Why We Do What We Do – Judging Others

We began a new series at Gateway South and Gateway Central as we launch into our new spaces.

“Why We Do What We Do” looks at the struggle we have with judging others, finding our purpose, isolating ourselves, and staying stuck. As a community to help us move forward, we emphasize the path forward as the following:

  • Come As You Are
  • Live Connected
  • Be Transformed
  • Change Your World

Rick Shurtz spoke on this topic at Gateway North in February. Kenny Green spoke at Gateway Central, and I spoke at Gateway South.

To make the most of the message, be sure to work through the Next Steps!

Here is the message I shared:

Here are the notes from the message we shared:

When you search online with the word “judgmental,” one of the top options suggested is “judgmental Christians.”

Unfortunately, this doesn’t surprise us anymore. The people who call themselves Christians have become known for being judgmental.

This is especially troubling when you consider the teachings of Jesus and the way Jesus lived His life.

First, let’s look at Jesus’ teachings:

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”
– Luke 6:37-38

Freed from Judgment?

So how can I be free of judgment?
How could I be the kind of person who doesn’t judge people?
How could we be the kind of church that doesn’t judge people?
What does it mean to judge somebody?

A Princeton University study tells us that people form opinions in about a tenth of a second, and that these opinions are not easily changed with more time.

The difference between forming an opinion and being judgmental is all about your heart.

To judge somebody is more than noticing something about them.

If somebody says: “Norm’s an alcoholic.”

There are at least two ways the statement, “Norm’s an alcoholic” could be said.

It can be said with compassion.
“I hurt for Norm. Norm’s an alcoholic.”

Or it can be said with condemnation.
“I can’t stand Norm. Norm’s an alcoholic.”

Similar words, but very different spirit.

Let me pull out three phrases in this passage:

  • You will not be judged.
  • You will not be condemned.
  • You will be forgiven.

This is good news. Jesus promises that whatever we give, it will be given back to us in abundance.

If we give forgiveness and grace, then we will receive a good measure of forgiveness and grace. It will be pressed down, shaken together, and running over in our laps.

We reap what we sow.

Whatever we give, we will receive back that very thing, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

Grace

I’ve been told that God’s forgiveness is available to all who ask, and I’ve been told God’s forgiveness can’t be earned, so why is it that I have to forgive others in order to be forgiven?

When we are condemning others, we are putting ourselves in God’s place.

The person who looks at Norm, and who is dismissive of him, and says, “Norm’s an alcoholic,” that person, I would suggest, is an arrogant person.

The person who looks at Norm, and whose heart is broken for him, and says, “Norm’s an alcoholic,” that person, I would suggest, is a humble person.

Jesus is telling us that when we judge others, it says something about ourselves.
Or when we condemn others, it says something about ourselves.
Or when we withhold forgiveness, it says something about ourselves.

Arrogance puts us against God.

Humility draws us closer to God.

The person who has humbled himself before God says: “I am a mess, I need you God….” This person will not be judged or condemned and will be forgiven.

Tolerance

If there is a word that is commonly juxtaposed against judgment, it would be the word tolerance.
As you well know, tolerance is highly esteemed in our culture.
And for good reason.

Scripture itself affirms that when we interact with those who disagree with us, we should do so with gentleness and respect.

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.
– 1 Peter 3:15

As followers of Christ, the disposition we are exhorted to carry toward those who differ with us, is one of gentleness and respect.

When it comes to Norm, whose struggling with alcoholism, is it tolerance that he needs?
We know he doesn’t need judgment.
If he’s surrounded by judgment, he will only feel worse about himself, and his feeling worse about himself, will only serve to cause him to drink more.

But we live in a day that says: “Live and let live!”

But Norm is dying over here.
He’s lost his job, he’s lost his family, he’s lost his self-respect.
I’m not so sure that it’s tolerance that Norm even wants.

I wrote a book a few years ago that has been getting a lot more attention recently in light of this contentious political season. It’s called Not Like Me: A Field Guide For Influencing a Diverse World.

In it I wrote about overcoming stereotypes in a chapter called: White Men Can Jump (Just Not As High) along with other chapters on loving people who believe differently, vote differently, make different moral choices, and so on.

The original subtitle was “Breaking Through Tolerance and Embracing Love.”

Tolerance is only a step better than animosity and persecution. Ultimately, we long to be loved!

Anyone wake up this morning longing to be tolerated?

Break through tolerance and embrace others! When we are tired of tolerating others, we should try loving them.

What is so fascinating to me, years before I ever met John Burke, he was writing about the same thing. About the same time I was writing my book, John Burke, our founding pastor had just published his book called No Perfect People Allowed. In it, John made this statement:

“Tolerance is a cheap substitute for grace.”

Tolerance looks at a problem, something destructive going on in a person’s life, and out of fear of being judgmental, tolerance says: “That’s okay. You can keep doing that.”

If I’m Norm, at the surface level, I may want to hear that, but down deep, where I’m more aware of what’s truly going on, I want somebody to tell me the truth.

Grace and Truth

Hear carefully how Jesus was described:

We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
– John 1:14

Jesus comes with BOTH grace and truth.

So why do WE do what we do, as a church?
Why are we a “come as you are” culture?

“Come As You Are” means you are welcome here.

We are loving and inclusive community.

Unfortunately this way too rare.

What other community do you voluntarily connect to where people look differently, believe differently, and even vote differently?

Here’s why this works: people can Belong before they believe.

Three intrinsic needs humanity shares – to believe, to belong, and to become.

Religion goes in the following order:

Believe then Become then Believe

In other words, Believe Like Us so you can Become Like Us and then eventually you can Belong To Us.

We go in the opposite order.

Belong, Become, Believe

You can belong no matter who you are or what you’ve done. The longer you are here, we are confident, you will Become more like us, and then one day, we hope that you will Believe as we do that there is a God and His name is Jesus.

How can I be so confident? Because we follow what Jesus did. He demonstrated grace and spoke truth – and most of the time in that order.

A loving community is not only an inclusive community but also a place where people love you enough to have honest and when necessary – hard conversations.

Wisdom is knowing when to have those conversations.

Second, look at how Jesus treated people when asked to judge them.

Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”
11 “No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Notice the arrogance of the religious leaders. Rather than coming to listen and learn. They came with their own agenda.
Do you come with your own agenda? Are you willing to listen to the message God has for you?
When we have our own agenda, we miss what God has for us! Our arrogance blinds us!
When we are focusing on what is wrong with others, we are missing what we can learn from them!
The religious leaders were more concerned with the rules than they were with the person the rules were to protect.
The law says to stone someone caught in the act of adultery. This has troubled some in the past. The Bible has so many outdated laws and seems to be so brutal.
For just a moment, whatever resistance you may be feeling, or whatever your experience has been with the Bible. I want you to consider having an open mind.
What if what keeps us from experiencing all the Bible has to offer has more to do with our view of the Bible than the Bible itself?
– John 8:1-11

Notice how the religious leaders came with their own agenda rather than coming with an open heart or open mind as the others who came to hear Jesus did.

Some of you may feel resistance to this story because of the Mosaic law.

When something doesn’t make sense, we need to look at the context and use the Scriptures to interpret the Scriptures.

For more on this, go back and read the notes or watch the messages from the Epic Series Through the Scriptures.

In a nutshell, we are no longer under the Mosaic “if…then” law, but that doesn’t mean we are to be less ethical or less moral or less godly than the law lays out. What Jesus was leading us to is a way for God to live among us and live through us by faith so we don’t just keep the letter of the law and resist “killing each other.” Instead, by His Spirit we learn to love even our enemies. We don’t just refrain from “committing adultery.” Instead, by His Spirit we learn to treat each other as whole, valuable spiritual creatures that we don’t want to sexually use. The Way of the Spirit surpasses the way of the Law.

The law was meant to reveal how broken we are so we might turn to God. With so many laws, no one could live a perfect life. The religious acted like they could pull it off! As a result, they would judge people.

Those who have a vibrant and real relationship with God realize they did not earn that relationship through their own efforts or good works. They were able to begin a relationship with God as a result of His grace and His kindness and His willingness to forgive.

Because of what Jesus did on the cross for you and me – that’s why we can know God!
Not because of anything we have done!

Jesus says: “So anyone who has lived a perfect life, throw the first stone!”

Under those conditions, Jesus was the only one who could have thrown the stone was Jesus. Rather than throwing a stone, He protected her from those wanted to throw a stone.

Consider how evil these religious leaders were in this situation!

  • Where was the man in this adulterous relationship?
  • Had they set a trap for this woman?
  • Capital punishment wasn’t even legal under the Roman government!

Even still, don’t you just wonder what Jesus wrote on the ground?

“Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lordthe spring of living water.” – Jeremiah 17:13

Perhaps the religious leaders knew that verse. Seeing him writing in the dust, they assumed he may have been writing out her name. Instead, they noticed him writing down their names. Maybe that’s why he had to go back to writing twice.

Jesus asks the woman: “So where did they go? Who condemns you?”
She responds: “No one.”
“Neither do I”

Jesus offered her grace – love which is not deserved. He offered her forgiveness.

Then He spoke the truth. He offered her a new life.

“Go and sin no more.”

This was not a threat but a promise. “Go, you no longer have to live this way. The needs you are trying to have met in these relationships are deeper than you think. I can meet the needs you have to belong and be loved, to become someone more than you are now, and to believe in someone greater than yourself.”

Judging Others

It’s our human nature to judge others. We look down on others to make ourselves feel better. Or we look down on others with genuine disdain.

Pride has two forms:

  • We think too highly of ourselves – arrogance.
  • We think too lowly of ourselves – self-hatred.

In both instances, we are thinking about ourselves.

When we think about ourselves we give into our lusts or we give into our self-righteousness.

When we are thinking about ourselves, we miss what God wants us to see in others.

Have you heard this phrase?

“Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

Such a great statement. So often we are unaware that the reason the person who has hurt us is because they are hurt. Hurt people hurt people.

We don’t realize how our wounds from the past can affect our relationships in the present.

Consider these two questions:

1. How am I doing in my experience of grace?

  • Am I humbly going before God and acknowledging my need for him?
  • Am I humbly going before God and calling upon him for grace, for forgiveness, for power to lead a new life?

2. How am I doing in my giving of grace?

  • At work, that person who annoys me, am I giving them grace or am I judging?
  • At home, with my kids, am I living with understanding for their own process, or am I judging them?
  • With friends, do I see them through my own experience with brokenness and struggle, or do I see them through an arrogant view of perfection?
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