I rolled my eyes at the barely-dressed woman batting her heavily made up eyelashes at the attractive young man who was standing in line to board. Oh brother, I thought. Can’t you put some more decent clothes on?
I was slightly embarrassed of this member of my own sex, who was misrepresenting my gender so perfectly. I wanted to shout, “Have some respect for yourself, woman!”
Yet I also felt for her. Who knew what her story was? Who knew what influenced her to carry herself the way she did?
I boarded the plane and found my 16E aisle seat. Pulling out my iPod, I waited for the rest of the passengers to board. Soon I heard, “Excuse me, that’s my seat there next to you.” I looked up to see, Ms. Flamboyant herself standing there.
You’ve got to be kidding. I stood up and let her in. Not surprisingly, some benevolent gentleman helped her lift her bag into the overhead compartment. She thanked him with a flashy smile.
Seriously? Do you have to be so obvious?
She sat down and pulled out a stack of tabloids.
Why are you being so judgmental? My conscience demanded.
Okay, maybe just a little.
You should talk with her.
I’m not going to talk to her.
Why? Why won’t you, Felicia? Do you think you’re better than her? The only difference between you and her is that God had mercy on you, saved you, and turned your life around. Who knows how you would dress or behave if you didn’t have Christ in your life? Don’t turn up your nose. He had mercy on you—a hopeless sinner—and invited you in to be in His family. Why wouldn’t He have mercy on her?
Judging is easier than loving, isn’t it?
It’s so easy for us to judge others. We see other people as huge sinners and ourselves as saints. When, in reality, we are just as big of a mess as they are. But we forget our sin without any difficulty while pointing fingers at other’s sins.
We judge on appearances. We judge based on attitudes and church attendance, on education or employment, and on social status. But Jesus looked past all of this. He looked beyond the rough edges of fishermen, tax collectors, and adulterers and reached into their hearts.
How can we follow His example?
1. By Having a Right View of Ourselves – Apostle Paul (pretty much the best Christian in all of history) said, “What a wretched man I am. Who will save me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24). The truth is we are not saints. We are sinners saved by grace! We a rarely think that: “but for the grace of God go I” or “If God hadn’t saved me, I probably would be acting/dressing/speaking the exact same way as that unbeliever.” Seeing others in sin should make us thankful, causing us to be gracious and compassionate towards others instead of self-righteous. We are not so far above them. We stumble and need God’s grace every day. By remembering the mercy God has shown us, we can reach out to others.
2. Don’t Sacrifice Truth – Although Jesus’ concern for the lost was obvious, he never condoned their sins. Neither should we confuse a loving, nonjudgmental attitude with an apathetic attitude. We shouldn’t be okay with sin. Sin is sin—it’s evil, wrong, and harmful. Jesus didn’t die on the cross so we can just keep on doing evil things, He died a cruel death so that we can “go and sin no more” (John 8:11). So, while we shouldn’t condemn the person or act superior, neither should we ignore nor condone sin. Instead, we should follow Jesus’ example. He extended love and grace to all—even the women caught in adultery and the wicked tax collector—so that they could find new life in Christ.
3. Use Your Platform Graciously – You can use the godly character that God is growing in you as a platform to stand on while you judge others, or as a platform from which you extend grace. So often, as our Christian character develops, we use our biblical knowledge as a stepping stool. We stand up high and look down upon the “lesser” people. The Bible warns, “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” (1 Corinthians 8:1). God did not give us knowledge/discernment for self-righteous elevation. Our godly character should give us a greater capacity to love.
4. Pray – “When we discern that other people are not growing spiritually and allow that discernment to turn to criticism, we block fellowship with God. God never gives us discernment so that we may criticize, but that we may intercede.”[i] When you hear yourself putting someone down, stop and lift them up in prayer instead.
Rather than judging those who hung Him on the cross, Jesus interceded for them, asking, “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they do.” Jesus interceded for the criminals hanging on the crosses next to Him. He interceded for everyone despite all the sin they were mired in.
This makes me really question: How often do I intercede rather than judge?
So when I feel judgment creep in, I try to turn it around. I try to remember that even Paul called himself the chief of sinners. He prayed for sinners, he did not elevate himself above them. He spoke to them boldly about their sins (and encouraged them to stop sinning) but he did not claim superiority over them. The key was he never forgot who he was: a sinner. And he always thanked God for His abundant mercy.
Let us always thank God for His grace and extend His magnificent love to others. Never forgetting the simple phrase, “But for the grace of God go I.”
[i] Oswald Chambers. My Utmost for His Highest. Grand Rapids: Discovery House Publishers
Photo Credit: Kristian Bjornard via Flickr – Creative Commons