Judgmental Jesus, Part 2

Last time I said that Jesus was the most judgmental person I know.  I stand by that.  I stand by the assertion that Jesus was always “judging” the people He interacted with, that is, He was always identifying certain behaviors as wrong and challenging those who indulged or were trapped in those behaviors to stop or escape them.  The idea that Jesus was not “judgmental” in this sense, that Jesus allowed people to do whatever they wanted to do without comment or thought, is ludicrous.  He most obviously did not.  While He may not have been critical (that is, making caustic value judgments about people), He most certainly was challenging (that is, He made correct moral judgments about what was right and wrong, what should or should not be done).

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What I didn’t say last time was why Jesus was so judgmental.  In the video I posted, Jordan Peterson says that judgment is a natural result of having an ideal, that “you can’t have an ideal without being a judge”.

This is certainly true.  We see its truth in every ideal our society (believing or otherwise) holds.  If, for example, equality is your ideal, then racism, sexism, and classism are all wrong.  They are absolutely and unequivocally wrong.   So are a dozen other -isms, and even a few phobias.  Jesus had ideals as well.  He had at least one great ideal which He called “the kingdom of God”.

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And, according to the logic Peterson lays out, Jesus’ having that ideal naturally resulted in His making judgments, His judging anything which was anti-Kingdom of God (or, as I like to put it, not-Kingdom) as being wrong, as being something which should not be done.

But that logical reason is not the only reason Jesus was so judgmental/made so many judgments/challenged so many people.  There is another reason, one that is perhaps an even greater reason, one which was perhaps even closer to His heart.  That is the fact that sin (that is, anything which is not-Kingdom, anything which Jesus judged against), is harmful.

I believe this fact is stated repeatedly in Scripture, both directly and indirectly.  One perfect direct statement of this fact is found in James 1:15:

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And there are dozens beside that one.  This fact has also been stated, though, outside the Bible as well.  My favorite extra-biblical statement of this fact comes from Benjamin Franklin.  He said:

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I have given a lot of thought to this idea, and I find it to be true.  There is no sin I can think of that doesn’t hurt someone in some way.   There is, in other words, no such thing as a harmless sin.  The sins we commit always hurt someone else.  They always hurt us as well.  It doesn’t matter if we get away with it (there really is no such thing as getting away with sin, in fact).  It doesn’t matter if we get other people to accept it.  It always hurts us and someone else.

A quick analogy:  let’s say I decide I am only going to eat Twinkies from now on.  No more protein or fiber.  No more meat or vegetables.  Just Twinkies.  You try to tell me this is not healthy; you “judge” my Twinkie diet, in other words.  I may respond to this in two ways.  I may crawl away and eat my Twinkies in secret.  I may also scream at you until you give in and just don’t talk about my Twinkie diet anymore.  In either case, I get what I want; I eat my Twinkies.  But in either case I also suffer.   Whether I hide it from your objections or silence your objections, eating nothing but Twinkies will eventually catch up to me.  I’ll become sick, maybe even die.

It is the same with sin.  It always has a cost.  It always has a price.  It always kills in the end.

And Jesus would accept or endorse or give a pass to that.  Jesus, if He were the loving, caring, compassionate individual we’ve been told He is, would not accept or endorse or give a pass to that which hurts others and hurts self.  Jesus, if He were the loving, caring, compassionate individual we’ve been told He is, would identify such a hurtful thing and try to eliminate it.  To silently watch as someone drives off a cliff (or kills themselves with Twinkies or whichever analogy you like) is not love, care, or compassion.  I don’t know what it is, but it is none of those things.

And it was not the way of Jesus.  Jesus did judge.  He judged because He was indeed loving, caring, and compassionate.  He judged that which hurt us.  And He was right to do so.

Striving To Be Honest

I was raised by the TV as much as I was raised by the church.  Maybe that’s for better.  Maybe it’s for worse.  I don’t know.  All I do know is that I was not only entertained by the TV but educated by the TV.  I learned from the TV.  The TV taught me ways of behaving and ways of thinking.

One thing the TV taught me was to not be too critical of people who were doing their best.  I learned this from an episode of the 80s sitcom Diff’rent Strokes.  In this episode (which I saw who knows when or where; I certainly can’t remember those details), Arnold is upset when he discovers his school teacher works nights at a men’s club.  The teacher addresses this with a short speech in class in which she tells the students about Diogenes searching for honest men and women with a lantern.  She suggests that Diogenes would have been better served to search for someone “striving to be honest”.  It’s been decades since I saw that episode, and while I forgot most of the details (like Diogenes’ name), I never forgot the basic idea.  I also managed to track it down.  You can see the speech in question at the 27:37 mark (sorry I couldn’t time stamp it for you; WordPress apparently doesn’t allow time stamping on DailyMotion videos, and that’s the only place I could find that episode).


Now that is certainly an uninspired source.  And it might even be a shallow or silly or stupid source.  But I still think the idea is good.  I think it is true that we should evaluate people not on what they are but on what they are trying to be.

And I think that idea also contributes to this popular notion of the church or Christians being hypocritical.  It is true that Christians are or at least can be hypocritical at times.  It is true that there is hypocrisy in the church.  It was that way from the beginning.  The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 2 that Peter fell into hypocrisy and brought Barnabas into that hypocrisy  with him.  And that’s just one example of many.  If you want to be Diogenes, if you want to search the church with a lantern, you will find hypocrisy.

But there is not only one type of hypocrisy.  There is actually two.  There is the hard or intentional hypocrisy, the hypocrisy in which someone purposefully practices something different than they preach.  And there is the soft or accidentally hypocrisy, the hypocrisy into which someone falls because they are weak.  Arnold’s teacher is an example of the second kind.  So is Peter.  And so is much of the purported hypocrisy in the church.  Do we have people in the church failing to live up to the standards they proclaim?  Yes we do.  But we also have people in the church striving to live up to the standards they proclaim.  Should we be Diogenes to those people?  Should we look down on those who strive and fail?  Arnold’s teacher didn’t think so.  She thought there was something good about those people despite their failures, that those people ought to be understood, accepted, maybe even commended.  I agree, and I’m willing to live that way.  If you are striving, I won’t be Diogenes to you; I won’t search you too close or judge you too harshly.  Any chance you could do the same for me and my spiritual family?