I can’t help it. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop judging you. Let me explain. I’m a church kid. But I’m not just a church kid; I’m a pastor’s kid. And I’m not just a pastor’s kid; I’m a fourth generation pastor’s kid. I love all the blessings and benefits that come with my heritage, but it also brings with it some religious baggage.
I don’t think it was intentional, but growing up, I was taught I was supposed to be good, because people who love God are good. That’s why, to this day, I flip the channel quickly when The Simpsons comes on; because mom and dad said we didn’t watch the Simpsons since Bart is disrespectful. (And don’t get me started on The Wonder Years.)
I guess that’s why I judge you. I’m trying to figure out how good you are. I’m the guy sitting at your table at the restaurant who doesn’t realize he’s staring at you after you order a beer. I’m the guy who doubts your Christianity if you miss church to do something fun. I’m the guy who wants to ask you dumb questions about birth control after you tell me you’re pregnant. I hate it, but I’m that guy.
The problem is I don’t judge myself the same way. The things I do are “okay,” or at least not as big of a deal, because I know I love God, right? I’ve been known to say a cuss word or two (or more), but when you say a cuss word I do a five-second analysis to decide if you’re really saved. I go to the Kentucky Derby and bet on a horse, but you can’t go to a club. I destroy my body by eating too much fast food, but you can’t smoke a cigarette.
The silliness of judging one another is we start looking for the letter of the law. We’ve been doing this since the beginning of time. It’s when we decide sex scenes in movies without nudity are okay, but sex scenes with nudity are not. Girls can wear spaghetti strap tank tops, but not strapless dresses. We start making lists that God didn’t give us and we figure out how to get everyone else’s sins on the list while leaving ours off.
The church is such a sad and funny place sometimes. It’s the place where men who watch porn want to punish a teenage girl who gets pregnant. It’s the place where the meanest, most dishonest, gossiping women judge the man who leaves his wife. It’s the place where unattractive people judge the attractive for being too provocative. And it’s the place where we put more effort into the appearance of our relationship with God than our actual relationship with Him. That is not the place God had in mind when He said He would build His church.
I so desperately want to be the guy who can be friends with lots of unchurched “sinners.” I want to be normal around them, and I don’t want to feel like I have to invite them to church by our second conversation, but the truth is I’m much more comfortable around church people because we lie and hide our sins instead of sharing them.
My disappointment in myself led me to do some digging into the actual words Jesus used when he was with sinners, and, to my amazement, I found out he didn’t really use many. He didn’t make a speech at the wedding after he provided the wine. He didn’t correct any behavior at the dinners with Matthew’s friends, and He didn’t condemn the “lazy” people on the side of the road who needed to be healed. The only people he seemed to correct were the people who thought they didn’t need correction.
It sounds so easy in my head, but it’s so hard to get that “I’m judging you” look off my face. It’s the same look some of you have right now after reading this. Stop it!
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