I had a conversation with a family member not long after I became a Christian that I have not, even after all these years, been able to shake.
“The problem with Christians is that they are all so judgey. Do this, don’t do that. Preaching from their high horse and then you see them having an affair with the choir director. They are judgey and a bunch of hypocrites. Why do you want to be one of them?”
I was somewhat taken aback. I don’t remember how I responded to his comment. I do, however, remember how it made me feel, and it wasn’t proud. When I looked critically, (not in a judgey way ;)) I could see he wasn’t wrong. And somewhere deep down that sense of embarrassment took hold of me. I decided then that I would work very hard not to be THAT kind of Christian. I did not want to be that kind of person.
Let’s be honest. We are all judgey at times. Some of us are actually experts at seeing what is wrong with someone else.
In Matthew 7:1-5 Jesus said,
Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
Isn’t it true that the speck in someone else’s eye that Jesus talks about is so very obvious to us. But the plank in my eye? What plank?
James asks, “Who are you to judge your neighbour?” Jesus himself warns, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged.”
Here is the thing. We are not told in the Bible to overlook behaviour that separates us from God (aka sin). Jesus didn't say we never have the right to speak into a fellow believer’s life. That’s culture’s interpretation of that verse. The totality of the Bible says that:
we should not judge superficially (John 7:24);
we should not to judge hypocritically (Romans 2:1-4). Your harshest judgment often reveals your greatest weakness;
we never hold a non-believer to the standards of the believer (1Corinthians 5:12); and
we should help those in the family who are in trouble, or are heading that way (Galatians 6:1-2). The same grace that has been given to us, we give to them.
As followers of Jesus, I pray that we would recognize the plank in our own eye before all else; that we would not be lumped into the “Christians are judgey or hypocritical” category; and that we would do that which Jesus taught — bring healing, bring restoration, and help people find the same grace and truth that transforms us.