In her book Live Your Truth and Other Lies: Exposing Popular Deceptions That Make Us Anxious, Exhausted, and Self-Obsessed, apologist Alisa Childers breaks down widespread mantras of culture and their consequences. One of these is a misunderstanding of Jesus’ words so common that, for many, it may be the 11th commandment that supplants the other ten: “You shouldn’t judge.”
Over the last 60 years, studies have confirmed that Americans have become more tolerant of alternative sexual lifestyles, non-traditional beliefs about God, and certain political identifications, such as Communism. According to the most recent State of Theology report from Ligonier Ministries and LifeWay Research, some 56% of self-described Evangelicals believe that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” Upon closer examination, this shift has far more to do with losing convictions in these areas than with gaining tolerance.
In fact, accepting the “do not judge ethos” has been a primary corrosive agent to those convictions, and this is what Childers addresses in her new book. In addition to identifying the obvious contradiction in saying “it is wrong to judge,” which is itself a judgment, she reminds Christians what Jesus’ words mean in context.
[J]ust after saying, “Judge not,” Jesus lets his audience know that when they judge, they should be very careful to make sure their judgment isn’t hypocritical. “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye,” Jesus instructs in verse 5. In other words, don’t point out a sin in your brother’s or sister’s life before you confront the bigger sin in your own. But the whole point is to help your brother or sister take the speck out of their own eye, which requires you to judge that it’s there. … If there is still any confusion, just a few verses later, Jesus tells us to recognize wolves, or false teachers, by their fruit (verses 15-16). Again, this requires us to judge whether these teachers are speaking truth or deception. Then, in John 7:24, Jesus couldn’t say it more plainly. He directs his listeners to “not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”
The point of these verses, she concludes, is not to prevent moral discernment, but to help believers instead judge “carefully, rightly, humbly, and without hypocrisy.” Childers then offers a powerful illustration from her time with ZOEgirl, when her struggle with body image eventually led to a secret eating disorder of binging and purging.
On some tour in some town somewhere, I shared a hotel room with one of my bandmates. She is a sweetheart — gentle, deeply intelligent, and thoughtful … She was also a natural peacemaker, and confrontation did not come easily to her. So when she worked up every last bit of courage to ask me what I was doing in the bathroom, it surprised me. And it also made me angry. To put it lightly, the conversation didn’t go well. I not so politely invited her to stop “judging” me and back all the way off. That didn’t stop her …
Looking back, am I thankful that my bandmate “judged” me? That she dared confront me about the self-harm I was guilty of? Absolutely! She was the catalyst that first brought the darkness into the light. To this day my eyes mist with tears when I think about how much she loved me to do such a difficult thing.
Childers’ example not only calls Christians to do similarly difficult but right things, it reveals the consequences of relativism when lived in the real world. What begins as a desire to not judge others turns into the narcissistic demand that no one, under any circumstances, judge us. But that also renders healing and forgiveness impossible. After all, with no way to say that we’ve been wronged, neither is there means or reason to forgive those who harm us. Any culture that rejects objective morality lacks any way to counter evil.
Alisa Childers’ book reclaims truth from the empty slogans that dominate our culture and our thinking. This August, for a gift of any amount to the Colson Center, we’ll send you a copy of Live Your Truth and Other Lies. Just go to breakpoint.org/give to learn more.
Originally published at BreakPoint.
John Stonestreet serves as president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He’s a sought-after author and speaker on areas of faith and culture, theology, worldview, education and apologetics.
Kasey Leander is a Fellow with the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA). Prior to his time at OCCA, Kasey earned an undergraduate degree in history and PPE (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics) from Taylor University. While at Taylor, Kasey served in various ministry roles on campus and was active in student government. He has also worked briefly in politics, serving as an intern in the US Senate in Washington, DC.