As I sat and considered my reflexive response of judgment on my friend, I realized that—if I’m honest with myself—I tend to judge people in many different ways. Sometimes the ways I judge others are much more subtle, but no less destructive.
For example, if I were asked by my unbelieving neighbor how I was feeling, I might tell him I was doing OK, even if I knew that my prayer life was kinda dry at the moment and I was struggling with a few temptations in my life. I would hold back from sharing those “spiritual” things with him because I have judged that he is “unsaved” and therefore “unspiritual.”
If my good Christian friend were to ask me the same question, I would probably share with him about my struggles with prayer time or temptation. Why? Because I have judged that he is “saved” and therefore that he is “spiritual..”
But who am I to judge who is “saved” or “unsaved”? According to Scripture, there is but one Judge of Men, and here’s a hint … it ain’t me or you. It’s God Almighty.
When we judge people as being “saved” or “unsaved” and then proceed to treat them differently according to that judgment, I believe we’re subverting the Gospel itself.
Just for a second, imagine what would happen in the above example if I were to talk to my “unsaved” neighbor openly about my spiritual struggles in an equally natural way as I would with my “saved” brother? Wouldn’t that be an interesting way to introduce Jesus into that conversation? How could that be a bad thing?
Not only are we not supposed to judge others, we’re pretty bad at it.
Let’s say I had one neighbor on my left who frequently got arrested for various crimes every other week. Suppose that guy hung around with other criminals. What if he were finally arrested and sentenced to death for his crimes?
I’d probably conclude that guy was a “sinner” and that he got what he deserved for living such an ungodly life. Now let’s say I had another neighbor on my right who went to church every time the doors were opened. He was a leader in the church, and the community recognized him as an honest, godly man.
I’d probably conclude that he was “saved” and that he would certainly make it to heaven before I did. Now, according to Scripture, I’d be dead wrong.
The neighbor on my left corresponds to the thief on the cross. That “sinner” who lived a life of total rebellion and was executed for his crimes actually had the unbelievable good fortune of being put to death on the same day as the Son of the Living God and was forgiven and welcomed into the kingdom of heaven with open arms.
The “good” neighbor on my right corresponds with the “rich young ruler” who approached Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus gave him one thing to do, “Sell all that you have and give it to the poor and follow me,” and the guy turned around and walked away from Jesus. As far as we know, he never made it into the kingdom.
Either way, the point is that we are not the judge of the eternal destiny of men and women. Even if someone declares that they love Jesus with all their heart, we do not “know” for certain either way, and that’s totally OK.
I think what I’m getting at is that we’re not called to treat people one way if we deem them to be “saved” and to treat people another way if we conclude that they are “lost.” Instead, why don’t we love everyone just the same, no matter what they’ve done or how they appear on the outside?
"If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. – Luke 6:32-35
[Keith Giles actually has a very weak grasp of reality and often talks to himself in the bathroom mirror. He’s currently writing his own original sci-fi novel and writing a book about his time in the wilderness. Visit his blog at http://subversive1.blogspot.com.]