As I stood in the checkout line at the grocery store a lady began talking to my infant daughter. The woman’s clothes were ripped and stained. Her dark hair was unkempt and matted in places. The lady was eager to talk to us but I felt myself putting up a wall. She was not in the same socio-economic class as me, she was of a different race than me, and she was much older than me…all of these qualifications gave her no chance of ever getting on the unwritten list of people who belong in my community. I didn’t exclude her in an intentionally hateful way but I allowed myself to subtly exude the idea, “I can’t imagine this ever working out so let’s not pretend we are friends”. And I’m guilty of this on the other end of the spectrum as well. I judge the mom at the library with perfect hair and makeup whose child is dressed in cute outfits for story time every week. I avoid building a relationship with her because I judge her entire personality, lifestyle and character by her appearance. I determine immediately on a single perception whether or not I should allow a person to be a part of my life.
Have you ever encountered a person whose appearance made you inwardly crawl away? Have you ever started making a list in your head of reasons that you shouldn’t talk to someone before they even say a word to you? Do you ever block conversations with fake smiles because you have already determined that your relationship with a person would never go any further based on their appearance, reputation or interests? Do you ever write someone off because you know their sin or you think you know what they are thinking? This is judgmentalism at its finest.
Judgmentalism says everybody is different from me and therefore not worthy of being part of my community. Either we judge others to be worse than us and not good enough for our company or we decide they are better than us and we are not worthy of them. Whether it is because of race, gender, or socioeconomic status…whether it is because of the house someone lives in or what school they go to…whether it is because of someones job or how they raise their kids…it is wrong and it is isolating. It keeps you away from others and it keeps others away from you. It limits my idea of what community looks like and therefore gives me fewer avenues on which to find it.
Judgmentalism often gives no room for growth so that anyone with a sin issue is removed from the equation. According to Romans 3:23 we all fall short, we all sin, we are all in need of growth and so this standard excludes everyone in one sweeping blow. Be aware of your own sin and know that except by the grace of God you could go in the same direction. But even more importantly, know that your sin is as grievous as anyone else’s in the sight of God and Christ died for those sins so that all could be free from judgement.
Judgmentalism keeps me from being vulnerable and sharing myself with others. I am hesitant to share my most inward struggle with someone I have deemed unworthy of my time. In addition, judgmentalism makes it so that others are afraid to share their true self with me. People do not feel free to open up if they fear they are going to be punished or excluded for what they say or do. Vulnerability and honesty can never thrive in this context which are the cornerstones of thriving community.
Judgmentalism says I am the center of my world. I have convinced myself that if I want to build a community I have to seek out a group that is as similar to me as possible. I don’t spend time with someone who rides motorcycles because I enjoy shopping for antiques. I don’t invite a 75 year-old out for coffee because I’m 34. I don’t initiate friendships with single women because I’m married. I don’t sit with someone at church who has grandkids because my kids aren’t even teenagers yet. I’m on a mission to find someone who does exactly what I do, thinks exactly like I think and looks exactly like I look. That diminishes my options for possible relationships. That drastically limits my circle of community to one option…me…and that’s an unbearably lonely position to be in.
Judgmentalism says that I know the intentions of another persons heart. Some Sunday mornings I walk down the halls of the church with my mind acutely tuned to what I think everyone is thinking. “She thinks I’m sinning because I let my son go to soccer on Wednesday night…,” “he thinks I spent too much money on my outfit…she thinks I lied about being sick last week when I had to miss our meeting…he doesn’t think I’m volunteering enough…she is disappointed in me…he thinks I’m selfish…she thinks I’m rude….” And the list goes on and it makes me ashamed of things I’m not even guilty of and it makes me defensive of things that no one is even accusing me of. It cuts off relationships that never even had a chance to develop. But, yet again, I am guilty of being on the other side of this lonely equation. “She didn’t say hi to me…he was late…she let her kids go there…he said this…she did that…” and all is thought before I even get the complete story. I can never completely know why a person did what they did or said what they said. That is God’s job and to take on that role is a dangerous position to put yourself in.
Judgmentalism reflects what I think about God. It declares that I believe He is not fulfilling His role as righteous judge of the universe. It says that I think I am more just than He is…that my rules are better, my way is right and He has dropped the ball. The Bible says in Matthew 7:2 that “For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” I don’t know about you but I would rather be set free from what God determines to be wrong than to be punished according to the laws I have created and broken. I would rather have a way out through acknowledging that God sets the standard than to be held accountable for every time I broke my own rules.
I wish I could have the eyes of my one year old to see every person as a person instead of viewing them as a list of qualifications. She smiles the same at the tattered lady at the checkout as she would at the kind faced, average stay-at-home mom that we talked to in the produce section. But I want to go a step beyond that. I want to at least give everyone the possibility of being a part of my community. I know they are all worthy of love and friendship because they are made in the image God. Anyone can be included in our community because, whether Christian or non-Christian, we are all made to reflect His glory. I pray that we can put down our pride, put down our rules, put down our need for sameness and allow God to gather us together in love.
Read John 4
What does this woman have in common with all of us?
How did Jesus respond to her? How would you respond to her? What did Jesus do differently? How did she respond?
How did the Samaritans respond? What signs of increasing community do you see in their actions? (v.40)
What can you learn from this encounter?
Read James 4:11-12–
What are we asked to do?
What is God’s position?
Reread verses 6 and 10
What should our position be?