Jesus knew we were judgmental people. He even had to make sure it became part of the permanent record: “Judge not, that you not be judged.” (Matthew 7:1, ESV)
Now, before you bring up the difference between discernment and judgment, let me give you my hillbilly definition of judgment vs. discernment.
Let’s say you just heard Billy Bob cheated on his wife. You say, “Oh my.” In your “Oh my,” you’re thinking, “that’s terrible, I feel sorry for his wife and kids. I hope everyone is okay. That’s such a tough sin to get through.”
Hey, guess what? That’s discernment. That’s knowing what is right from wrong.
But the next thing you say is, “Well, I’d never do that. Billy Bob is such a scoundrel. He’s dirtier than dirt. Why he’s lower than the scum on Satan’s boots. I think I’m gonna pick up the phone and tell everyone/Twitter this/post this on Facebook and let everyone know what a jerk he is. Because there is no way I would ever do that.”
That’s judgment. Thinking others to be lower than ourselves because of a sin they committed. The same Bible that we find, “You shall not commit adultery” in also contains “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23, ESV)
When I was a pastor, I had a judgmental streak. I still have an overwhelming sense of justice. That part isn’t so bad, but when it turns to judgmentalism, it’s very bad. If I saw sin, I’d want it gone. Which is good. But I’d go about doing it in a bad way. Not just that, I’d have this self-righteous feeling about myself the entire time. Like I was better than the person sinning.
After I fell, most of that went away. It’s amazing what a great fall can do to you. It’s phenomenal how experiencing the grace of God can transform you into someone who just wants to love sinners more. I get emails from fallen pastors frequently. I just want to help them. Before my fall? I probably would have thought, “That lousy guy couldn’t keep himself straight? Pitiful.”
What makes us judgmental? I think several things can. First, if we’ve warmed a pew for any length of time after we have become a Christian, it’s easy to get “insulated” by normative Christianity. Most of our friends become Christians, our Wednesdays and Sundays are filled with Christian talk. Our thought processes are filled with “what should a mainstream American Christian be thinking.”
So when a person in the community or church sin, our first reaction is, “oh my gosh. How awful!” Yeah, sin is awful. It separates us from God. But we ought to hearken back to Christ’s reaction to sin. And I’m not talking about the terrible phrase of “love the sinner, hate the sin.” Because guess what? At that moment, you can’t really separate the two.
I’m talking about how Christ just went to people others wouldn’t approach. He was friend first – as in “Hey, Zacchaeus – come down from that tree, let’s have lunch.” He shocked the modern religious leaders and religious right by approaching and eating with sinners. The exact thing we’re not doing.
When was the last time any of our churches had a potluck for sinners? I know, we’re all sinners, I get that. But when was the last time we honestly made a meal and invited those from the community we consider outcasts? The people who, deep down, we really don’t want joining our church?
I learned a lot about grace after my fall from ministry. God forgave me, loved me and put me on the right path again. And in turn, I try to show that same grace to those who fall. It’s a hard lesson to learn, but one that should be practiced by us all – before we fall too far.
Ray Carroll is the author of “Fallen Pastor: Finding Restoration in a Broken World,” which answers many of the questions I get asked on a weekly basis.
If you are a fallen pastor who needs to talk or you are someone who has been affected by a fallen pastor and would like to contact me privately, please click here. You are the main reason this ministry exists. I’m here to help you.
If you are a church, men’s group, association, conference, or news outlet and would like more information about this ministry, please click here.