Continuing our exploration of early Christianity, we move from the principle of love to the practice of non-judgment, which is the application of love in situations and toward people who do not seem to deserve it. When we read the sayings of the desert mothers and fathers, we find occasions when their refusal to judge another person assaults our sensitivities and flat out seems to be unwarrented by the facts.
So, how could they do it?
Before we can understand the early Christians’ refusal to pass judgment, we need to look at the motivation which gave birth to the refusal. In a word, it was Romans 3:23–all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
When the early Christians enacted this verse (and they did not enact it perfectly any more than we do), they did so under the belief that the acknowledgment of universal sinfulness was the necessary pre-requisite for Christian community. Why? Because the spirit and substance of fellowship lives or dies in relation to the presence or absence of humility.
When humility is present, judgmentalism cannot arise because we know that judgment belongs to God (Romans 12:19) not to us (Matthew 7:1). If we assume the role that God alone is supposed to have, our judgment will be mixed with misinformation and pride. And no accurate verdict or edifying outcome can result in that environment.
But even more, non-judgment rests on the conviction that mercy is a greater incentive for change than rejection can ever be. In whatever ways people need to remove unrighteousness (metanoia), they will be more likely to do it under the influence of the heat of compassion rather than the coldness of censoriousness. By actual experience, the early Christians saw non-judgment producing more transformation than judgmentalism ever did.
And most of all it meant enacting the Golden Rule–treating others the way they would want to be treated–treating others the way God had treated each one of them. And far from being cheap grace, non-judgment was/is amazing grace.