Friday, September 06, 2019

Judgmentalism Shuts the Door to Wisdom

(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 an older man, a friend, who never judged anyone. As I read Nouwen's amazing claim I thought of this friend. I never, in countless hours of dialogue, over many years, remember him judging anyone. Yet many came to him for wisdom and counsel. 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 someone 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?

Judgmentalism shuts the door to wisdom. As Christ is formed in us (Galatians 4:19) we are freed from the heavy burden of judging other people. As understanding prevails over judgment we may find people seeking us out for guidance.


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My two books are:

Praying: Reflections on 40 Years of Solitary Conversations with God (May 2016)

Leading the Presence-Driven Church (January 2018)

I co-edited, with Janice Trigg, Encounters with the Holy Spirit.

I am now writing:

How God Changes the Human Heart

Technology and Spiritual Formation

Linda and I plan to co-write our book on Relationships

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