When was the last time you heard someone say, “Don’t judge me!” when someone simply disagreed with what they were saying? Or, “Only God can judge me!” Being “judgy” has become a really negative term in our day and retorts like these are almost a high card for disagreements. One of these gets blurted out it’s the end of the conversation. If you are accused of being judgmental it is certainly not a compliment. Usually, if someone calls you judgmental that means they’re calling you closed-minded, insensitive, selfish, and maybe just an all-around jerk.
It’s almost to the point where we cannot make strong stances or even be mildly critical of anyone around us without otherwise becoming judgmental of people, too. Many of us would probably rather keep our mouths closed and not say anything at all! And that’s unfortunate because I think that’s part of the reason we are where we’re at in our culture today. Here are two things to consider the next time you find yourself in a disagreement of any sort.
1, Most opinions are equal in value, but not necessarily truth.
Everyone has the right to an opinion. However, just because you have the right to an opinion, doesn’t make you automatically right! It’s funny, because we’ve made “judgmental” into such a negative term, but if you think about it, it’s almost impossible to not be judgmental at all. And I mean this in the best way because even calling another person judgmental can be judgmental even of itself! It creates a double standard that no one can live up to and creates a fear and anxiety to disagree. But we cannot let this get in the way of forming deep relationships with other people.
But what about Jesus? Where did he stand on this issue? After all, he’s the one who said, “do not judge or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1-6)? Yes, Jesus did say that and it is often used as ammunition or defense when we disagree with one another. However, I think what Jesus was condemning in these types of verses was a particular kind of judgmental attitude, not disagreement itself. In that verse, in particular, he was speaking against the hypocrisy of people who “judge” others without looking in the mirror first. Jesus accepted and befriended people where they were at, but he was also active in calling people to a higher standard of living. I think there is room for both. Jesus saw people by their potential and inherent value, not how wrong or right they were. I think our relationships can take something from this while also forcing us to live more reflectively of our own positions on things.
2. You don’t have to like everyone, but you do have to respect them.
In a way, this builds off of point number one but it is different in that it brings us out of our comfort zones of friends who think, vote, live, and vacation in the same way we do. In fact, we don’t have to like everyone, but we could learn to like them if we gave ourselves permission to respectfully disagree. We’re not called to like everyone; we are called to love everyone, and that is a big difference that goes deeper than simply feelings. Think about it, sometimes a disagreement could be the most loving thing you could engage in with someone. Again, it is seeing people by their value and not their specific opinions or actions.
As followers of Jesus, we could do a much better job at this, especially at engaging and relating to those who do not call themselves followers of Jesus. It was Paul who said, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside” (1 Corinthians 5:12). There’s that nasty word again: “judge.” It seems Paul was on board, too. We’re to hold one another accountable and not be hypocritical as followers of Jesus, but we’re also called to respect everyone regardless of where they come from or what they believe and not impose those things on people who don’t see things the same way we do. We may not like everyone, but we do have to respect everyone and make our peace with the fact they are where they are. That doesn’t mean we affirm white supremacists or drug and sex traffickers, but we love them the best we can to expose their crooked ways and disagree in a way they could, potentially, hear what we say and change their hearts.