I truly believe there is a difference between being judgmental and judgmentalism.
Being judgmental is necessary.
Judgmentalism, also known as self-righteousness, is sinful.
I am sure that much of the criticism of the Church has more to do with judgmentalism than actual judgment.
It is not hard to see how judgment quickly turns into judgmentalism. I am indebted to Timothy Keller's articulation of the following "Slippery Slope of the Heart."
1. A group believes it has the Absolute Truth and so begins to have a sense of moral superiority about itself.
2. The group begins to distance itself from other groups who do not share the ideology or morality which stems from their belief in Absolute Truth.
3. The group caricatures other groups.
4. The group begins passive oppression toward those groups.
5. The group begins active oppression toward those groups.
Some have said the answer to this conundrum is to do away with the belief in Absolute Truth.
I have argued before the impossibility of such a thing. We all make Absolute Truth claims. Even the claim "Truth is relative" rests on the assertion that "Truth is relative" is an Absolutely True statement. (Let your head rest a moment after reading that.)
For Christians, it is further a non-starter to do away with Absolute Truth. Jesus proclaimed to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To suggest there is no Truth is to suggest there is no Jesus at the worst or that Jesus lied at the best. Not an option.
So what is the option?
As Keller said in the video from the Veritas Forum: we need to be reminded of the "grace narrative."
Those who venture down the "Slippery Slope of the Heart" and begin self-righteous judgmentalism do so because they believe themselves to be morally superior. Either by toeing the line of observing sexual purity or by how much they give to the church or by how much they give to charity or by how much justice they practice, a group of people believe their ACTIONS or their following of the Law or the Commands of God/Jesus give them a sense of pride.
The grace narrative destroys pride because:
The grace narrative says, "You didn't earn your own salvation."
The grace narrative says, "Your good works are done through God's power."
The grace narrative says, "It is through Christ alone that you are justified."
The grace narrative says, "You can't be moral enough or do enough justice to be right with God."
The grace narrative says, "You are not morally superior."
The grace narrative centers on a man who bore the weight of our sin, took it to the cross, and from the cross offered forgiveness to those who killed Him. The grace narrative centers on the One who said, "Love your enemies and bless those who persecute you." The grace narrative centers on the One who cut every human being's pride off at the knees with the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7). The grace narrative centers on the One who showed humility to be a central, core, trait of His followers.
Jesus does not allow self-righteousness toward those who are different. Instead, His actions showed quite the opposite. Though He had the morally superior position according to Absolute Truth, He engaged those who disagreed with Him. He refused to caricature them and paint them with broad brush strokes. He ate with the Pharisees, the tax collectors, the sinners, the social outcasts, and the members of the Jewish Council. He knew them personally and sought no oppression of them passive or active. Yet, He also was not afraid to render judgment on their misguided/wrongheaded beliefs. He modeled the life we are called to ascribe to today. Not one of judgmentalism, but one of humility.