Judging II

Thanks to Melani for responding to my last post on judging.  I thought she brought up some good things that could flesh this topic out a little bit further.

Although, it can hurt our feelings to be judged by our friends and family…. 
It certainly does hurt to hear someone confront us about something.  Nobody enjoys having someone come up to them and voice concerns about something we’re doing or saying.  Being confronted can make us embarrassed, angry, hurt.  But it is also possible that being confronted can be a very healthy thing for us, if we’re willing to consider it as such.  We may not be able to process what we’re being told in the moment that it happens.  I think it’s very reasonable when being confronted to thank the person for their concern, and to ask for some time to think and pray about what they’ve said.  Ideally, you can commit to another discussion time or meeting in the near future, so they know you aren’t blowing them off.
Then I’d suggest going through some of the following questions to evaluate what they have shared/confronted you with.  These questions apply when someone is confronting you as a brother or sister in Christ regarding a particular external action or attitude or word.  We’ll come back to how to deal with being confronted by a non-Christian or being confronted on issues beyond the realm of the Biblical Christian faith.
1.  Is it a matter of sin?  Are you being confronted about a sinful behavior, attitude, or comment?  Are you in some way (consciously or unconsciously) hurting someone else through your words or actions?  Are you somehow disrespecting God by your words or actions?  Does the Bible have something to say directly on the issue at hand?  Hopefully the person confronting you has been very specific – which can help you in searching Scripture to see if what they’re concerned about is valid.  
Sometimes this will be easy.  Are you taking the Lord’s name in vain?  Stop it.  Are you speaking poorly of your neighbor?  Stop it.  Sometimes this will be more complicated, as it will involve investigating your heart in the moment when you spoke or acted.  Maybe it doesn’t seem like a sin on the surface, but when you dig deeper you realize that you were secretly hoping to hurt someone or benefit at someone else’s expense.  When possible, ask a trusted Christian friend or family member or pastor to assist you in exploring whether or not the issue you’ve been confronted about is actually a matter of sin.
If after praying and searching yourself and getting some objective input you can’t see how what the person confronted you about was sinful, you can go back to them and ask for clarification.  Dialog.  Don’t assume that they confronted you out of a desire to hurt you.  Perhaps they misunderstood, or are mistaking a difference of opinion or practice as a matter of sin.  
2.   Thank the person confronting you.  You might not be able to do this in the moment.  But hopefully you’ll realize in retrospect that they’re trying to be helpful.  And help sometimes hurts.  But try to see it as the Holy Spirit working in your life.  Proverbs 3:11-12 is helpful in reminding us that God sometimes needs to smack us with a two by four to show us His love (paraphrasing mine).
3.  Be honest with yourself.  We all like to defend ourselves and give ourselves the benefit of the doubt in everything we do.  But when we’re honest with ourselves, and if we pray for the Holy Spirit to help with this, we usually know when we’ve been in error or not.  Being honest with yourself and the person who has confronted you shows more maturity than laughing it off or rejecting the person and their effort.  Remember that for most people, it’s incredibly difficult to confront someone else about something.  
4.  Take corrective action.  If a genuine issue has been brought to you, take it to the Lord in prayer and ask for His strength to help you change your actions or attitudes or words.  Ask the person who confronted you to help you as well.  Ask for their prayers on your behalf, and ask them to let you know if they see you repeating the action or word or attitude that they first confronted you about. 
5.  Give thanks for forgiveness!  Realizing that we need to change some area of our life can be painful and humbling – particularly if at the point that others are drawing our attention to it.  However, rather than begin mired in shame, confess the sin, pray for the strength to change your ways, and give thanks for the forgiveness in Jesus Christ that is already yours!   
5.  Remember the goal.  The goal of judging and confronting is not to hurt the other person, but to help them.  We should be strengthened by this process, growing to be more Christ-like in our lives.  This is a good thing – it improves the witness that we give to other believers and to the non-Christians in our lives.  Paul tells the Corinthians that they should seek to imitate him (1Corinthians 4:16).  In other words, just as we admire Christians of great dignity and honor and Christ-likeness, we should seek to be Christians that others can admire and seek to imitate.  Paul encourages Christians to imitate other Christians in Hebrews 6 and 13, and John addresses this issue in the first chapter of 3 John.  
Are there other steps we should add to this list?  Something that has been helpful for you when confronting someone else – or being confronted yourself?  
Melani also writes:  
I had a friend who had her own parenting ways and she consistently compared her parenting to mine, and we couldn’t agree to disagree. I have felt she was judging me and basically because I don’t share in the same parenting as she does, then I am less then. 
It’s important to distinguish between a personal preference and something sinful.  I really am not fond of evangelists who stand on a street corner with a bull horn to get people’s attention.  I couldn’t/wouldn’t do that, personally.  But it would be wrong of me to judge them and confront them (depending on whether or not their message was in keeping with the Gospel, of course) based on that difference of preference.  I don’t think their actions are sinful, even if I don’t care for them.
Parenting is another area with lots of areas where differences in preference or practice can cause lots of friction.  Your friend may be trying to help, but if it’s just a matter of preference, then judgment shouldn’t be involved.  Of course, if your friend isn’t a Christian, then you shouldn’t necessarily be surprised if they judge harshly rather than trying to judge in love.  At times, the inability or unwillingness to accept someone else’s approach to something (when that approach does not violate Biblical principles or admonitions) is evidence of uncertainty on their own part.  It’s easy to judge just to make ourselves feel more secure.  That’s certainly not what we are called to as Christians!
If it’s a non-Christian who has approached you in judgment, take that into account.  I’d still encourage you to go through the steps listed out above.  Seeing something that might be harmful in someone else is not the exclusive ability or gift of God’s people.  You may have a good friend who is a Buddhist, or a Muslim, or a Hindu, or an atheist.  Take their words just as seriously as if a Christian brother or sister was bringing it to your attention.  
Melani continues:
I know I judge people, but I really try not to, who am I? I am not the judge and jury in anyone’s life. 
Again, there’s a difference between pointing out to a fellow-Christian a legitimate concern that they are acting in a sinful way, and deciding that the person is no-good and won’t ever be any good and ought to be just written off.   Paul makes a strong statement at the end of 1Corinthians 5:13 about “expelling” the wicked person from among you.  However, this is not meant as a final judgment, but rather the last step in trying to show someone how seriously they have departed from God’s Word in their life.  The goal is always that the person would see the error of their way, perhaps through the shock of being expelled from a Christian community/congregation, and come to their senses and change their behavior.  1Corinthians 5:12-13 makes it clear that we have every right to question (in an appropriate and loving way) when a brother or sister in Christ acts in a way that is not consistent with the faith they proclaim in Jesus Christ.  We are not just allowed to judge such issues – we are expected to!  
This is a difficult thing to hear in a culture that equates judgment of any kind with being unloving.  St. Paul would make just the other argument – not judging is being unloving!  Not judging allows someone to continue in a sinful behavior or attitude that might very well eventually endanger their faith in Christ!  Not judging might mean that someone weaker in their faith might see this other person conducting themselves inappropriately and decide that such behavior is allowable to a Christian.  Or they might decide that the community of faith is not truly faithful because they aren’t willing to love someone by confronting them with God’s Word in a loving way.
Melani writes:  I like how you said, keep your own house in order, period!
Yes, we are to keep our own houses in order, so to speak.  However, this does not remove the obligation from us to be loving our brothers and sisters in the faith.  We aren’t being faithful to the Gospel if we do what we’re supposed to in our own life, but allow our Christian brothers and sisters to enter into persistent sin, or to disregard portions of God’s Word so they can live their lives on their terms instead of God’s.  We are Christians, and that is a communal identity, not simply an individual one.  What I may not have communicated well enough is that being a busybody with their noses in everyone else’s business while their own life falls apart is not what Scripture is calling us to be.  We should be judging our own behavior as consistently as we seek judge the behavior of others.  
I pray that others will come to me and be honest when they are concerned about my behavior or words or attitudes.  This is a hard prayer, because there are plenty of places where I need to live my faith more consistently.  But when I am confronted, I pray for the ability to hear in that confrontation the Holy Spirit’s encouragement and challenge.  And I pray for the Spirit’s strength to amend my practices to be each day a better imitation of my Savior.  I pray that in those moments when I need to confront others, I can do so in love, and with strength – the strength to stand by God’s Word, or the strength to admit my confusion or mistakenness and ask for forgiveness if I’ve confronted someone inappropriately.
More thoughts and suggestions, questions, etc?  Thank you Melani for sharing your thoughts – I hope this is helpful in further clarifying what and who I hear the Bible calling us to do and be.

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