Why Christians Fail at ‘Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged’


An article about, of all things, a Valentine’s Day commercial reminded me how quick we Christians can be at judging what others do in an un-Biblical way, despite the instruction to “Judge not lest ye be judged.” I think I know why.

I saw a short mention on TIME magazine of what it called “the most romantic Valentine’s Day commercial you’ll see” this Valentine’s Day. It’s a German commercial for Schwarzkopf Nectra Color hair care in which a young couple in love is shown enjoying life together, as the man explains the reasons he loves her. Throughout the spot, we see images of the man working in a garden. By the end of the spot, the woman wakes up and notices the man is gone, she goes to the window and finds him in the garden where flowers have grown up to form a message.

Here’s the extended version of the commercial:

A Christian acquaintance’s first and only response to the notion was to question whether a guy proposing to a girl after having lived together is really romantic.

Yes, I get it: sex outside of marriage is, according to the Bible, sinful. I’m perfectly aware of that, and in pointing out the article and its appraisal of the level of romance the spot conveys, it wasn’t my intention to argue whether sex outside of marriage was right. And because the ad was made in Germany and European standards are somewhat different than ours, that has to be part of the equation as well.

Still, it’s a spot about a couple in love, and I can’t help but see a certain sweetness in the ad. Even though I’m a Christian, and have been for 30 years, I can appreciate the romance depicted, even if, compared to God’s stated wish for couples, they happened to get the sex and marriage out of order in their timeline.

Is it right for me to look at the situation and ignore the “right” decision they’re making and focus solely on the “wrong” decision they already made?

It’s too easy for us Christians to ignore any and all beauty in a situation where something sinful has been present and focus entirely on the sin itself…even when a step is being taken to rectify the sin.

Judge not lest ye be judged.

Matthew 7:1 is one of the best known verses of the Bible, even among non-believers, because it tells us that if we criticize, we’ll be criticized, that God will hold us to the same accountability to which we hold others when we put ourselves in God’s role of judgment.

The Bible doesn’t say that we aren’t to make value judgments. Consider Amos 5:14-15:

Seek good and not evil, that you may live;
And thus may the Lord God of hosts be with you,
Just as you have said!

Hate evil, love good,
And establish justice in the gate!
Perhaps the Lord God of hosts
May be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

There’s no way to seek good over evil if we aren’t making a judgement to determine what is good or evil.

But there are different kinds of judging. Jesus Himself interrupted a certain kind of judging in the famous story of the woman caught in the act of adultery. The woman was guilty: she was caught in the act. The law was clear: the penalty called for was stoning. So why did Christ stop the mob who was ready to carry out the sentence?

Perhaps it was that to the people so eager to put her to death, it wasn’t about justice, about her, or anyone who might benefit from seeing the example of her punishment: it was about their perceived superiority over someone they obviously considered inferior.

A friend of mine preached this message a few years ago and pointed out one of those fine details that is so easily missed in the storytelling of the Bible. More than once, as the crowd demanded to know what Jesus wanted done with her, He knelt and began writing things in the sand. Some scholars suggest that what He may have been writing was the list of sins of the accusers rather than of the victim. When you consider that possibility, it gives new meaning to His response to them:

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

Jesus stripped them of that superiority by pointing out their failings.

And I think that’s why we are so quick to fail the judgement test: we forget that we shouldn’t judge other people before we judge ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not perfect. I write on the topic of faith every Friday, but in case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not a pastor, nor am I in any danger of becoming one. I’m not without sin and failings, nor am I in any danger of being able to change that, either.

It’s not that I’m out to excuse the depiction of sin in the ad or pretend that it’s somehow okay. In all honesty, I didn’t even look at it that way. Maybe, as a Christian, I should have immediately latched on to the fact that if they’d been in bed together and then he asked her to marry him, they’re this terrible pair of sinners.

But then I assume that we’re all sinners, and when you do that, it allows you to look for ways to encourage and build up instead of discourage and tear down.

In Philippians 4:8, the apostle Paul tells us that we should be focusing on what’s good:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”

Is it hypocritical of me, a blogger who points out discrepancies in common sense, to suggest we should focus on the good? Well, here at my blog, I do point out mistakes and failings of thoughts and actions, but I also try to provide a common sense solution to those problems. Anyone can criticize; few seem willing to find answers.

The response to the commercial wasn’t about focusing on what was good in the scenario. The response provided no solution. It provided no mention of what was worthy of praise.

What made the spot romantic, from the writer’s point of view, surely was the patience and effort required to make this special proposal happen. What makes the situation positive from a Christian perspective is that the couple in love is getting married.

But let’s look at it a different way: assume for a moment that you’re married to the love of your life. You come home after a day at work: how do you want your spouse to look at you as you walk in the door: as the person of value who he or she wants to spend a lifetime with, or merely the personification of your failures? How would you like to be treated?

How sad it is that we can so easily lose all sight of what’s good so that we can get our criticism in.

the authorPatrick
Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.