If you have ever spent time in a congregation, then you most likely have encountered at least one instance of a Christian or Messianic believer judging another. Perhaps you were even the one being judged. Perhaps you were the one who did the judging.
Over several decades, I have been a member of various congregations. I have noticed many instances of Christians or Messianic believers judging a fellow member or a newcomer who showed up at their door, I have experienced many of the examples mentioned below, either as the one who was judged or as the one who judged (or should I say misjudged?).
The effects of our misjudging, whether subtle or blatant, are powerful and can be devastating to others. Actions or reactions such as a certain “knowing” glance, turning away, keeping someone at arm’s length, gossiping, excluding another, and so on, may seem insignificant in a world full of violence and horror. And yet, if we are engaging in any of these actions, we are not following Yeshua’s command to love one another. That means we are sinning and sin is never insignificant (Matt. 5:21-22).
The sheep in wolf’s clothing: Often we judge others by their appearance. The less similar they are to us, the more we tend to suspect them. Does the person wear our kind of clothes, have a similar hairstyle, and so on? If not, then they are automatically suspect. Consider Isaiah 11:3, NLT
Assumptions and generalizations: If you are divorced, then it is your fault and you are considered sinful and loose with your morals. If you are married, then you are automatically moral and upright. The list goes on, but you get the idea. Consider John 8:7 and Rom 2:1.
Talents and gifts or lack thereof: Some gifts may be prized over others, and those with the valued gifts are welcomed more warmly. Those people whose gifts are not easily recognized or deemed less essential may be ignored or otherwise devalued. Consider 1 Cor 12:4.
Political choices: There are no perfect people or political leaders (except Yeshua). There is no holy and perfect political party. Consider Psalms 146:3 and 118:8 and Jer 17:5.
Racial prejudice: Belonging to a different race or associating with those of a different race means that you are less moral or upright. Alas, prejudice is still alive and kicking even among those who appear to be strong believers. Consider 1 John 2:9, 1 Cor 12:13 and Gal 3:28.
Financial status: If you are rich, then you are greedy and selfish or else you are inevitably upright and moral. If you are poor, then you are lazy and worthless or you are good, but unjustly oppressed. In his book, The Blood of Lambs, Kamal Saleem, former terrorist-turned-Christian makes a poignant point. He used to recruit people in the United States for Islam and jihad by taking food to the poor, often in neighborhoods where there were Christian churches. None of the Christians had ever bothered to reach out to those he visited, thus making his task easier. Consider Matt 25:34-36 and Isaiah 58:6-7.
The wolf in sheep’s clothing: We seek to be broadminded sometimes even when we are steeped in ignorance. We implicitly trust people because they claim to be Christian or because they look like us or they seem to be like us in other ways. They appear to be our kind of people, so they must be alright. Many a person has trusted in such a way and lived to regret it. Consider Matt 7:8, 10:16 and 1 John 4:1.
We cannot accurately judge because we don’t see others’ motives, emotions, or past experiences (Prov 16:2; 21:2 NIV). So how do we know when a person is sincere? How do we know if someone really wants to change or is truly seeking YHVH’s help? How do we know if someone is pulling the wool over our eyes?
While it is not our duty to judge others, it is our duty to distinguish to the best of our ability. We are expected to make wise decisions concerning our friends and associates. We must have some order and regulation in our congregations. Leaders especially have a duty to protect their congregations. We obviously cannot rely on our own wisdom, so we must seek YHVH’s wisdom instead. We ask YHVH for the discernment which is provided to us by His Holy Spirit. We must proceed with a judicious mix of caution and love.
When we judge another, we risk offending that person and YHVH. Above all, we are called to do everything in love. Yeshua commanded us to love one another, not to judge one another (John 13:34). If we perceive someone as an enemy, we are still called to love that person, even if that person has misjudged or mistreated us (Matt 5:44). These Scripture passages are very familiar to us, but how well do we live up to Yeshua’s expectations? This is a question that I must ask myself every day. What about you?