Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Judgments

Author, Ann LaMott says, “You can safely assume you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

In the church one of the more difficult things to do is to pass judgment on something or someone without coming across judgmental. Much of the reason why it’s difficult is because you cannot control how the other person will react. You can have all the pure motivation in the world but it may not stop them from receiving it wrongly. Tension from this kind of interaction can be so strong that it causes many people to shy away from any kind of perceived judgment call. Which at times is understandable but as a whole is unfortunate. Reading Dallas Willard recently reminded me that we cannot give up the important discipline of discerning motives, choices and ramifications of those choices in others to simply avoid being perceived as judgmental. So, how do we talk about the issues without attacking someone’s self-worth? Here’s one thought to keep in mind… Recently Pastor Mike Breaux of Willow Creek Community Church reminded me of what I’ll call the ‘flow of authority’ that is,

Authority
Accountability
Acceptance
Affirmation

When you’re subordinated to someone else you will often be subjected to his/her authority and because of that you will be accountable to provide something. If you provide something then you may be accepted and if you do it long enough you might receive affirmation. (But really, the bottom two are optional in the way it normally works in our society. Even in the church!) Now think about how Jesus viewed subordinates… radically different! In fact for Him, in almost every situation, it worked just the opposite. Initially he affirmed, then accepted, then held people accountable and finally called on their obedience in light of His authority.

So, which way does it flow for you? Do you demand respect because of your authority? Or do you approach it as Jesus did?

What I’ve learned, painfully sometimes, is that in those relationships where I approach people the way Jesus did… in a reverse ‘flow of authority’… I’m much more likely to be able to speak into their lives without hurting them or ostracizing them. It is not easy. It takes practice. It’s tense sometimes. But you will be healthier when you attempt to live in truthful, grace-filled tension because of sound judgments rather than forgoing them altogether. Now, even if you do that well it still wont stop some people from labeling you as judgmental. At that point, all you can do is to commit them to God, love them and not to relegate them to some kind of sub-class of humans that surely God hates. If you’ve already done that then read the Ann LaMott quote again… and start over.

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3 comments:

jtc said...

I have certainly needed the kind of love in my life that loves me just the way I am but also way to much to let me stay that way.

Still, I tend to avoid difficult truths in relationships (specifically with my brothers and sister) because I want to avoid tension and because I want to be "liked" or the "nice guy" however I know that is not real love (just my own insecurity and ego)

I have no authority except in love ... I wonder why I feel sometimes it isn't enough?

snmiw said...

Very good post. I think we all need that reminder at times. People don't care what we know until they know how much we care. I know it is easier for me to take correction from someone who loves me than from someone who has little concern or involvement in my life.

Another good principle: You don't have to prove others wrong to continue on the course you know God has shown you.

jonathan foster said...

Thanks. Good thoughts. We have no authority except through love, so just love people. Love them in truth (so that it's not dysfunctional) and love them in grace (so it's not harsh). Beyond that it's in God's hands.