Somewhere in my teens I developed a deep judgmentalism.
I can’t blame my family. My parents gave us lots of freedom, were very non-judgmental and their positions as a teacher and a nurse, gave them skills of nurturing. I can’t blame my brothers either.
By my late teens I got hard and strict on myself and others. I slid into a distortion, disease and deep captivity to a nasty and self-defeating judgmentalism.
It was a horrible time in my journey…with God, myself and others. Part of it came from my church, which was divided and in a bitter schism. Most of it came from the nastiness of the “world” that practices little patience and forgiveness to each other.
This disease, by God’s and my churches help, went in remission. Although not cured, it stays in remission… most of the time…through my encounter of Jesus’ deep and wonderful acceptance and activity and agency on my behalf. I trust he will help me survive it.
Ethics and leadership, two major callings on my life, have played both aggravating and alleviating roles in this remission process.
My 6th grade teacher, Mr. Yoshikawa got me started in ethics. He invited our class to figure out the right and wrong in cases he read to us each afternoon. As I report elsewhere, it was the first time I felt empowered as a learner. I realized I needed to figure out my own answers, not look in the back of the book for an answer or to my teacher. I needed to KNOW for myself.
But ethics can easily feed judgmentalism if it doesn’t get positioned proportionally in our world of judgment. If the goal of ethics is to find the best way, the right way, or better yet, the most redemptive way, it can be a great help. But ethics—the search for truth– makes a horrible God. It must remain a tool of redemption in the hands of God’s greater redemptive work.
I am not suggesting that thinking about right and wrong causes judgmentalism. Knowing and thinking are not the cause of judgmentalism. Its part of its cure. Judgmentalism looks like a truth seeker but it really is a blame caster.
Ethics operating under the shadow of the Almighty, within a deep acceptance of God’s love, and within a deep trust in of God’s redemptive agency for humans and the whole universe, can be very helpful.
Leadership, is similar. Leadership, the influence of one upon another, can be a great tool for redemption. But it can be a judgmental, abusive, and distorting influence. I know that as a leader. I know that as a follower. I have had to apologize many times for my judgmentalism. I have had to forgive many abusive and judgmental leaders.
Two “frames” have helped me keep ethics and leadership on the redemptive side and kept judgmentalism in remission. The first frame is a deep appreciation for a higher view of ethics captured succinctly in 1 John 1:9 and Micah 7:9.
“I will bear the indignation of the LORD Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness.”
While Micah 6:8 teaches us the need for mercy, justice, and humility. That is great.
Micah 7:9 invites us deeper. It brings us through to a “righteousness apart from the law” (Romans 3:21). This righteousness is seeing the moral wonderfulness of how God treats those who violate morality and His very nature.
This higher level of moral experience, the transcendence of righteousness over even the right, doesn’t negate the need to figure out what is right, but it places it in subordination to redemption. It incorporates judgment.
Which brings me to the greatest cure for judgmentalism….God’s judgment.
In my journey to avoid moralism and keep judgmentalism in remission, Micah 7:9 has not only helped me see righteousness in ethics but the role of judgment in coming to that “light.”
Nothing keeps my soul from souring to God, myself and others than a deep taste, understanding, and experience of His hour judgment (Revelation 14).
Micah 7:9 frames the difference between right and righteousness. It does so within judgment. Right is figuring out what should be done and how. Righteousness is seeing and experiencing God’s activity when we mis that mark of right.
A growing understanding of Adventist teaching on the judgment can take away judgmentalism.
At least it has keep it in remission in my life.
“Jesus, please judge anew today. I love your sweet words to me. They are pure judgment.
Love, your wayward son….but still your son.”