Judgment As The Easiest Spiritual Practice To Perfect, Or Beating a High Horse To Death

From what I’ve seen fifteen years ago it wasn’t very common to (full disclosure: I hadn’t yet entered middle school, so I can’t say with total confidence) point out all the mistakes the church as a whole has made. (Now I do it 2-3 times a week publicly on this blog.) Very generally speaking about ten years ago the church began to wake up to the reality of what she had become and it soon became hip to walk around bemoaning all of the ways churches are “just so messed up.”

American Christianity (maybe moreso fundamentalism) had seen its hayday cruise right on by into the past, as they began to quickly lose their grip on the rope around the general public. Our image began to change from squeaky clean morally upright nice guys to hypocritical, self-righteousness cultural warriors who enforced exhausting legalism in their judgments of the pagan nation around them.

The reputation of Christians in general culture is one of judgment and condemnation. We are the people who wave our fingers at all the naughty things people do, condemn them for it and complain about our lot as a people group. Our self appointed position as the morality police has put us in a position of handing out judgment, not just judgment from us but God as well. (Note: I’m not saying this is a fair image of Christianity, but one at least partially earned.)

Be in the world, but only to condemn it. Loudly.

If you want to play it safe as a pastor or a leader in the church – then judgment or declaring guilt is the easy way. Few people can say you’re wrong if you claim to be tough on sin. Few people call you out, declare you wishy-washy or as label you new-age or seeker-friendly. No one writes letters to the elder board about you being too soft when you take the judgment route. No one will label you a radical if you use the oldest trick in the religious book of rejecting everyone except those with a clean record. But that’s been the story of religion since its dawn thousands of year ago.

Grace is a different story. Grace is a different declaration. It’s a lot more ambiguous. Where it ends is unclear. It’s loose. It seems like a slippery slope, you don’t want to start the slide because you might just end up declaring everyone’s okay, no one needs God. Grace lets things go, and maybe doesn’t even make a big stink about it.

When it comes to God and religion and its easy to get on the high horse and take the righteous route where you get to judge because you have higher and holy standards. But God didn’t seem to use his righteousness as a way to justify judgment – in fact just the opposite I would say. He used his position of power and authority to bestow grace.

Give it to me, what do you think? (For the ultimate irony, if you have hesitations about what I wrote in this post, err on the side of judgment).

(Note: the alternative title of this post “Beating a High Horse To Death,” I’m aware, doesn’t make any sense. It’s not supposed to – I just love it when people combine two different cliches and totally botch them both. Let me have a little fun!)

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12 Responses to Judgment As The Easiest Spiritual Practice To Perfect, Or Beating a High Horse To Death

  1. For years Charlie, I took the judgment route. Then I discovered all i was doing was actually speaking about me (and trying to cover it up). I decided that was not the way I wanted to be anymore. Amazing how paying the piper for hidden sins can wake a person up. Anyway, I prefer to err on the side of grace rather than judgment these days and feel a whole lot more comfortable with that.

    • reading your comment made me realize I wrote “error on the side of…” rather than err.

      I’d love to explore (or let you do it!) how when we judge it actually says more about us and our issues than the person we consider in the wrong.

  2. Angela says:

    That’s a really interesting perspective…for such a long time I thought judgment was just the way of God and I was put in training camp aka church to learn to focus on sin – my sin, the sins of others, the sins of world. And it was a difficult lifestyle. And honestly, I’m not sure my church said it or if I assumed it, but I was telling my non-Christian friends that what they were doing was wrong – they were living in sin…and let me tell you, they did not respond well to that accusation.

  3. Jeff says:

    One man’s sin (Whiskey) is another man’s pleasure (mine). Who am I to judge. Not sure I am totally on board with vicarious redemption either. You make a mess you clean it up. Jesus didn’t come to clean up your messes.

  4. Larry Hughes says:

    Judge not least you be judged. I can imagine all us holier than thou folks are going to get the shock of our lives on judgement day. ( The line that forms on the wrong side.).

    Think about the crowd that Jesus hung around and was critisized by the high priest of the day. You know, the ones that gave lengthy prayer professing they were perfect and thanked God for not being born a woman, a gentile, a slave, or worse yet a pagan worshiper.

    If you think about it, Jesus was trying to set an example by loving all that came before Him which in turn won him many converts because He talked with them through His love and preachings.

    We all live in sin. Some pretend that they don’t but they do. It is only by the grace of God through Jesus that we are saved and that is what He is trying to get across to us. Sadly many still don’t get it. I didn’t for a long time.

    Let us not put ourselves above others because we believe. Let us be the profesors of Gods grace and love for others.

    I think what I am trying to say is don’t be a hypocrite.

    • way to sum up my entire post in one sentence…. I’ll have you know I spent a solid hour on that one!

      I think lots of people, like you say, don’t get it. They take religion as a license to judge, letting the religion puff us up with righteousness and authority. But to me the authority Jesus had (far more than us) was used for grace, not to judge them. Or when he did judge their sin and say it was wrong, he still gave it as a grace (woman caught in adultery).

  5. Chris says:

    I’m going to risk being on the wrong side of this one.

    The last line of what Larry said I think is the most significant and should give us pause, but some questions to consider.

    To watch self-destructive behavior (sin) and say nothing I avoid being a hypocrite. But do I also become an enabler?
    Why should pointing out sin entail judgment? Who ever responds well to being told they’ve done, or are doing something wrong? Not me. But might I appreciate it at some point after I’ve regained my senses? Is saying nothing the same as tacit approval? If Jesus (as per Larry) came and “talked with them through His love and preachings” and Jesus is role model numero uno, can’t we/shouldn’t we do the same?
    Jesus loved the woman at the well, but didn’t he also say “go and sin no more”?

    It’s true, some people make a career out of pointing out the flaws (sins) in others. But somehow I don’t think we are required to always be mute on the subject. I think if a person has a mind to present their opinion on certain questionable behavior, there should probably be a measure of trust with the person and they should probably first be invited to do so, and then honest, loving, truthful, convicting, council will not be out of line. I don’t think it’s a requirement for me to be perfect before I can help someone out that has a sin issue.

    • I don’t disagree with what you’re saying. I definitely don’t want to advocate for a say-nothing way of doing things. But i think the key to saying something is relationship. Confronting someone or calling them should be done in the context of a friendship of some kind, where love and grace can also be expressed. When done from afar or as a blank statement, only judgment gets communicated, and this is how the church got the reputation that it has.

      On a macro level when in the greater cultural conversation Christians are only condemning and calling things sinful, they’re leaving out the entire aspect of grace. Only judgment is being heard.

      As I wrote in my reply to Larry (before I ever read your comment) Jesus gave grace to people today that we would throw under the bus (and regularly do). As you said, he would say hey don’t do that anymore, but at the same time he’d give them a grace.

  6. David says:

    The problem with judgement is that it gets confused with spiritual discernment. Jesus gave grace to the woman taken adultery. He did not give it to those selling in the temple. Each case had to be discerned – you know, do what the Father is doing.

    Judgement is of the law, and discernment is of the Spirit. It is the same with everything under the new covenant.

    There are many things that are sin, and many things that are meant to be godly (IE: Galatians 5). In between, there is a lot of things that are permissible. That zone requires hearing from God.

    Without faith, it is impossible to please God. And Paul said that we are meant to walk by faith. Without faith, there will be a flesh version of the real thing. Religion is the flesh version of the church. But we know that the church is spirit filled people.

  7. Pingback: I’m Gonna Have To Enforce Forgivness In This One, Or Doing Laps in Murky Water | Charlie's Church of Christ

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