Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Judgmentalism Is a Form of Violence



(Pair of Old Testament Prophets, Gabriel Joly, 1530
Detroit Institute of Arts)

"I vividly remember encountering a man who never judged anyone," writes Henri Nouwen in The Road to Peace. (p. 35) 

Are you kidding me? Nouwen met a person who never judged anyone? Amazing!

Then I remembered a man who never judged anyone. We're friends. As soon as I read Nouwen's amazing claim I thought of this friend. I never, in countless hours of dialogue, remember him bad-mouthing anyone. Amazing! Super-natural ("beyond nature").

When Nouwen met the nonjudgmental man he was stunned, and didn't know how to act. He was so used to being around people who are full of opinions of others that he felt lost. "What do you talk about," asked Nouwen, "when you have nobody to discuss or judge?" (Ib.) Ask yourself that question. If you have nothing left to talk about then you are in spiritual trouble.

Slowly, Nouwen discovered that this man did not judge him. Nouwen experienced a freedom in this friendship. He writes: "I realized that I had nothing to defend, nothing to hide, and could be myself in his presence without fear." (Ib.) A new kind of conversation opened up that wasn't based on competing or comparing, but on celebrating what any two Jesus-followers have in common; viz., Christ is us, the hope of glory.

Judgmentalism is a form of violence. It causes damage, and destroys the unity Christ achieved on the cross when he brought down the dividing walls of hostility. (Ephesians 3) Nouwen writes: "Judging others implies that somehow we stand outside of the place where weak, broken, sinful human beings dwell. It is an arrogant and pretentious act that shows blindness not only toward others but also toward ourselves." (Ib., 34)  As Paul writes in Romans 2:1-4:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someon e else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

As Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) we are freed from the heavy burden of judging other people. 

Pray to be free of all violence within.

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My new book iis Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God.