The One About Judgment

Stacy KayeBy Stacy Kaye13 Minutes

Excerpt taken from Damaged Goods: A Devotional for the Slightly Imperfect by Stacy Kaye


Chapter 3
The One About Judgment


When you mess up in a small town, it’s not a secret. There’s just no way around it. Gossip takes on a whole new meaning. It finds its way up the back roads out into the country and back again, going door to door through the city streets like an insidious snake slithering its way across town, growing larger with every life it consumes. I was fully aware of that fact growing up. Everyone knew what happened on the weekends, who got drunk and hooked up with whom. You were either a good girl or a bad girl, and I wore my good-girl label proudly. I carefully guarded my reputation and was proud that I made it through high school without ever being invited to one of the infamous backroad parties that many of my classmates frequented. They knew I wouldn’t go. I had no interest in killing off brain cells on the backroads of that tiny town that I couldn’t wait to escape. If I had attended a party, I had no doubt that my parents would have found out, and they weren’t the cool parents who thought it was okay to drink as long as they knew about it. They were the kind of parents that disapproved of just about anything that wasn’t a church-sanctioned activity. They were wonderful parents, and I thank God for my Christian upbringing, but were they the kind of parents who welcomed hard discussions and frank speech? Absolutely not.

When I think back to my first pregnancy, I’m still astonished at the speed with which the news traveled. To this day, when I go back to my hometown, I feel like the girl with the scarlet letter on her chest. When I go into a store, I always feel like people are whispering “that’s the one that got pregnant.” I know much of what I feel is in my mind, but the underlying cause of that feeling I can’t help but think is rooted at least partially in the church’s response to my sin.

When word got around that I was pregnant, where were my Sunday School teachers, church leaders, and fellow Christian friends? They were nowhere to be seen. As I went about my days preparing for the wedding and the long processional of people came by to tell me how disappointed they were in me, where was the support for the teenage girl who made a mistake? Where was the church—my church—the one I grew up in, was baptized in, and served in for the better part of my life to that point? Did my youth pastor come by or request a chat? What about my senior pastor, my Sunday School teacher? Nope, nope, and nope. Am I bitter about that?  Frankly, I was for a long time. It’s an unfortunate truth that Christians don’t always act like Christ. We are human after all, and all humans make mistakes—sure, some are bigger than others in the sense that they have a bigger effect not only on us but on others as well, and admittedly my mess-up was a humdinger back in the 1980s, but the only one worthy to judge is the only one without sin. The Bible is crystal clear on this. Christians know this and espouse it, but the question we have to ask ourselves is do we genuinely believe it and live it?

Let’s take this a step further and ask where was the church at large—the bigger body to which all Christians belong. Surely within my small town, as word got around, other Christians knew. When a member of the body of Christ sins, we are called to lovingly rebuke and help restore that member. That does not mean radio silence and turning our backs or pouring salt in the open wound. Where was the loving rebuke and support for your sister in Christ? Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if some people thought that’s what they were doing, but as the one on the receiving end, I can attest that’s not what came across. I say that because not one person who said they were surprised and disappointed by me also pointed me back to Christ. Our words are always important. That’s why Proverbs 18:21 says the power of both death and life are in the tongue. During stressful times, what we say—or don’t say—is even more crucial. A simple statement like, “There is forgiveness and restoration through Christ, so what’s done is done, repent and get back to doing the kingdom work you’re called to do,” could’ve shifted my focus and encouraged me. There was support for my mom, whom people pitied and whom my dad blamed for being “too lenient” with me. She had friends who called her, and I imagine some of them were from the church—maybe even the pastor for all I know.

I’m not trying to call out specific people or a church or even a town. What I’m saying is that Christians mess up, and when they do, our role isn’t to sit in judgment or spread gossip in the name of a prayer request. We are to be the hands and feet of Jesus who routinely spent time with sinners—people at whom others would just look down their noses and avoid.

That experience was bitterly painful and shaped much of my opinion on the church today. Praise the Lord that I only answer to Him and not to the self-appointed judges you’ll find sitting in many church pews today. I realize I’m painting with broad brush strokes here and not describing all church-going Christians, and I want to be clear that I am not anti-church. God encourages Christians to be part of a body of believers. And I get it, churches are composed of humans, and it is human nature to judge others sometimes and to compare our sins to those of other people. I’ve been guilty of doing it myself. It makes us feel better to think, “At least I’m not as bad as that guy!” I’m simply saying we can do better.

We are in a real battle against a real foe, and our enemy is not Mrs. Jones two pews over! We have to stop tearing each other down and doing the enemy’s work for him. As Christians, we need to remember our call to support and uplift one another when there are trials and struggles and not only when we approve of someone’s lifestyle or choices. I’m not suggesting we accept every worldly notion that comes along. There are real guidelines God set forth in His Word that we are to follow, but one thing is undoubtedly true. We are called to love one another, and love is a verb—an action word.

It’s clear in Scripture that the only one who can judge us is Christ. We don’t have to agree with everything someone does to show them love, and trust me, when a Christian messes up, the Holy Spirit heaps more than enough coals on their head without our worldly judgment. Just as I’m calling out others to forgive, I had to forgive those who hurt me, which I did many years ago—otherwise, I could not write this book. Not only did I have to forgive them, I had to forgive myself, and that took much longer.

In your prayer time today, ask God to make you aware of any judgmental attitudes you have toward others.

Reflection Questions

1. Describe a time in your life when you have experienced Christians not acting like Christ.
2. Have you ever felt like the object of gossip? If so, how did it make you feel, and how did you respond?
3. Write Matthew 7:1–5 in your own words.
4. Read Jonah 1:1–3. What did God tell Jonah to do and how did Jonah respond?
5. Read Jonah 3–4:3. What did Jonah tell the Ninevites?
6. How did the Ninevites respond to Jonah’s proclamation?
7. Why did Jonah become angry?

You’re probably familiar with Jonah’s story of how he ran from God when he was first told to go to Nineveh. That disobedience earned him three days in the belly of a big fish. I think the argument can be made that the reason he was running from God was rooted in his own judgment of the people of Nineveh. Jonah was a prophet of Israel, and he hated the Ninevites so much that he did not want them to have the opportunity to repent. He knew God would forgive them if they would repent and worship Him, and that’s exactly what Jonah did not want to happen. Because of their wickedness, he thought they deserved to be punished. Although the Bible says the Ninevites were a very wicked people, they heeded Jonah’s warning about their impending destruction and immediately repented. Because of their swift and sincere response, God had compassion and did not destroy them, which made Jonah angry. This story is a good reminder that we only see with human eyes and need to trust that God alone is qualified to judge.

Order your copy of Damaged Goods: A Devotional for the Slightly Imperfect by Stacy Kaye