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Evangelicals: Judgmentalism vs. Love

In the latest issue of Christianity Today, Managing Editor Andy Olsen was commenting about the thousands of responses regarding Mark Galli’s online editorial on Donald Trump’s fitness for office. He said there were many supportive as well as many critical of Galli’s position.

What really shocked Olsen was that some of the negative responses declared that Galli and the magazine were no longer Christians? No longer Christians! How have we arrived at a time when having a different political view was now the new standard of orthodoxy?

I have a seminary degree. I gave my life to Jesus over 50 years ago and I am well aware of the definition of what makes a person a Christian. In case we have forgotten it is one who repents of their sins and trusts in Jesus as their personal savior. Period!

When we start adding things to the definition I just outlined above, then we have nullified grace and the historic, biblical understanding of our faith.

It is no secret that I am not a fan of Donald Trump. But I would never in my wildest dreams say that anyone who loves Trump is no longer in the faith. I would simply acknowledge that two believers have arrived at different political positions. But Trump supporters are still in the family, my family.

One time I commented on a friend’s post about my disagreement with our president, and a dear saint of a lady commented that she hoped I would get saved. Of course I shared my testimony in response, and didn’t hear any argument afterward. But that comment from this woman did take me aback.

Let’s be clear. There is obvious Biblical teaching about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, and yes there are also guidelines for critiquing and correcting errant theological views. But that correcting is done to those in the family, not unbelievers.

A case in point is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3. Paul writes “Dear brothers and sisters, when I was with you I couldn’t talk to you as I would to mature Christians. I had to talk as though you belonged to this world or as though you were infants in the Christian life. I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food, because you couldn’t handle anything stronger. And you still aren’t ready, for you are still controlled by your own sinful desires. You are jealous of one another and quarrel with each other. Doesn’t that prove you are controlled by your own desires? You are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.”

Did you catch that last line: “you are acting like people who don’t belong to the Lord.” Translated that means they are still Christians, even though their behavior is reprehensible. Paul shows us that just because we have wrong views or just different views, he won’t exclude them by saying they are not Christians. So where do we get off judging like that?

You might say, “Don’t we have the right to judge things?” The Bible does give guidelines for proper judging. But what I am talking about is judgmentalism. My definition of this word is “declaring an opinion about someone in which you have no business commenting.” Almost always the idea of moral superiority is reflected in judgmentalism. (See the parable of the Pharisee and the publican in Luke 18:9-14). This is the complete opposite of Biblical Christianity where Jesus talks often about humility and servanthood.

A few years ago a book was published by the Barna Group called unChristian. The authors David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons interviewed people ages sixteen to twenty nine to see what they thought of evangelical Christians. This book was an eye opener. Most often those young people described us as “hypocritical”, “insensitive”, and “judgmental”. Now to be fair you can’t always say those opinions are accurate. But the amount of young people interviewed that shared those beliefs was stunning.

Listen, we should always be different than the world, but different in a good, dare I say, godly way. Unbelievers should look at us and say things like “look how they care for people”; “look at the integrity and work ethic those Christians have”; and especially “look how those followers of Jesus love their God, love each other, and love people not like them”.

In fact love is the gold standard. Loving God and loving others should be the normal activity of our faith. Jesus said in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”

What is at stake is our witness to a lost and dying world that needs to know our savior. Let us be known for being people of love and not judgmentalism. That my friends is a reputation worth having.

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