Tuesday, January 4, 2011

"You Can't Judge Me!"

Whether it's from a student, a parent, a volunteer, or another pastoral leader, it's a phrase you don't want to hear. Yet the likelihood of hearing these words hit your ears--or come out of your own mouth--is only increasing the longer you're engaged in relationships with people in the church.

If "stop judging me!" comes as a response to your exhortation, it's an almost-guarantee that the speaker is knowingly choosing to live in sin. Usually followed by rationalizations, spiritualizations, or reverting blame to the exhorter, it's an easy way to end difficult conversations. In a culture where Christianity is equated with "being nice" and Christians are continually viewed as "being judgmental," the idea of calling someone out on their sin is a serious faux pas.

The thing is, sin is sin. While Paul warns believers to not judge outsiders, he has some pretty harsh words for a church community who chooses to ignore sin for the sake of social propriety. And isn't this part of being a community--to call out one another on our wrongs so that we can strengthen and sharpen one another, speaking the truth in love and building each other up as the whole body of Christ? Of course, we have to be in authentic community with each other for this to truly express the kingdom values Paul is advocating.

None of us are totally free from this. It's so easy to reject a criticism or exhortation, choosing to see the worst in the person's motives or brushing it off as "well, they don't really know me."

If you find yourself muttering "they're just judging me" after a serious critique of your character or ministry, stop right there.

Check your heart.

Cut the bulls**t.

Pray. Repent. Seek the Lord.

Maybe they are judging you. And maybe they're right. Though even if they're 99% wrong, look for the truth in every criticism and exhortation. It's sometimes hidden under layers of preconceived notions and misunderstandings, but it's there, if only a reminder to remain humble. Don't shut down the work of the Holy Spirit. This uncomfortable conversation may be God's way of transforming your heart.

And if you're avoiding having a difficult conversation with a believer you know is actively living in sin, see the above steps, then go talk with them.

Who do you need to speak difficult truths to this week? Or what exhortation have you ignored that you should reevaluate?

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