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Bonhoeffer2I’ve been reading a lot about judgment/nonjudgment lately.  In my last entry I talked about Hugh Halter’s “Brimstone: The Art and Act of Holy Nonjudgment” (which gets better and better as it goes along), and the latest chapter that I read in Brian McLaren’s “We Make the Road by Walking” also had a bit to do with this issue.

So it’s been on my mind quite a bit of late, because as I’ve said on here before, when I talk to my non-Christian friends, the number one problem they have with Christians is that we’re a judgmental lot that don’t judge our own behavior or practice what we preach.  That’s a pretty damning indictment I think.  Why would people be interested in the grace and love of Jesus Christ if the messengers entrusted with delivering the “good news” don’t follow it themselves?

Well, last night I just happened to run across some writings from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on the same subject in his book “The Cost of Discipleship.”  Chapter 18 in this book deals with Christ’s “Judge not, lest you be judged” teaching in Matthew 7.  The entirety of Bonhoeffer’s writing in this chapter is quotable and I think it’s very solid teaching. Before I quote it though, let’s just mention that what you’re about to read was first written in the 1930s by a man who can’t really be pigeonholed as some “radical liberal.”  So if modern thinkers like McLaren and Halter aren’t your speed, perhaps you might consider what Bonhoeffer has to say:

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.  By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled as we are. But in the love of Christ we know all about every conceivable sin and guilt; for we know how Jesus suffered, and how all men have been forgiven at the foot of the cross. Christian love sees the fellow-man under the cross and therefore sees with clarity. If when we judged others, our real motive was to destroy evil, we should look for evil where it is certain to be found, and that is in our own hearts.  But if we are on the lookout for evil in others, our real motive is obviously to justify ourselves, for we are seeking to escape punishment for our own sins by passing judgment on others, and are assuming by implication that the Word of God applies to ourselves in one way, and to others in another.

From “The Cost of Discipleship,” pg 185, Simon & Schuster, 1995. Translated from the German, 1937.

*It should also be noted that Pastor Bonhoeffer, among many others, wrote in a day before gender inclusiveness in most literature, thus “men” and “fellow-man.”  I didn’t change it here, because I generally believe that when you quote something, you quote it as written, and it’s certainly not for me to alter the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
–B.C.

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