I was reading the results of a survey recently on why people don’t go to church. One of the reasons most often cited is the fear that people in church will judge them.
As a minister of the Gospel I’ll confess to being saddened by such a report. Not because I was shocked but because Satan has been so successful at his deceit to the world. While it is true that some have had an unfortunate experience, this sad perception is also due to popular culture’s stereotype of religious people as being judgmental and “all about no”. If you have ever thought this way, may I have a few moments of your time? I’ll try to be brief.
First, let me apologize for anyone who called himself a Christian (there are many who claim it, but are not) and yet made you feel small, unworthy, or “put in your place”. That’s not Jesus’ way (Matthew 7:1ff). If they have done so deliberately, they themselves have sinned. If they did so accidentally, they need to fix it.
But, second, may I gently suggest that sometimes the feeling of being judged is not coming from any word said or “look” given from a Christian? Sometimes the mere presence of a person trying to do right will prick a guilty conscience. This has happened to me from time to time — I enter into a circle of strangers, I introduce myself as a minister, and before I say a word I am told, “Don’t judge me!” But that is not “judgment”. Please, don’t mistake a painful conscience for judgment from a Christian.
Third, not every suggestion to change your life is really “judgment”. Sometimes it is an offer of the kind of vital help we all need. Jesus Himself called people to change their lives. In the famous story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1ff), we not only hear Jesus saying, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone,” but Jesus is also quoted as gently saying to the woman, “Go and sin no more.” Sin is destructive to others and yourself — in the here and now, and more importantly in the eternal later. There’s a better way to live, God’s way. His are better choices that will heal, reconcile, set things straight, make you a better person and make life better for the people you love most.
Yes, coming to church, being a Christian, will mean that you’ll need to try to change. But we ALL need to try to change. And the change never happens overnight. People in church aren’t perfect, and they know it. We’re all “in process”. The best any of us will be able to “boast” is that 1) we’re better than we used to be and 2) we’re forgiven of our sins by the grace of God. We’re all just trying to do better and encouraging each other to do better.
Dear friend, the wise King Solomon wrote, (Proverbs 9:8, 9) “Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.” Please don’t broad-brush every Christian who offers a correction as a “judgmental hypocrite”. They may actually love you more than anyone else you know. And don’t avoid church; get past the stereotypes, become a Christian, find forgiveness, come to church, and with the rest of us work on a better life (and dare I say a better world?).