Tuesday, August 05, 2008

On being judgmental

I caught the tail-end of Highland Radio’s interview with Pastor Trevor Russell and Gareth Hayes of Letterkenny Christian Fellowship about their beliefs. I thought they did a good job of explaining and defending their faith, and supporting their answers from the Bible.

Having touched on a number of hot potatoes, the interviewer kept coming back to the claim that their Christianity made them judgmental.

It’s a claim often thrown at Christians—and sometimes justly. Christians can be guilty of looking down their noses at others—which is often what is meant by ‘judgmental’—and that is indefensibly wrong.

But that is different from what these guys were doing in expressing their standards of right and wrong. We all have standards of what we think is right and wrong—in that sense we are all judgmental.

However there is difference between having standards, and looking down your nose at those who don’t hold to the same standard. One does not necessarily follow the other. And in some cases a person feels ‘judged’ simply because another holds or expresses a different standard. We need to stop being such moral crybabies and have the courage of convictions, and enter into robust discussion as to the basis of our convictions.

The issue is not “Is Christianity judgmental”—for we all are—but “On what basis do we make our value judgments?”

This was clear in the interview. The interviewer clearly disapproved strongly of Christian beliefs which led to strong opinions about right and wrong. Let me say that again: He had a strong opinion/judgment about those who had strong opinions/judgments.

Do you see the irony? His own belief system made him equally judgmental to those who didn’t agree with him.

Christians hold to a defined standard of right and wrong set down by God. It is not arbitrary; it is fixed and universal because God is unchanging and universal. As creator he has the right to rule. But if you don’t have God, where do you get your standard of right and wrong from? It’s simply left to the prevailing climate of opinion which changes from place to place. Without a fixed standard it becomes an arbitrary matter of opinion, and why should one opinion be better than another?

The genuine Christian has a reason for what he believes and how he lives. He is seeking to be consistent with what he believes.

He knows that he is a sinner who can’t earn acceptance with God—so he has no reason to be proud of how he lives or to look down on others. He lives the way he lives because someone has paid for his sin, and because he takes sin seriously he wants to avoid it out of love for the one who paid for his sin. He knows the mess sin makes for others and the judgment that awaits them and so he wants to lovingly warn them that standards are not a matter of opinion, but that there is a God who judges.

And therein perhaps lies the crux of the issue—we don’t like the idea of a God who judges. And we don’t like being reminded of his fixed standards. Yet our only hope lies in a God who judges. If he turns a blind eye to sin then Heaven will be Hell. But instead he offers to judge Jesus in our place. Our only hope is to come to terms with the God who judges, and to ask that Jesus be judged and not us.

1 comment:

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