Friday, February 16, 2018

Judgment: An Act of Love or Condemnation?

Post by: Reid Lester

As we celebrate Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday on the same day, I’ve been spending the week thinking about both how we love each other and how we repent from our sins. These two important days have always made me feel very different emotions. Love and bliss are the focus of Valentine’s Day, while repentance and sacrifice are the focus of Ash Wednesday. It made me wonder, is there is an intersection between love and repentance?

Whenever I think about repentance, it makes me think about judgment. I’ve always been more comfortable than most with the idea of judgment. Perhaps it’s because my job outside of church is as a professional sports official. I get paid to make hundreds of judgments every night on both actions and intentions.

Where it gets difficult for me (and I think we need to be careful) is when we judge another person’s intentions. It has been famously said that we often judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. That being said, I believe it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to repent from our sins if we don’t know about our sin. I believe the Holy Spirit brings us conviction and helps us realize that we are sinning, but I also believe the Holy Spirit speaks through spiritual leaders and those we trust to point out the areas in which we are missing the mark.

This past week I read an interesting blog about judgment vs feeling welcomed. It started off saying,

“It was decided some decades ago that no one must ever feel uncomfortable, guilty, or, worst of all, judged. They especially must not feel this way at church. Church is a place where all must be welcomed, we’re told.”

The point of the blog is that we as Christians would rather feel comfortable as we continue down the destructive path of sin, than have someone point out our sin and make us feel uncomfortable, even though that revelation would give us a chance to correct our behavior and grow in our relationship with God.

Since a big part of my job is making sure everyone feels welcome at our church, I was intrigued, and I had to read the rest of the blog. I didn’t agree with everything in the article, but it did raise some interesting questions about how we in modern society feel about judgment.

I struggled a little with how we define judgment, the motivation behind judgment, and how that correlates to our relationship with other Christians. Judgment can be defined as “to distinguish or to decide.” “The ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions.” We all make hundreds of judgments every day. We make judgments about what we eat, how we spend our time, what we wear, and who we listen to.

So what is the motivation behind judgment? Does judgment equal condemnation, or are we able to separate the two? I believe equating judgment with condemnation is why people have a visceral reaction to judgment. After the Gospels, the majority of the New Testament is made up of spiritual leaders offering judgment and corrective feedback to followers of Christ and their churches. Can we as Christians get over our discomfort around judgment and be able to both offer and receive judgment understanding love is the motivation.

As parents, you have to lead your children in the understanding of what is right and wrong. You must judge their behavior and give corrective feedback. This is done to make them better people as they grow up.

The new language heard in churches across the nation on Sunday mornings goes something like this… “We just want to come along side you in your own personal journey. We don’t want to make you uncomfortable.” My personal belief is this language is unproductive and destructive. The blog went on to say,

“If I'm lost and moments away from walking over a cliff, I'd much prefer that you point me in the right direction than "accompany" me over the edge and "welcome" me to my demise and see that I am "included" at the morgue. That is all very polite, I guess, but your pleasant manners won't be much help to me when I'm a pancake. And what if I'm very lost? What if I'm distracted in my wandering, and obstinate, and arrogant, and unable to hear or unwilling to listen to your gentle reminders and subtle nudges? Well, then maybe you'll have to shout. Maybe you'll have to get in my face a little. Maybe, God forbid, you'll have to cast harsh judgments on my chosen path and make me feel bad and icky inside. If that's the only way to get my attention, I should be grateful that you took such a "harsh" and "judgmental" approach.”

I believe we as Christians need to be brave. I think of it a little like when I finally got up the courage to ask RuthAnn (now my wife) out on a date. I needed courage in the moment. There was a chance it could be awkward or that I might get rejected, but the possibility of building a relationship outweighed my fear. We need that same courage when we feel led to speak out.

In the Wednesday Word of the Day Pastor Ken talked about “wilderness.” Ken spoke about being brave and having the ability to speak out. He referenced Brené Brown’s new book Braving the Wilderness. In the book Brené shares a quote from another author about how difficult it can be to step out in the wilderness.

“Standing on the precipice of the wilderness is bone-chilling. Because belonging is so primal, so necessary, the threat of losing your tribe or going alone feels so terrifying as to keep most of us distanced from the wilderness our whole lives. Human approval is one of the most treasured idols, and the offering we must lay at its hungry feet is keeping others comfortable. I’m convinced that discomfort is the great deterrent of our generation.”

We are willing to sacrifice truth to fit in. We give up the courage in our desire to be accepted. Can you think of a time when you knew someone was making a mistake, but you were too afraid to say something? We need to follow the example of Jesus in John Chapter 8. When talking with the woman at the well and being fully aware of her sin, Jesus says “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” Jesus speaks to her from a place of love, while still addressing the fact that she needs to stop her sinful behavior.

Your willingness to say something might be what keeps someone from experiencing pain or tragedy. We need to step out of our comfort zone, step into the wilderness, and be willing to offer judgment and corrective feedback to those we care about. We need to care more about each other and our eternal salvation than about the possibility of making someone uncomfortable.

Reid Lester is the Director of Servant Ministries at Broomfield United Methodist Church. Reid’s job is to help people find ways to serve our Church and the community through our Church Ministries and our Community Partnerships. Reid and his wife RuthAnn have been attending BUMC for 2 years. When Reid isn’t at BUMC he serves as a pilot for the Civil Air Patrol. Reid also umpires Division 1 baseball for the NCAA.

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