Are you watching American Idol this year? My husband and I have been enjoying this season. Even though the new panel doesn’t accept everyone and advance them to the next level, they’re being kinder in the way they criticize. They seem to be criticizing the singing without criticizing the individuals, if that’s possible. Last year Simon Cowell was just harsh. He and the other judges would even get into disagreements about the contestants and they would banter back and forth ripping the poor contestants to shreds right in front of them.
God has a very strong opinion about judging. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus tells us “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” This should be sobering. We will be judged in the same way we judge other and by the standard we choose. I haven’t met anyone who enjoys being judged by others, yet most of us are quick to size up another without even realizing what we’re doing.
As the Body of Christ, we are called to be set apart, but not isolated, different yet not exclusive. We are to be inviting to any and all. We are to love the sinner into the Kingdom not criticize him there. The later will never happen. Let’s face it; we all know what we do wrong. We don’t need someone to point it out to us. What we do need is someone to love us in spite of it and tell us we matter.
In Ghana, one of the first things that shocked me was at church. We were in a village church and I could see the children’s program going on under a tree near us. The teacher walked with a big stick and if any child misbehaved or fell asleep, the teacher would swat the child with the stick. It seemed so odd to me, these children were hearing “Jesus loves you” while getting beat at church. It is easy for us to see that as wrong, yet we do the same thing when we judge others. We tell them Jesus loves them and then we cut them down with our words or our actions.
How many of us would reach out to the prostitute that walked through the door and invite her to sit with us? How many of us would spend time with a known adulterer? A thief? Jesus did. He rocked a prostitute’s world with His love to the point she surrendered all she had to Him [Luke 7:36-50]. He defended the adulterous woman when the crowd was ready to kill her for her sin [John 8:3-11].
Jesus loved the sinner and pointed out their sin in love, not judgment. It caused a woman at a well to turn her life around [John 4:1-30]. While His disciples were judging her and wanting to draw Him away from her, Jesus was drawing her to Himself by embracing her in her sin and leading her out of it in love.
We are called to be imitators of Christ [Ephesians 5:1]. In order to do this, we must vacate the judgment seat and meet them where they are. We are called to love them in spite of their sin and love them into the Kingdom. Didn’t Jesus do that for us? We must always remember Romans 5:8 and walk in the love and grace of Jesus. “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”