How thrilling to go through life sharing God’s mercy and not having to judge people to see if they are “worthy” of what we have to offer. We stop looking at the externals and begin to see people through the merciful eyes of Christ. Every Christian we meet is a person in whom Jesus lives; every lost soul we meet is a person for whom Jesus died. In both cases, we have candidates for God’s mercy. – Warren W. Wiersbe.
Have you ever had a teacher or a professor, or maybe even a boss, that loved to peer at you over the top of their glasses with an expression like you were some sort of alien. Maybe it was an excuse you made for missing a deadline, or maybe it was your justification for an answer on a paper you turned in. Shaking his head, while still peering over the glasses tells you that you have been judged and found guilty of some crime de jour and no amount of further explanation is going to change that.
You walk away deciding that you want to be the person judging, not he judged. In reality, we judge every day. Yes, we all know Jesus said “not to judge.” And yes, we certainly don’t want to be hypocrites who judge others while our lives are in turmoil. But in our society, Christians often do not follow this instruction. They judge non-believers by the same standards as they judge those who are part of the body of Christ. They expect non-Christians to have the same morals, take the same actions, and avoid the same things that Christians do. They criticize those who do not live up to these standards and often won’t associate with them.
This is backwards. If we judge non-Christians and refuse to associate with them, how can we build the relationships needed to point people to Christ. Right in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount, in Matthew 7:1-5, are the words. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “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.”
Paul says it similarly in Romans 14:10-13 “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written:“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will acknowledge God.’” So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”
A couple posts ago I talked about how the real test of being a Christian is love. In Luke, Chapter 6, Jesus contrasts love and judgment as two opposite actions. We can’t do one if we’re busy doing the other. If our job – our mandate – from Jesus is to love like God does, then we can’t waste our time judging the hearts of others. Simply put, we can’t love and judge at the same time. In Romans 2:1, Paul says that when we judge others we’re actually passing judgment on ourselves. James, Chapter 4 tells us that when we judge others we’re putting ourselves in God’s place.
I have seen this scenario repeated countless times. People who come to know Jesus at one of our services tell us afterward that they already knew they were sinners. No one needed to point that out to them. They got that. What they didn’t know was what to do about it.
So, that’s why I think evangelism should be more about loving people first (and that can only be done in a relationship), sharing our own testimony and pointing them to Jesus so they can know Him. God has and will convict people of their sins just fine without us – because that’s what He said He would do – and He specifically told us that it is not our place to convict people of their sins.
If we love people we make room for the grace of God to touch their hearts. And hopefully lead to repentance. But if we judge people, our avoiding them or our disapproval becomes a barrier to those people and they cannot see the love of Jesus in us and thus in His church. It is unnecessary to point out people’s sins. I think the Holy Spirit will do that if we do our part.
As Christians, if we want to talk about sinfulness we have to start with our own. We must freely admit that we are sinners in need of Christ. Our message is not, “You’re a sinner and you need Jesus” it should be, “I’m a sinner and I need Jesus” and our invitation should be to follow Jesus and surrendering our will to His.