Hey Friend —
It hurts to be judged. Am I right?
A few years ago, my marriage hit a painful pothole in the road (and by “pothole” I mean one of those swallow-a-VW-Bug-craters).
I loved John, but for a while there I didn’t know if my marriage would make it.
You may remember I wrote some “bare my soul” blog posts. I shared with you, my dear bloggy friends, about our painful season of marriage. “Be warned,” I wrote. “If you see me at Starbucks, I may come unglued.”
Thank God, my marriage made it, with help from Christian friends, a counselor, and mentors. I was bruised and dented, but I—we—were out of the hole—and on the healing path.
Then one day I got a phone call from a Judge-y Judy.
She was the coordinator for an upcoming event I was to speak at, and she and the committee had read my blog. They had some “concerns.” In fact, I was the subject of an “emergency meeting.” Gulp.
(They say don’t shoot the messenger, but what happens if the messenger shoots you?)
“Judy” didn’t say “Is everything okay? We want to check in on you–how can we pray?”
Instead, she pummeled me.
“We strongly question whether you can still teach God’s word.”
“We have concerns about your faith and we doubt your focus is in the right place.”
And, the piece de resistance:
“We are wondering if you should just stay home and work on being a better wife and mother.”
I tried to be gracious, hanging up the phone with my face flaming, the air sucked out of my lungs. I could hardly believe my ears. I felt like she had beaten me with a big ole’ stick. After a season of clinging to my faith and making God-honoring choices for my marriage, this judgment was the last thing I needed.
How about you, sweet friend? Have you ever felt judged, criticized, condemned by others in the church?
I hear lots of stories, so my sense is you probably have too.
Please know I am so, so sorry. That’s not how Christ intended the church to operate. We get out our measuring sticks and evaluate, critique, judge. And, unfortunately, “Judy” is far from the first church lady to whack someone with that thing.
Take the church members in Corinth, for example. From Paul’s letters to them in 1st and 2nd Corinthians, we know they were a splintered, judge-y, pride-puffed group.
They were arrogant, judging everyone who liked different leaders from the one they liked.
“You like that guy? Then you’re clearly a bad, inferior person. What’s wrong with you?”
In 1 Corinthians 4:5, Paul says “…judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes.”
Basically, leave the measuring stick to the only One who can use it with perfect fairness and mercy.
[Note: Paul’s concern for the church in 1 Corinthians 4 is not regarding false teachers, or in other words, when someone is teaching ideas that are not the Truth from God’s Word. Their judgments are being made based on pride and worldly wisdom, not Godly discernment. Big difference.]
At the end of verse 6, Paul says if we do leave the judging to God, we won’t be “puffed up,” or literally “inflated with pride.” (This was a church filled with puffy stick whackers. Paul uses the Greek word for “puffed up” six times in his letter to the Corinthians, and only once elsewhere)
Paul urges the Corinthians (and us) to knock it off.
Stop being puffy.
Put your measuring stick down and slide on your glasses of grace, your lenses of love.
Of course, we should speak the truth in love, as Ephesians 4:15 spurs us to do—in appropriate, God-honoring ways.
Face to face conversations, yes.
Private grace-filled notes of concern, yes.
Verbal flogging on social media, no.
Truth wrapped in grace is a beautiful thing, as I know more than most.
Most of y’all know I wasn’t a believer until I was 26 years old. Before, I was a mess—a single mom, alcohol abuser and cocaine addict. I was teetering on the edge of destruction. God sent me Carole, a woman who figuratively pulled up a chair. She invited me to her home, bought me my first Bible, and paid for my first counseling sessions. She opened the Bible for me, explaining with so much love that I was not making choices that were God’s best for me.
Can you imagine if a Judy had called me, not a Carole?
Shame on you! Shame, shame, shame!
How crushed I would have been—how wounded.
I get it—Judy and her committee were worried that there was sin in my life. They wanted be sure their flock of women heard from a speaker whose life was straight with the Lord.
But I wish they had put down the ruler. I wish they would have pulled up a chair and asked me how I was really doing. To use this hard situation to remind me of God’s unfailing love, and the promise that I was never alone.
There are lots of chances for us to choose a stick or a chair—to be a Judy or a Carole.
Which one will YOU be?
Our choice can make all the difference in the world to our sister. I know this because Carole’s choice to pull up a chair made all the difference to me.