christian died on the cross.

That is such a bold, yet powerful and piercing statement. Is it true? In some ways I feel that the threat is always there. It could always become true. That’s painful! And it’s not just how one man saw it. I think a lot of people see it that way.

Christians can change that now, just by changing how we do things. It’s so simple. We have to love, not judge.

It’s a joke how much we judge in the church. We judge other people. We think we’re better than other people. We think we’re better than others because we found Jesus.

Jesus wouldn’t support that way of thinking. No! Jesus would say, “You shouldn’t try to make yourselves look better in the eyes of others just because you found Me. That’s not how it works. You should love other people better because you found Me.”

Finding Jesus should help us love better, because love is just so good, man. I’ve seen the good that comes from loving people. I’ve been part of it. I’ve been there when someone does something wrong. They do it and then they look at me, as if to say, “Oh, you’re a Christian guy, you think you’re better than me.” They expect me to look at them wrong. They expect me to shake my head and judge them right there.

You know what? I want that to happen! I want it to happen because it gives me the opportunity to look at them and smile. And give them a hug. It lets me say, “I love you.”

When they see that I don’t judge them, they say, “But I just did something you think is wrong!”

And I say, “You’re right! I don’t agree with what you just did. I wouldn’t do it, because I don’t think it’s right. But that does not change my view. I love you. I love you so much. And I love your life! I hope that you will know the right and wrong way to do things one day, but brother, I will not turn my back on you. I love you.”

That heals the soul immediately. When you do that, people are blown away. They’re like, “Whoa, wait! That’s not how it’s done!”

Well, they’re right! That’s not how it’s done. We haven’t been doing it right! Jesus showed us the right way to do things.

The church’s calling is to love. We are called to love like Jesus.

See you 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.

Discipline, Not Punishment

(Note: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

I want a safe environment for dialogue with my kids. I want my kids to be able to talk to me without fear.

I want them to feel safe to bring their mistakes to me, especially the serious ones. I want to help them!

Here’s the dialogue I want:

“Hey dad, I messed up.”

“What did you do?”

“Well, I was speeding. I got a ticket.”

“So let’s talk about it. What are we going to do? ”

I’m not going to snap. I’m not going to hammer on my kids. You won’t hear me say, “How could you do that?” Or, “Why are you such an idiot?”

Hammering, hammering, hammering them – that’s not going to help. There are many different ways to handle any situation. You can find one that keeps your children safe in their relationship with you. The judging, and the holier-than-thou stuff, has never worked. It will never work.

It didn’t work with Jesus. The Pharisees were always hammering, and He blew up at them. The Pharisees were the holier-than-thou people. They were the people that said, “I’m the best.” They were the people that said, “You have to follow us and do what we do, because we’re better than you. We’re going to police you. If we catch you breaking our rules, we’re going to take you to the Sanhedrin. If we catch anybody, we’re going to haul you up before the high priests.”

Jesus did not like that and criticized them constantly for it. He knew it never works. It does not work. Thinking you’re better than everybody else will not draw people to you.

What my sons need is a dad who can say, “I messed up.” When they see that, then they will feel safe to come to me and say, “I messed up too.” They will know that they can come to me for help. They will trust me because they’ll know what I will say. I’ll say, “You know what? You’re right. You messed up. I know what that’s like, because I’ve messed up too. So let’s talk about it. How can I help you? I want to love on you, man. I don’t want to judge and condemn you. I want to love on you.”

God never messes up, and this is how He parents us! We should do the best we can to be like Him. I can guarantee you that God loves my sons without judgment or condemnation. I want to do the same.

There has to be discipline, but it doesn’t have to be given in an angry way. If my son comes to me to say that he got a speeding ticket, I will say, “Listen, I got a speeding ticket too. And you know what, when I was sixteen I got in two wrecks in a row and I had my license taken away. So if you get another speeding ticket, I’m going to take away your license for a little bit. It will help you understand that it’s not good to speed.”

When your kids mess up, help them understand that you’re not bringing discipline to the situation out of anger. Don’t overreact. Don’t make them think that they’ve done something you’ve never seen before. You have to train them up, but you don’t have to punish them.

When you actively reach out to your kids with encouragement and understanding, the whole idea of not judging makes so much more sense.

See you Saturday.

The Dialogue of Intimacy

(Note: get your tickets for the September 14 screening of Heart of Man here. Get the powerful 7-day devotional here.)

Intimate relationships are different from other relationships. We want to replace judgment with grace and love in all scenarios, but when it comes to intimate relationships, there also has to be dialogue.

Our loved ones might do things that bug us, and when they do, we want them to change. The problem is, they’re never going to change!

Right now you might be saying, “There’s this thing that bugs me about my husband. And he needs to know that it bugs me.” Well, talk to him about it! Tell him, “This is what you’re doing that’s bugging me.”

Jesus built intimate relationships with His disciples. He talked to them, asked their opinions, and made them His confidants. And if one of them did something that bugged Him, He said something. The Bible tells us:

He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He spoke this word openly. Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him. But when He had turned around and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter, saying, “Get behind Me, Satan! For you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:31-33)

That’s amazing. Jesus looked at Peter, His dear friend, and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan.” He was in essence saying, “I know who is controlling your thoughts right now, and I know which way you’re acting, so you need to get away from me. You are not who you think you are.”

He said that right to Peter’s face!

Jesus was very comfortable with His intimate friends. I guarantee you He was not going to go to some random person and say, “Get behind Me, Satan.” He could have devastated people, and He understood that.

Obviously I don’t think your dialogue needs to consist of telling the people closest to you, “Get behind me, Satan.” You can’t see into people the way that Jesus can. Still, you have to talk to your loved ones.

Just remember, they cannot change without God. Unless they choose to accept God’s help, change will never happen.

You can’t fix a relationship. You, in your own power, cannot fix another person. But you can always ask God for help. You can ask God to show you what you need to do. You can ask God to show you who you need to be.

Why not ask God to show you how to change? Maybe your husband or wife bugs you because of something you’re doing. If you’re being a jerk, they’re going to respond to that. So quit being a jerk! Then maybe they’ll start loving you as if you’re the person God means for you to be.

Try saying this: “God, you know what? I need to quit telling my husband about all the things he does wrong. Instead, help me focus on doing my things right.”

Or try saying this: “Hey God, I need your help. I need to stop criticizing my wife. I need to encourage her instead.”

Do this, and then watch. You watch how that relationship changes, as God transforms you together in love.

See you Wednesday.

Urged to Change

All God’s children are more or less the same. In our flesh, we all sin. We might deal with different sins, and we might deal with our sins in different ways, but we are all sinning. No one is better than anybody else.

We will never change, either. Not on our own. But Jesus can change us. By running through us like hot water, He heats us up with the wisdom of the Spirit. We can’t change ourselves, but in Him, we can be changed.

And do you know what? Much as we might want to, we can’t change anybody else!

The urge to change other people can be very strong. It’s part of being human. Sometimes we get into the habit of thinking, “You need to change. I will change you.”

Let me tell you, you have no shot at changing somebody else.

That’s why you have to communicate. Suppose I notice that someone always reacts the same way to me, and it’s not a good reaction. In that scenario, two things have to happen. First, I need to get to the heart of why he reacts that way to me. There needs to be dialogue. If I have an issue with somebody, then I go to him about it. That’s Biblical. I tell him, “I’ve got this issue. I want to know why every time I do this, you react like that. Why?”

Maybe he’ll tell me! Perfect!

Second, I need to look at what he tells me. Is it necessarily the case that he needs to change? Or is it me? Am I the one that needs to make the change?

Think about that scenario! What if you were wishing that a person would change, when all along you were the cause of their frustration or anger?

If that’s true, then God will help you use wisdom to stop provoking him. Then maybe when you change, he’ll change too. He will quit getting angry with you!

Don’t be afraid to speak openly and have that dialogue with the people closest to you. In your most intimate or important relationships, you’ve got to be able to say, “Look, I understand you’re upset, but you have to help me understand why. Why are you upset with me?”

In your closest relationships, you can’t get along without that kind of communication. You’ve got a lot of people in your life. Obviously you’re more engaged with some than others. But with some, you are intimately engaged. You have to communicate.

Of course, you don’t always get to ask them why they are upset. Sometimes your loved ones hide it when they are upset with you, even when you’re depending on them to open up to you.

If my wife was frustrated with me and never told me, then how would I know to be changed by God’s wisdom? If she didn’t point out the places where she was feeling bothered, concerned, hurt, or angry, I might not realize that I need to turn to God for help. I depend on her to tell me when I’m upsetting her.

Of course some things are obvious! I’m sure your husband or wife is not thrilled about it when you yell at them. You don’t get to yell and someone and then say, “I didn’t know I was doing something wrong.” You know you did something wrong!

It’s the same with criticizing someone in a negative or non-constructive way. You know that’s hurtful. You have to take ownership of that.

But if you’re not aware of how you’re troubling someone, you depend on them to tell you.

Jesus sets the best example for how to be in a relationship. More on that next time. See you Saturday.