Few words of Jesus are repeatedly as frequently as the three simple words “do not judge.” This brief phrase is a favorite of many, including plenty of people who are not followers of Jesus. The irony, of course, is that for as often as these words are repeated as an imperative for others to follow, relatively few people seem to hear these words and think, “He’s talking to me.” Indeed, rather than allowing “do not judge” to be a sort of proactive mantra, shaping us into nonjudgmental people as we go through life, many – if not most – of us wield these words as a reactive weapon.
If we fail to hear Jesus speaking to us, however, we miss the heart of the matter. It is incredibly easy to fall into the trap of judging others. We even come up with all kinds of ways to rationalize our judgmental behavior. “I’m just observing the fruit of her life.” “I’m just telling it like it is.” “Facts are facts.” “The Bible is clear about that.” But it doesn’t take long for the practice of judging to shape us into people whose behavior betrays our rationalizations. We can become angry, bitter, and resentful faster than we’d like to admit when finding fault and passing judgment become part of the fabric of our lives.
Jesus seems to realize just how destructive it can be to regularly pass judgment on others. Not only is such judgment self-destructive, it also destroys relationships with others. In order to enjoy the kind of community the Kingdom of God makes possible, therefore, Jesus calls on us to stop judging and to start treating others the way we want to be treated. In the following video, Barbara Brown Taylor offers some confessional thoughts about how easy it can be to get caught up in judging others, as well as a suggestion for how to begin to live into Jesus’s calling to treat others the way we want to be treated.
Questions for Reflection
1. Think of a recent situation in which you became angry with someone because you wanted them to change or be different. What happened as a result of this anger? What might have been different had you simply focused on finding something to appreciate or common ground that you share?
2. Think of a time when you experienced being written off by someone because they wanted to change you or for you to be different. How did this feel? How did this affect your relationship? How did this change (or not change) you?
3. Do you have a close relationship with someone from whom you’re really different? If so, how has your relationship changed the way you relate to other people who are different from you? If not, think of someone in your life you’ve written off because of your differences and commit to letting go of your desire for them to change. Instead, try to build a relationship with them that is characterized by your treating them the way you’d want to be treated.
The Good Life Playlist
If music speaks to your soul, make this playlist–comprised of songs that explore the various themes in the Sermon on the Mount–a part of the soundtrack of your life as we explore together The Good Life Jesus invites us to live.