If you’ve ever looked online for anything – a gift, a restaurant, a movie, a car – you’ve probably read a few reviews before actually buying that thing. What other people have to say about something, their critique, seems important to us. We read things like, “I’d give this toaster 5 stars,” or “I’d give it one, it electrocuted my cat!” Remember though, these aren’t professional cooks giving the reviews, but every day people making judgements and giving their opinions. But every day people LOVE to judge and give opinions. We all do. Look at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Everyone is critiquing everything and everybody else. But what qualifies us to speak on politics, medicine, movies, restaurants or toasters when we really aren’t experts in those areas? We’re just exercising our freedom of speech and can’t help ourselves. Pretty soon we become constant critiques of our friends, our jobs, our lives – and even our churches. And it becomes habitual.

Jesus had something else in mind for His followers. He told us to save our “reviews” for ourselves. In Matthew 7:1-5 we are told:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

Pretty straightforward advice. Unfortunately, we focus on criticizing others when we really need to be focusing on our own growth.

I remember in the early stages of my faith journey the excitement of finding answers to life’s questions. Before long I thought I had all the answers. How to think, how to dress, how to behave, how to vote, what music to listen to;I even had all the Christian lingo down. Of course this made it easy to judge those who didn’t agree or weren’t like me, and I quickly became a critic of “the world.”  They were wrong. I was right. And I wasn’t afraid to let them know. Their views, their music, their lives had low ratings on my scale. Somehow I forgot it wasn’t my scale that mattered. I imagine I’m not the only one who started their Christian life like this.

Then, after spending a number of years inside the Christian community, guess what? I started turning my critical eye away from the world toward the Church. Christians seemed so rigid and judgmental – hmm… –  and all I could see were the flaws in my brothers and sisters. Still doing my “reviews” but with a different focus. I could hardly go to church or a social event without picking it apart. I suspect we’ve all been there too.

It was a long process (and I haven’t finished), realizing all the energy I spent finding specks elsewhere before deciding to keep my focus inward. Trust me, I still have to work at it. But the only person I can change is me. And if I can grow in grace maybe that’s how others are influenced. I’m an inside expert on me, so this is the only subject I’m truly qualified to critique. And if we each focus on ourselves, we won’t have time to judge each other.

I started by asking if you’ve ever shopped online; I have and I’ve looked at the reviews. But sometimes what’s more powerful than a review is an actual demonstration of the product. What a great idea! While the world gets more opinionated and caught up in writing their reviews, Jesus wants something different from us: to stop with our reviews of others and start demonstrating our faith through love, grace and acceptance.

Heidi Petersen is a Corporate Trainer for RDR Group who specializes in diversity, resilience and generational
differences. She has been engaging audiences across the country for nearly a decade and credits her success to great story telling and a sense of humor. Heidi is also the better half to Lead Pastor Josh Petersen and the mom to 4 wild and wonderful boys. In her spare time she enjoys Scrabble, reading and wandering around Milwaukee with the love of her life.