They are judgmental. They are hypocritical. They care more about rules than they do about people. They are exclusive. They are elitists. They are all about rules. They restrict the fun in life…
What is interesting is that these are some of the most common criticisms of Christians.
I remember walking to class my first year of college. Right before I entered the building, I was confronted by large signs with red paint informing me that I, as well as all those on the Indiana University campus that day, were in fact going to Hell.
I thought I was just going to French class.
I knew the Hoosiers had a terrible football program but I was unaware that it was that serious.
I was a Christian already, and I remember thinking how disappointed I was that this was how the faith that had changed my life was being communicated to a group of strangers.
I know plenty of people and hear plenty of stories of people who believe it is their job to condemn the world. Yet Jesus reserved his harshest criticisms with those who did likewise in his day.
But when Jesus came across someone who was truly far from God, he met them with empathy, love, respect, and still truth.
He didn’t scream at Zacchaeus, a man who exploited the poor, while he hid in a tree, he went and shared a meal with him.
He didn’t stone the woman caught in adultery, he defended her from those who were about to stone her.
Jesus defended people from the ugliness religion can turn into. He shared his love in relationship, not judgment, and he calls us to do likewise.
Paul writes in Ephesians to speak truth, but he says speak truth in love.
I heard a speaker once give an analogy of how to speak this truth.
He said if your friend wants to go to New York but they get on a train headed for LA, it is not loving to not tell them, to let them go off to LA.
I disagree; I think the unloving thing is to let them go alone. Speaking the truth in love means sticking by people even when they wont hear it.
Instead of judging people because of the truth we know, we need to love people because of the truth we know. I didn’t propose to my wife by holding up a big sign saying “you are going to Hell.” No one would suggest that’s how I express my love for her.
Pastor Dan Kimball suggests that as Christians we need to judge people more. But instead of judging those who are outside the church, we need to judge people as Jesus judged them. We need to offer rebuke when our fear of sin interferes with our love of God and others. he suggests that maybe then there will be a whole lot more loving and a whole lot less judging going on.
I don’t suggest that sin isn’t real, truth can’t be absolute, and that Jesus just wanted everyone to be happy. I am just suggesting that we approach those who are far from God in the same way that Jesus did, that we love before we judge.
May we love as Jesus loved, and may we judge as Jesus judged.