Judgmental Like a Drug
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
The addict has learned, through experience, to treat any negative emotion with a chemical. He feels bad and so, he reaches for the drug, which provides temporary relief. Then, if his drug use causes some guilt, shame, or painful consequence, that feeling too, is treated with the chemical. I feel bad and so, I use. It’s a vicious cycle that leads continuously back to the drug.
Almost everyone does this in some way, though for many, it doesn’t involve a drug. We all have self-soothing behaviors that we’ve learned throughout life. Some of us turn to food. Some to pornography or excessive shopping. Whatever that behavior is, we use it to find temporary pleasure, gratification, and relief from stress.
One thing I’ve turned to, is being judgmental. When I felt bad about my drug use, if I found someone whose behavior was worse than mine, I soothed my conscience by looking down on that person. Even now, in sobriety, being judgmental is a continual temptation in which I often indulge to avoid dealing with my own mess.
Apparently, this was a temptation to which the Corinthian church surrendered in today’s passage. In it, Paul chastised them for tolerating an incestuous relationship within the church, while remaining judgmental of those outside their walls. Paul told them that they didn’t need to concern themselves with judging those outside the body, but that they needed to look inward, cleaning up their own house.
We still often do this, both as individuals, and collectively as a church. If we can look down on others, it allows us to ignore our own mess. If or when we suffer shame or consequences from our mess and we’re made to feel bad, we turn once again to judgment, like a drug, to assuage our guilt. At least we’re not like those horrible sinners. In doing so, the church becomes known as a place of pride, condescension, and hate to those outside its walls. Pride, it seems, is the tolerable, Christian sin.
Paul said we’ve got it all backwards. It’s not our job to cast judgment on the world. That’s up to God. We must look continually inward, dealing with the arrogance, ugliness, and failures within ourselves. Being condescending and judgmental can be just as addictive and destructive as any drug.