Standing in judgement over other people is one of the most simultaneously natural and unnatural things we do in life. It is natural– or perhaps I should say, instinctive– because the desire to judge others goes back to the original sin described in the book of Genesis. It is unnatural all at the same time, as the ability to stand in judgement over others was the one thing God drew a boundary around and said, “do not eat from this tree.”
Yet, we do it– and we love doing it. Some get life out of it, and find judging others to be addictive– spiraling into a life lived constantly measuring others, declaring who is good, who is bad, and what they need to do to fix themselves.
None of us are immune from this. Sadly, as Christians we are often best known for our judgmental attitudes instead of our self-sacrificial love of others– something I’d love to see change in the generation to come. In the end, I think learning to stop judging others is in the best interest of everyone, and every relationship. So, here’s 5 reasons why you might want to stop judging others:
5. You suck at judging others.
As I have mentioned before (an idea that comes from Greg Boyd’s influence), we do not have all of the information we need in order to rightly judge anyone. Every single time we pronounce judgment over some one else, we do it with so little information that any possibility of judging rightly would likely be a random coincidence.
Let’s say you have a neighbor who is a drug addict. While one can say that drug addiction is self-destructive, and harmful in many ways, we are not in a personal position to judge a person because of our limited knowledge. Do we know how much of their addiction was a genetic disposition? Do we know whether or not they grew up watching drug abuse modeled for them, until it became natural? Do we know the depths of their emotional or physical pain that they might be medicating? Of course not! But in order to judge rightly, one would need perfect knowledge of all of those factors– and only God has access to that information.
So if you’re not good at it, why keep doing it?
4. God forbids judging others.
Jesus directly stated that Christians are forbidden from standing in judgment over another person. But there’s a good reason behind that prohibition: it’s God’s job– and exclusively God’s job.
God is the only entity with all the knowledge necessary to judge rightly. Each time we judge another person, we usurp God’s authority and take it for ourselves. Whether we intend to or not, when we judge others we are declaring that we are far better quipped to do God’s unique job, than is God. It is an act of idolatry and rebellion, however unintended.
If it’s God’s job, why not just leave it to God?
3. Judging others is making you miserable.
While we all quite instinctively judge others, when a judgmental disposition goes unchecked to the point a person becomes habitually judgmental, such a person becomes utterly miserable. Just like the drug addict who needs the drug, but hates how the drug makes them feel later, so too does judging others leave us in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction– until we can find another reason to judge someone.
Judgmental people are the most unhappy people you’ll ever encounter in life, because judgement is something you crave to consume but doesn’t fill or nourish you the way you hope it will.
If it’s a poison and not a cure, why keep consuming it?
2. Judging others makes the people around you miserable.
Habitually judgmental people have a hard time judging silently in their heart. Perhaps they did at first, but like an increasing tolerance to a drug, they grow to have a need to share their judgments with as many people as possible in hopes others will join them– thus increasing the intoxication.
Some do join them, and become addicted and miserable themselves. Others resist joining, but still grow miserable simply from listening to the litany of negative or uncharitable judgments of others.
If it’s something that doesn’t just make you unhappy, but makes everyone around you unhappy, why not consider resisting judging all together?
1. Judging others makes it impossible to love them.
Our key purpose for existing is to reflect the love of God to others, but it is impossible to love someone while you are also judging them. We are to love our neighbors. We are to love our enemies. We are to love so big and love so much that people point to us and say, “That person is so loving! They must be a disciple of Jesus.”
Judgment is the opposite of love. It is what thwarts love. It’s what breaks love down. Judgment is the enemy of love, and cannot coexist where love truly resides.
Thus, we have to pick one: do we walk around loving and serving? Or do we walk around our lives judging and condemning? You have to pick– because you can’t do both at the same time.
God has invited us to partner together to bring a restoration of the beautiful shalom that existed in the beginning. In that partnership however, there are certain roles that belong to us, and some that belong uniquely to God. Our role is to love others with the same type of self-sacrificial love that Christ displayed on Calvary– the role of judge is one that falls to God, and only to God.
When we usurp that divine order and boundaries, we make the world a little more broken instead of a little more right.
Dr. Benjamin L. Corey is a public theologian and cultural anthropologist who is a two-time graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary with graduate degrees in the fields of Theology and International Culture, and holds a doctorate in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. He is also the author of the new book, Unafraid: Moving Beyond Fear-Based Faith, which is available wherever good books are sold. www.Unafraid-book.com.