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The Pharisee in the Mirror

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;[1] ~ Luke 6:37

Do you ever ask yourself how people see your church? By church, in this case, I mean both the building and people in the building.

We know that a large portion of the American population simply has no connection to any church or community of faith. Perhaps they went with a grandparent or a friend, but they never really connected. They might have a story or two about church, but they don’t often think about what church is or should be. Right now, I don’t want to focus on this population.

In America, there is another group of people who have been labeled as “Dones.” At one time they were involved in church, but now they are done with church. They have stories of hurt and pain associated with church. Josh Packard tells their stories in his book, Church Refugees.

For these people, judgment is THE central experience of church. Their experiences of being judged were so damaging that many could not identify the positive reasons that brought them to church in the first place. Some of these might remember the music, ritual, or community, but once the conversation shifted to judgment, they had stories to tell. Packard writes, “For the Dones, these two positions, love and judgment, are simply incompatible coming from humans.” (Packard, Church Refugees, p. 44)

Matthew’s story:

Who would be interested if I said, ‘You’re lost? You have no idea what you’re doing in life, and you’ve really screwed up. But I love you and think you’re great!’? My favorite is ‘Hate the sin; love the sinner.’ If you use the word hate in any way, shape, or form referring to something about me. I’m not going to listen. Who’s going to listen to that?” (Packard, Church Refugees, p. 44)

This is the experience of so many people. How Jesus must weep over the wounded sheep who have fled from his flock.

Jesus did battle with the attitudes of judgment and condemnation. I think that we have to join him in this battle. I know that I am one step away from being a Pharisee myself. (Perhaps I give myself too much grace????)

Each day, I need to be reminded of these simple words that are so hard to live out. Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Each day, I need to pray that Jesus will weed out the attitudes of judgment and condemnation. Each day, I need to intentionally practice forgiveness.

I pray that our churches can become communities of grace and forgiveness.

My prayer for all of us:

Our gentle Healer, too often we fall in the trap of becoming the very thing we don’t want to be, judgmental people. Help us to know your forgiveness and practice that forgiveness with others. Shine your light into those dark places of our lives where we try to hide our self-righteousness. Make us a people of life, light, and grace.

Mike Oldham

Ministry and Mission Coach


[1] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), Lk 6:37.

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