Tuesday, October 30, 2018

TTT #29 We Should Always Go Easy on Judging Others—Or Ourselves

The bulk of this article is taken from the next to last chapter of my as yet unpublished book Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT). The final section of that chapter is included here, but I encourage you to click this link and also read the first three sections of the chapter.
The Case for Kindness
Christians have not always been kind to one another. The Catholic inquisitions of the Middle Ages, in which people designated as heretics were hunted down and executed, are infamous. Enmity and strife between Protestants and Catholics existed from the beginning of the Reformation, and Protestants began killing other Protestants as early as 1527.
Although there have not been religious wars in this country, still among Christian denominations and even within national and local churches often there has been harshness, incivility, and unkindness.
All of this is woefully contradictory to a challenging Biblical admonition: “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Instead of being tough-minded and tender-hearted, too many Christians have too often been tender-minded and hard-hearted.
One of my favorite contemporary Christian authors has written a book titled Generous Orthodoxy. That is a good emphasis when it comes to theology; Christian thinkers need to be accepting and magnanimous rather than being mean-spirited and unkind.
The same is true for Christian believers of all kinds—and for adherents of others religions as well—as we seek to live out our faith. We need to be generous and open-minded in our evaluation of others rather than being critical and judgmental.
In a recent translation, 1 Peter 3:8 admonishes, “Be agreeable, be sympathetic, be loving, be compassionate, be humble. That goes for all of you, no exceptions.” These are good words to consider, and hard words to put into practice consistently.
But when we are tempted to say, or even think, critical words about other people, we need to recall this injunction to be sympathetic, loving, and compassionate.
When I was a freshman in college, I bought a little book titled Everyday Religion. I profited from reading that book then as a young man and I found it delightfully helpful when I read through it again a few years ago.
The first chapter is “When We Really Live,” and I have remembered through the years how the author says that we really live when, among other things, we know how to be “a little kinder than necessary every day.”
So when we start to be harsh and judgmental in evaluation of others, or ourselves, let’s remember these words and try, indeed, to be a little kinder than necessary. If we can do that, we will find that everyone will be better off.  
Denouncing Anti-Semitism
Although not a part of the 29th chapter of TTT, last Saturday’s mass murder of Jews in Pittsburgh prompts me to reflect on how Christians, among others, have often not been kind, to say the least, toward Jewish people.
Although religious differences are real—and important—nothing can justify mistreatment of other people because of their religion or ethnicity.
This article is being posted on the morning before Reformation Day, which commemorates the beginning of the Protestant Reformation led by Martin Luther. Sadly, though, Luther’s judgmental and condemnatory words about the Jewish people have had a lasting negative impact on many Protestant Christians.
Please join me in sending condolences to those who are grieving in Pittsburgh, in denouncing all forms of anti-Semitism, and in pledging to be as kind as possible to all people, regardless of their religion (or lack thereof) or ethnicity.


  1. A very good full chapter. This is an issue I deal with in my own life - personally, and of others. I find that the "others" is usually because of what I have personally experienced, heard, or seen - that sounds like a good formula for judging correctly, but sadly it leads to bitterness toward others. I recently met with a pastor about that and he said that Christians must learn to love, and that necessarily begins with forgiveness - but does not require reconciliation. That seems to have made a change in me. (Just the same, I appreciate the Orthodox prayers for reconciliation.) Sadly, I have done some injustice in my lifetime, and wish I could make amends with some.

    Love, outside of family, is so difficult, especially within the Church. Some claim Love, Justice, and Harmony and zealously preach them, but certainly don't live it. And yet Tertulian, a Roman lawyer, and bishop of Carthage, saw Christian love as our key apologetic to the pagan world. I have seen this played out in Church-wide way twice in my lifetime. But it is rare because we prefer to be right rather than loving.

    Lord, conform us into the image of your only begotten Son. Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.

    PS - I know it is in the footnotes, but several authors have written "Everyday Religion".

  2. Here are comments from Thinking Friend Truett Baker in Arizona:

    "A helpful reminder to always practice kindness. As you know, I grew up in a strong fundamentalist family where my parents struggled to practice this virtue. I have certainly struggled to practice it and by the grace of God, He has helped me, but far short of perfection. My observation in my 84 years is that Christians fall terribly short in this standard. I have experience more verbal abuse among the flock than I have the world. . . .

    "What a different world this would be if Christians alone practiced love and kindness. It would not go unnoticed by the world.

    "Thanks again and blessings for you thoughts."

  3. Just a few minutes I received the following comments from Thinking Friend Eric Dollard in Chicago:

    "Thanks, Leroy, for your kind words of wisdom. What happened in Pittsburgh last Saturday was indeed horrific.

    "The November issue of Harper's tells the story of Noah Klieger, a man who survived Auschwitz after working there as a slave laborer for two years. He is now in his 90's and lives in Israel. Klieger returned to Auschwitz in 1961, but he had to walk away from the tour. The tour guide asked him why he had walked away. He showed her the tattoo on his arm. She had never met a survivor previously; she cried.

    "When Judy and I toured Auschwitz in 2011, our tour guide was a young Polish woman named Agata, who had been giving tours for seven years. I asked her how she was able to cope and she said she could handle it; she did not feel guilt for what had happened there. But she also said that when she encounters a survivor, it is very difficult for her.

    "We are all human beings and the life and dignity of every human being is sacred, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, political views, immigration status, physical appearance, or criminal record. This is a very simple, basic concept, yet so many people seem to have trouble grasping it."