Judge Not? On (In)tolerance & Judgment(al)

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SERIES INTRO:

Christians are often accused of being pompous, arrogant, judgmental, and intolerant.  Often, Christians find their own Scripture being quoted back to them. The most commonly heard verse is:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)

From those leveling these accusations at Christians, there is truth in what they say, but there is also error.

In this series, we’ve been exploring these accusations, and analyzing humility, tolerance, and related ideas from a biblical worldview, and we will end the series by analyzing the much-used (and over-used) passage of Matthew 7:1.

In the previous articles, we concluded:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth in love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

As we come near the end of this series, let’s talk about intolerance and judgment…

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On Being Intolerant & Judgmental

Christians are often accused of being judgmental, intolerant, and unloving. We already discussed how Christians, like everyone, are imperfect and things like arrogance and unloving behavior are not a Christian problem – or even a religious problem – but a human problem. On the other hand, I’m by no means letting Christians who do unloving things off the hook. As I said before: they should know better.

Also, we’ve already discussed how all Christians should speak truth in love. This is a matter of tension between Christianity and other worldviews. Simply put, Christians speak what they believe to be true and others don’t like it.  But it’s important to point out that often this conflict between Christianity and others is not just a question of what is true, but what is love.

God is Love. God is Truth.

Christians are not post-modernists or relativists. We believe the all-knowing Creator of the universe has made himself known, and true reality can be known through him and the “renewing of the mind” (Romans 12:2), which only comes through the Holy Spirit. As finite beings, our knowledge is limited, but if an omnipresent, omniscient being reveals truth to us, we can trust that truth. God is love, but God is also the ultimate truth.  Yet often we embrace one and not the other.

For instance, some friends and I were having a friendly on-line debate about traditional vs. untraditional ideas of marriage, and another friend chimed in, simply writing, “God is love,” as if this settled the argument. I replied that his statement wasn’t as simple as it seemed!

What I meant was this: Does love mean indiscriminatingly accepting everything about a person? Let me ask it another way: Is it loving for parents to express disapproval when their children make unwise decisions? Is it loving for a friend to speak up against something harmful a friend is be doing? I would argue that, as parents and friends, often the loving thing to do is to disapprove of harmful choices and point those we care about towards the wiser path.

Speaking truth in love does not mean indiscriminatingly accepting everything another person chooses to do. Likewise, to withhold the truth because of “love” is not being loving at all.

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Lovingly Disagreeing

So, what this comes down to is this: At times, Christians are going to speak truth that others don’t like, but it does not mean it comes from a place of hate. Yes, others have the right to disagree about the truth expressed by Christians, but it’s inaccurate, lazy, and even at times deliberately dishonest to accuse Christians of being unloving for simply speaking what they believe is truth.

The tendency of those who don’t agree with the Christian worldview to accuse Christians of being unloving for simply speaking truth is tiring. Let’s be honest, the Christian worldview is counter-cultural in a lot of ways (at least where I live and compared to the worldview portrayed in popular entertainment and media). So, Christians are going to come into conflict with some popular opinions and beliefs. It’s inevitable.

The question is this:

Can you disagree with a friend and not be arrogant or pompous about it?

Yes.

Can a Christian disagree with a popular opinion and not be arrogant and pompous about it?

Yes.

Can you disagree with a friend and still love that person?

Yes.

Can Christians disagree with a current, popular opinions and still be loving?

Yes.

Let’s put it another way:

Does “I disagree with you” mean “I hate you”?

Of course not.

Disagreement does not equal hate.

If it were the case that disagreement meant hatred, no marriage would have any hope of lasting past the first week. In fact, no relationship would lead to marriage nor would any friendship last!

Yet, this is often how disagreement is portrayed – as hate.

Despite what some want you to believe, disagreement can be because of love, and disagreement can be given in a loving way. (But, chances are, those who don’t want to hear the truth will still not understand it to be loving.)

Intolerant Tolerance

It has been my experience that those screaming the loudest that Christians are judgmental or intolerant don’t really understand what those words mean.

Either that or they’re shrewdly manipulating the meaning of the words because, as George Orwell taught us long ago, if you can manipulate words, you can manipulate minds.

If this is the intention of some, then their efforts have been largely successful.

“Judgmental” is a word nearly universally considered to have negative connotations nowadays. To be labeled judgmental is almost on the same level as being labeled a bigot or racist, implying (once again) that judgment equals hate.

Unfortunately, there is some truth in this idea, and I see it increasing steadily within our lifetime, I think, because of this dangerous assumption. Many people believe that disagreement with another means that they must hate that person also. Likewise, if someone (X) tells someone else (Z) that he is wrong, then Z assumes X hates him.

What I find most troubling is that this mindset leads many to wrongly think we can’t just disagree; people must go further and condemn the person as a whole for their beliefs. Instead of saying, “I strongly disagree with your views and here’s why…” we say things like “You’re an idiot for thinking that” or other name-calling.

Now, that is the definition of “intolerance.”

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Christian Worldview in Secular Culture

Perhaps in other worldviews, this behavior can be justified, but as we discussed before, Christians must flee from falling into this trap themselves, not just because it’s destructive, but because our Lord commands it.

There is no place for this in the Christian worldview. Reducing someone to below you because they have a different view than you is denying that he or she is an image-bearer of God. It’s dehumanizing, no matter how sure one feels the other person’s views are wrong.

On the other hand, I’ve also witnessed Christians abused by this sort of behavior. Christian values are going to bring them into conflict with popular culture concerning many things, including sex, sexuality, abortion, right-to-life issues, and the exclusivist religious claims of Christianity. And because of this, Christians have been called bigots, close-minded, judgmental, intolerant, stupid, and worse.

“Tolerance” is respecting those you disagree with. That is the very definition of tolerance. Tolerance is not blindly affirming every opinion every person holds. Such mentality only leads to absurdity and chaos because differing opinions contradict each other, and where there are contradictions, everyone cannot be right.

Often when someone starts throwing around the intolerance accusations, what they’re really saying is “I don’t like your opinion,” and instead of respectfully opening a dialogue with the other person, they simply label that person bigoted or stupid.

Disagreement doesn’t make one intolerant. Dehumanizing someone through name-calling and refusing to respectfully consider their views is intolerant.

* * *

In the 6th and final part of this series, we’ll continue from right here and look closely at the famous verse:

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt. 7:1)

But for now, that brings us to Concept #5:

CONCEPT #1: All people are image-bearers of God and have eternal worth.

CONCEPT #2: No Christian has earned his or her salvation, so no Christian has a reason to be pompous or arrogant.

CONCEPT #3: All Christians must always speak truth with love.

CONCEPT #4: Like everyone, Christians are imperfect.

CONCEPT #5: Disagreement is not intolerance or hate.

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GOD FROM THE MACHINE has published it’s first book! Searching the Bible for Mother God is for educating and evangelizing those in the growing “Mother God cult.” Visit our page here.

**Read PART 1 of “Judge Not? Human Worth” here.**

**Read PART 2 of “Judge Not? Christian Humility” here.**

**Read PART 3 of “Judge Not? Truth in Love” here.**

**Read PART 4 of “Judge Not? On Christian Arrogance” here.**

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