25 August 2009

Guest post-Pushing People Away without Knowing

My friend, Jon, asked if he could write a "guest post" here. Given my recent writer's block, I welcomed his offer. He writes:

I was struck recently after talking to two individuals about coming to church by how they both expressed feelings of fear about what people will think of them when they do come. Both of these individuals are already Christians but are coming back after a certain period. One stepped away from the church for a while due to some struggles in their life that caused them to go off to some not-so-good things, and the other rarely comes because of their job requiring them to work most Sundays but was now nervous about bringing her new boyfriend to church after a recent divorce.

I think you can tell what each is worried about. Both are worried about people judging them because of their past actions.

Whether these are legitimate concerns on their part or not, it got me thinking about how most people, even those who are Christian, think that everyone in the church is very judgmental about them. It's sad because they shouldn't worry about that judgment since there is only One who has the right to judge them. What's even worse, though, is that as a broad generalization, I think they tend to be right about the church casting judgment.

How often do we see someone come into church who maybe looks a little different or who we know has strayed from God recently and immediately think, “Why are they here? Their heart can't really be in this. I bet they don't even want to be here and are just doing it for looks.”? Who are we to say where a person's is heart just from how they look or the past that they've been through?

I'll admit that I'm just as bad at this as others. I try not to show it in front of those people, but I think we all show it just by not being open and friendly with them. They become outcasts because no one approaches them. Everyone is afraid to say the wrong thing and offend them, and in the process we say nothing at all. I think this is what causes the feeling of judgment in them.

There's a problem in the church when we don't welcome people in or welcome them back realizing that we are in just as much of a broken state as they are. Not one of us has the right to judge when none of us have actually had to pay the full price for the mistakes and sins in our lives. Sure, we all feel like we have, but none of us has actually paid the price of death that just one of our sins is worth.

The flip side of this situation, which I mentioned above, is that we as Christians actually let the judgments of others affect us and affect how we feel about ourselves. We know that others' thoughts about us really have no affect on us except to the extent we let them; for there is only One who can actually judge and change and mold us in that way. We go through our lives seeking the approval of other people, especially other Christians, because we feel like we need to look good in their eyes.

We don't.

Live your life seeking the approval of God each and every day, not man. Don't cast judgment and don't let unwarranted judgment cast on you change who you are.

"Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?” - Matthew 7:1-4


Jason Kanz said...

I think that you have some great thoughts here and ones that we all should consider. What I struggle with is when does loving correction of sinful behavior become judgment. I think it partially rests in relationship. I can correct people who are friends and who trust me, but if I see someone new, I have no business correcting them.

Regarding my response to others, I recently heard it said that you should be open to revealing your deepest sins to those around you because quite honestly, there judgment or approval means nothing; only God's does.

Jon said...

Great point that you can't really provide correction to those you don't know. I think a key that I kinda touched on was that we just shouldn't ignore them because of fear of saying the wrong thing or getting in their business. This doesn't mean we have to talk to them about the behavior in question, but to just ensure that you do develop or continue to develop that relationship. I think lack of this relationship can be perceived just as much like judgment as judgmental words can be (especially to those who are very self-conscious).