We’ve noted that God does want us to speak to people about Christ and that there are many barriers to our doing so. In this series of posts, we are seeking to face these barriers gently but honestly in hopes of reducing them so that we may be ready and willing to speak when God gives us the opportunity.
In former days, society created a barrier to speaking by saying no one should talk about religion or politics because these are volatile subjects that lead to arguments. We seem to have moved on from the “do not talk about” part of this, but we have not gotten over the arguing. Social media has foster an illusion of anonymity and the perceived protection of at-home privacy, and people today are talking about these topics again. Unfortunately, though, many folks also feel free to say whatever they think and are not concerned to say it respectfully. Although there is some religious monologuing going on, I’m not sure there is much dialog, and I’m not sure the talk that is taking place is healthy communication. This may well be the latest example of “bad experiences and methods” to come along (see previous post).
Yesterday’s rule against speaking about religion and politics has now been replaced by a more specific “rule” that often hinders us from speaking about Christ. It is the axiom of “do not judge.” This rule is widely accepted, though it is also widely broken. The do not judge card is often played by people who are engaging in behaviors that do not have the broad approval of others. It is also played by people who may perceive someone else thinks they need to make changes in their lives. On the other hand, it is also played by sincere people who honestly don’t want to be guilty of judging. The latter play the do not judge card on themselves and avoid saying anything that might be construed by others as judgmental.
Have you thought through society’s “do not judge” mantra? It sounds Christian, so we may accept it without examining it. We need to realize, though, that it is not because of Christ that society is forbidding judging. Many people who say we should not judge do not make any claim to follow Christ. That should tip us off to the fact that what they mean when they forbid judging may not be the same thing that Christ and the rest of Scripture forbid. It is true that there is a kind of judging that Christ and Scripture forbids (Matthew 7:1), but there is also a kind of judging that we are supposed to do (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 5:3, 12; Galatians 6:1). The kinds of judging forbidden by Christ and society are not the same thing. Christ followers cannot fully accept society’s prohibition against judging.
Not surprisingly, though, a good number of people have applied the rule against judging to talking to others about Christ. They say that to talk to others about Christ is tantamount to judging them. It does not surprise me that non-Christians would do this, but now even many believers feel the same way. I was surprised to read that 27% of practicing Christians believe it is wrong to share their religious beliefs with people of other faiths in hopes that they will come to share their faith. Among young adult practicing Christians, 47% believe it is wrong to do so. (Reviving Evangelism, from the Barna Research Group, 2019, p. 46).
So, is it judging to share your faith with someone in hopes that they will come to share it?
On the surface, talking to others about Christ is not judging at all. The most appropriate form for communicating Christ to others is telling good news (that’s the meaning of the English word evangelism). The form is not “state a judgment.” Rather, it is “tell good news.” If the government decides to send everyone economic stimulus checks and I share this good news with others, am I judging them? If I also tell them they have to deposit their check into their account in order to receive its benefits, am I then judging? Admittedly, in a society as sensitive as ours seems to be today, some may well take offense at this or just about anything. But again, as Christ-followers, we are only seeking to avoid the kind of judging the Scripture forbids, not the kind society rails against.
To be fair, however, not everyone who talks about Christ uses the form of telling good news. If we shame or pressure people, take on an air of superiority or force our conclusions on people, we are not telling good news. When we approach people this way, we may be guilty of the judgmental attitude Jesus was prohibiting. In that case, however, we are back to the matter of using bad methods and approaches that we discussed in the previous post. These are not healthy ways of telling the good news of Christ. So yes, we do need to evaluate whether our approach to talking about Christ is a matter of telling good news. But if truly is, we are not judging.
I also understand that there are differences between reporting on a decision of the government and telling the Christian message. What God did in Christ is indeed good news and should be told as such, but that good news addresses people’s will (volition), and there are also moral implications. Jesus himself was clear that not everyone would want to hear his good news. Indeed, some will be offended by it. When people take offense, however, it is not a matter of our judging them. Instead, they are judging themselves. Listen to the Scripture:
Verse 46 states plainly that their rejection was a matter of them judging themselves unworthy of eternal life. They might not agree with this, of course, but since our loyalty is to the Lord we do agree with what his word says. So, when we tell the good news, we are not judging people, although they may judge themselves by their response.
Finally, one might argue that telling the good news to someone is judgmental because it makes the assumption that the person is not a Christ. I’m not sure that is the case, as long as we avoid the above mentioned judgmental attitudes. For one thing, many non-Christians have no desire to be considered Christians and so they wouldn’t think it judgmental for us to imply or even say as much. Besides, you don’t really have to decide whether a person is a Christian before you tell them the good news. In the past, I have tried to determine this in advance, but I now believe it is better to just focus on telling the gospel. Just have conversations with people, and if you get the opportunity, tell the good news, remembering not to do it in a condescending way. If the person you are talking to is already a Christian, it won’t hurt them to hear it again. They be encouraged by or gain clarity about it. They may then share something about the gospel that we can learn from as well. But perhaps most importantly, if it turns out they are not a Christian, they will have gotten a chance to hear the good news.
Don’t let society’s “rule” against judging cause you to avoid speaking about Christ. Much of what they might consider judging isn’t judging in God’s eyes. Besides, we follow the teachings of Christ, not the rules of society. And Christ clearly wants us to speak.