Smash Your Judgement

The religious had set his category for him. He was filed under SINNER. He was blind after all. That was God’s punishment for something he or his parents had done.

This is ancient thinking we often see in the Bible. Ancient people thought of the gods as fickle. The gods would arbitrarily smite folks with physical ailments as a sign of their displeasure.[1] They didn’t understand genetics or disease, so they had to put a reason in there. It makes sense that this would be it. We now know that way of thinking is wrong. And Jesus… GOD himself… disproves this way of thinking in today’s scripture.

There’s a man born blind. The disciples ask their question based on the old way of thinking: “Who sinned? The man or his parents?” Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned; he was born blind so that God’s works might be revealed in him.”

Jesus smears mud on this man’s eyes and tells him to wash it off in a particular pool known for its healing properties. He can see and the community freaks out. Then the religious freak out that everyone else is freaking out. A congressional I MEAN a congregational hearing is held. The religious want to prove their theology, not figure out what happened. They interrogate the man and in the end; they throw the man out.

Jesus hears about the proceedings and responds, “I came into this world for judgment, so that those who do not see may see and those who do see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees who were with him heard this and said to him, “Surely we are not blind, are we?” Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would not have sin. But now that you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.”

The religious just don’t get it. God has shown them, yet they do not see. God has shown us, and we often resist the message. We judge the world based on what we want to be true. When our judgment is wrong, we just keep going despite God’s urging for us to change. I once heard someone say that they wouldn’t change even if Christ came down and told them they were wrong. Judgment can be a huge problem.

I broke with religion in my youth for a while due to bad judgment. I find it weird how the religious kill people over trying to prove which one is more peaceful. I can’t stand the fact that Christianity often makes outcasts when it’s called to welcome them. I hate the TV preachers who blame natural disasters on gay people then call for understanding and grace when their heroes’ affairs and dirty dealings are uncovered.[2]

Plus, the music can be really corny.

I’m into good music and I find it hard to listen to a lot of modern Christian music. There is a meme that I really like that shows all the differences in the music I like:

Alternative: The world is broken, let’s be weird.
Punk: The world is broken, I am angry about it and will fight to fix it.
Emo: The world is broken, I am sad about it.
Goth: The world is broken, yet there is beauty.
Ska: The world is broken, and I’ve got a trumpet.

Ska music had a huge moment in the mid and late 90s. America’s Funniest Home Videos theme song was ska. Think of bright guitars with a horn section. It was a crazy time.

When I was in seminary, my brother in-law Andrew introduced me to the song “Jesus is a Friend of Mine.”[3] It’s by a band called SONSEED[4] and the 1970s Music video features folks in bizarre outfits. At first, I laughed at the band. I thought it proof of my judgment against religious people. Then three minutes later, I was singing to myself: “Jesus is a friend of mine. Jeee-sus is my friend.” Oh no! It’s an earworm! What I had put in the “bad” category wouldn’t get out of my head. Maybe I had judged this song too quickly. I had judged the awful clothes and weird video. Turns out, I was wrong. I love this song! I love introducing people to it just to watch their reaction to it.

Many other people came to love this song too. A video of this song was put on YouTube in 2008 went viral. There were many parodies including having the song sung on the most popular TV show at the time, Glee. There are ska bands who cover this song currently, and the crowds go wild! Here are all these people singing with reckless abandon that the line “He taught me out to praise my God and still play rock and roll.” Please Google this song when you get home. If it’s stuck in your head all day, you’re welcome.

I was taught that faith should be serious. SUPER. Serious. Almost as if faith should be mourned. Yet this is not the case in so many places in the Bible. Right after the Red Sea parted and the Israelites crossed to the other side, Moses and then Miriam sing songs of praise.[5] King David danced through the streets of Bethlehem when the Ark of the Lord came to town in 2 Samuel 6:14-22. David danced with such abandon that a daughter of King Saul scolded him. Think of all the psalms of praise to God, especially Psalm 145: “I will exalt you, my God and King. I will praise your name forever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord! Most worthy of Praise! From generation to generation your works are praised, and we sing of your mighty acts!”

Another way to put it is “For you love us when we’re right, you love us when we’re wrong.
You love us when we waste our time by writing silly songs.
Jesus is a friend of mine.” There it is again!

The verses we read today feel like a sitcom. We have seen such comic misunderstandings in I Love Lucy, Seinfeld, Big Bang Theory, and Glee. This is a comic mix up. It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic. There is great harm done when religious institutions get things wrong. We have gotten things wrong. We have made outcasts. We have abused power. We have pocketed funds. We have acted like the goats in Matthew 25: 41-43: “Depart from me into the eternal fire for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.”

That’s the standard we are judged on by Jesus. Not how we have the creeds and catechisms memorized. Not all the Bible verses we can use to justify our behavior. It’s what we do for the least of these. That’s the standard we’re judged on. I have great love for tradition and I like rules. Yet I’m often an iconoclast if the rules and traditions clash with Jesus. This is the tradition of our congregationalist ancestors; if it’s not Jesus, we smash that idol and throw it out.

We often quote Jesus telling us not to judge. I don’t think that means what we think it means. “Do not judge, so that you may not be judged” is the phrase that kicks off Matthew chapter 7. Yet it has the golden rule just 5 verses later in 12 where Jesus says, “in everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and prophets.”

We judge all the time. The judgment we hold to others, we must hold ourselves to. “Judge not, lest yet be judged yourselves for with the judgment you make you will be judged; and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” Judgment is a part of life, but we must hold ourselves to the same standard. Love is the standard.

A pastor friend of mine was really frustrated in counseling someone. This person just kept making awful decisions and justifying them. The pastor kept checking back in with me saying, “Am I wrong? I’m not being too judgey here, am I?” I thought my friend was right. Finally, the pastor asked this person, “Look, what if I just told you I’ve done all the things you told me you’ve done” The person let out a loud gasp and said, “Oh no! You can’t do all these things, you’re a pastor!”

Thus, my friend was finally able to get through the justifications and rationalizations of the bad choices. My friend was able to point out the different standards being used. There are some things that we just can’t engage in and call ourselves Christian. There are certain things we can no longer do. Hypocrisy is one of them. We must use the same standard we use for ourselves that we use for our neighbor and vice versa.

Sometimes I get this voice in my head that really gets on my case. Would I say these harsh words to anyone else? No! I have better words for others yet I’m my own harshest critic. But I can’t love my neighbor as myself if I hate myself. It is a two-way street.

Sometimes the opposite is true. We judge ourselves by our intent and we judge others by their actions. The only thing people can see are our actions. When things go wrong, people don’t care about your intent.

We must turn our judgment into curiosity. We must be willing to smash our judgement when new information comes to us. Keep curious. And not curiosity like the religious have in our scripture today where they are trying to prove their doctrines. We now know they were wrong both scientifically and theologically. Science has given us an understanding of disease and genetics. Jesus has given us the theology. God is working with the whole equation, we need to keep adding to what we’re working with and stay humble. We are easily conditioned primates who see through a glass dimly. Keep humble in our judgment and stay curious. That way the glory of God can be shown through you.

I hope this is a curious place. I hope we are a place where folks can heal. I hope this is a place where folks can discard bad religion and find better religion. I hope we are a safe space for the outcasts. For Christians are called to welcome outcasts, not make them. We are to give people new ways of perceiving the world and seeing and hearing from all God’s people. We must end the tragically comic injustice of trying to figure out if the man in Jesus’ story really regained his sight and instead just trust he is who he says.

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world. May our judgement reflect that all-encompassing and unconditional love.

Some religious have a whole host of people on their bad list, folks outside of their doctrine of who is acceptable and who is not. LGBTQ folks are often judged and put in the sinner category. Not so here. If it weren’t for a gay man, I wouldn’t be your pastor for it was the Rev. Bill Federici who taught me that there are loving, inclusive, justice-oriented Christians out there. He helped me smash my judgment and find you. “He taught me how to live, my life as it should be, he taught me how to turn my cheek when people laugh at me. I’ve had friends before and I can tell you that, he’s one who will never leave you flat. Jesus is a friend of mine. JESUS is my friend.” Thanks be to God.

Works Cited

[1] For more on this, please get Rob Bell’s Blood, Guts, and Fire: The gospel according to Leviticus

[2] See “God Forbid” on Netflix for the reference. Mature audience only.

[3] For the iconic, viral video, please see here:

[4] For more on the unique history of this band, here’s their wiki:

[5] Exodus 15:1–18 called the “Song of the Sea” and “Miriam’s Song.”

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