Touch, You & Your Family

Be slow to judge others

THOMAS* HAD EXPRESSED REMORSE for his actions as sincerely as he could. He offered no excuse for his folly. His actions were a disappointment and a shock to his fiancée Amelia* and also to him. e two had been going steady for almost three years now and plans for a wedding were afoot. In addition to this, they appeared to all as a happy and well-matched couple.

All this seemed to be in doubt now. omas admitted to visiting prostitutes six months earlier when he was sent overseas for military training. In his disclosure, he also talked to Amelia of his long and difficult struggle with pornography. He hung his head during his confession and could not meet her eyes.

Feeling overwhelmed by his disclosure, Amelia sought the support and counsel of her Christian friends from her cell group. ey quickly gathered around her like wagons forming a tight defensive circle. She was advised to give the relationship a break for the time being to help her recover emotionally.

This advice was readily accepted as she did not know how to feel or what to say to Thomas. She was further advised to cease all communication with him for a minimum of six months. During this period, she was asked to think seriously about whether she would carry on or break off their relationship.

Thus far, the responses of her friends were supportive of Amelia and rather sound. What followed, however, disturbed me. Elders and more senior sisters-in-Christ asked to meet individually with her. During these meetings, Amelia felt pressured to end her relationship with Thomas.

Thomas was judged not only for his past actions but also on the sincerity of his confession and his ability to change. Amelia did not escape lightly too. Her affection for Thomas and her reluctance to end the relationship were deemed as evidence of her lack of maturity and her lack of faith that God would bring a more godly man into her life.

When she expressed hesitation over her decision, she was warned that she would be disappointed again. Furthermore, they informed her that when it happened, she would only have herself to blame and she was told, “Don’t come crying back to us again”. Amelia was taken aback by their conviction and harshness of their judgment of both of them. After all, although they had been going to their church for several years now, they were hardly known to their elders and leaders. Needless to say, both were disappointed and felt keen to withdraw from further contact with their friends from church.

Sadly, I would not be surprised if readers find some parts of the story familiar. Some have experienced being judged by those they have turned to for help. Some may also have identified with and support the strong actions of Amelia’s friends. e readiness of Christians to stand in judgment of others is an unfortunate trait amongst many of us. In fact, this very behaviour often attracts the criticism of non-Christians who see us as being judgmental and hypocritical.

What makes us so prone to this action even though our Lord had warned us against doing this in Matthew 7:1-5? I believe that one reason for our readiness to judge others is that we know we are just as likely to fall and be found wanting. We may not commit the same errors as those whom we read about in our newspapers but we know our own capacity to sin. We therefore adopt a defensive action of projecting our guilt onto others.

If we recognise our own capacity to sin, I think we will be less prone to judge others and may be even more forgiving when others fall.

What did Amelia do? She had gone through several agonising months of indecision and she admitted she almost gave into what seemed like the easier option of breaking off the relationship. Instead, she decided to give omas another chance. She described her decision as an irrational one. After all, what guarantee could omas offer that he would not disappoint her again?

Her decision was based on two things. Firstly, there was the fact that he did express remorse and also took steps to deepen his relationship with God. Secondly, she realised that she was also capable of being untrue to her first love and had often fallen away. She reasoned that if she had disappointed God so often and had been forgiven by Him, the least she could do was to give omas a second chance.

*The couple’s names have been changed to protect their identities.

Benny Bong is a member of Kampong Kapor Methodist Church, is a family and marital therapist.