Many years ago when I first decided I was going to start attending church with my young son, my first few encounters were rather unpleasant. I can remember being a nervous wreck walking through the ominous doors wondering if my son and I would be met with stares or welcoming arms. I was rather naïve at 22 years of age and believed what I’d always heard: church is for all people, a place of refuge for the broken. It didn’t occur to me that not all churches felt this way. Time after time, I left feeling worse than I did going on. I was met with disapproving eyes when ladies would ask where my husband was as I hung my head, suddenly ashamed that I was a single mother. I would try smaller churches only to feel that I had invaded someone’s family gathering rather than a church service. So then I tried larger churches only to feel like the shy girl who never got asked to dance. For the longest time I didn’t have that warm and fuzzy feeling that I had heard about church. Instead I felt alone, embarrassed, awkward and completely unwelcome.
Thankfully I found a church that was the polar opposite of every previous experience. Complete strangers welcomed me with warm smiles and open arms. My son was ushered into a class with kids his age and a teacher who respected his reluctance to join in for the first few weeks. Not once did someone ask me where my husband was. I was accepted for who I was with no hesitation, no third degree, no shaming glances….no judgment.
Some people are so quick to throw stones and cast judgment that they are driving people away from the church. How is it that one would think their church attendance affords them the right to scrutinize people’s lives? It’s a very poor representation of Christ, which is what we, the body, are supposed to be.
“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (Matt7:1-5 The Message)
Some would say never judge another without knowing the whole story. I would say, don’t judge them even when you do have the facts! “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12 ESV) Thankfully, “judge” is not in our job description. We have sinned just as much as the next guy and our only job as a followers of Christ is to love others like Jesus. He cared for the sick, gave to the poor, provided for a widow and spoke with gentleness to a prostitute. As long as you or I busy ourselves with judging others, we will never be effective in bringing lost souls to Christ. If you are using the Word of God to humiliate or degrade another human being, you’re doing it wrong.