“Judge not lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1). One of the most famous (and most misunderstood) principles of Christianity. While Jesus declared us sinful, and works things out in us, he chose to do this in love, rather than condemning us to Hell.
And boy oh boy are Christians bad at doing the same.
Perhaps because we, like the world, use this verse reactively rather than proactively. Instead of refusing to judge, we tell others not to judge us. Judgement is not the same as evaluation, or even naming sin. It’s a disdain, a disregard for someone’s entire humanity based on one aspect of it.
But Jesus said that if his disciples should keep quiet, the very rocks would cry out in worship (Luke 19:40). And if Christian teaching doesn’t change us, Jesus has no problem using another medium.
“Common grace” is the idea that God gives morality, skill, and wisdom to all people, not just Christians. It doesn’t save the soul, but it shows how God works everywhere. This includes music.
We’ve all seen a man at the liquor store begging for your change,
The hair on his face is dirty, dreadlocked, and full of mange.
He asks a man for what he could spare with shame in his eyes.
“Get a job you f****** slob,” is all he replies.
This is the first stanza of Everlast’s “What It’s Like.” The sad part? “Get a job” sounds just like a common Christian answer to poverty. Just stop being lazy! After all, God helps those who help themselves.
But God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in his shoes.
Cuz then you really might know what it’s like to sing the blues.
How easy it is to judge from the other side.
From the Other Side
“What It’s Like” has three verses about people whose lives have gone sour, though their own fault or another’s. The first is that poor beggar who may need compassion, not cold-hearted “advice.” The third is about a drug dealer who got shot. Well, he asked for that, didn’t he? Tell that to his wife and kids, see if it makes them feel better.
However, it’s the second verse that seems the most timely. Christians may help the poor, and even restore the violent. But abortion?
She heads for the clinic and she gets some static walking through the door.
They call her a killer and they caller a sinner and they call her a whore.
Condemnation sounds so righteous when it comes from our own lips. We can always find verses that call somebody else wrong. God loves life, loves babies, and speaks about sin in the strictest terms. The lake of fire is no joke.
But God forbid you ever have to walk a mile in her shoes.
Cuz then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose.
Perhaps we’ve forgotten the proverb that says “The heart knows its own bitterness…” (Proverbs 14:10a) which means we only fully comprehend our own pain. Often times, we judge because we speak from the brain, not the heart, far above the situation, with no stakes, and nothing to lose.
How murky those waters get when you’re dragged beneath them.
It’s easy not to steal when you’re full. It’s easy to be pro-life when you don’t have one in your belly. It’s easy not to kill when you aren’t scared. We may be right, and God may agree with us entirely, but when we judge another’s calculus by our own kindergarten math, we have forgotten to love our neighbor.
Truth is not enough. Jesus gave us grace as well. Because he did walk a mile in our shoes (Hebrews 4:15). He knew no sin, but understands it well, and often loves us in baby steps.
I’m not saying “What It’s Like” is some perfectly Godly song. It’s just a fantastic, and haunting reminder for Christians that before we write someone off as lazy, foolish, wicked, and deserving of the punishment they get, we should imagine the finger of God pointing our faces.
Cuz then we really might know what it’s like.
One thought on “The Greatest Song about Nonjudgment (Isn’t Christian)”
I object to your use here of the lyrics of this pleasant enough, in parts moving, sentimental, secular popular song, influenced though it may indeed be by the working of Common Grace to good effect. Rather, that is, than your having used any passage of holy scripture, as the passage on which to base what is, in effect, a short, written, ethics-teaching sermon aimed at Christian believers. Your sermon based upon the song lyrics is aptly summarised by the simplistic, libertine slogan quoted, that we “shouldn’t judge”. But the Christian doctrine of refraining from certain types of judgment is a great deal more nuanced in scripture as a whole than the simplistic, libertine slogan suggests it is, leading to what I consider to be a potentially misleading sermon on your part. For, besides the warnings against judgmentalism found in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere, other scriptures positively encourage us to use our judgment, in defence of the faith handed down to us.