“Judge not lest you be judged” is probably one of those scriptures that is quoted a lot, but then many times used to fit an agenda that may or may not be biblical. It can’t be used to turn a blind eye to sin. It can, however, give us some insight as to why some are not given an ample opportunity to learn what God what’s them to know. Judging often involves taking on the role of God and deciding for Him who is worthy or unworthy of hearing the Gospel message.
Most of those who volunteer or serve in ministries to children and teens would be shocked to find that many of their fellow volunteers, if not they themselves, at times make those same types of judgment calls about the young people in their Bible classes and to whom they minister. Often these judgments are not even spoken aloud or are disguised in discussions about classroom behavior, making them seem less troublesome.
Yet, they are extremely troublesome. Every child, every teen, deserves our very best efforts to teach them what God wants them to know. To help them understand and use it. To mentor them, love them and support them. Yet not all young people in our ministries are being treated equally.
So what types of judgments are we making about certain aspects of a young person, that then cause us to decide it’s okay to give them less than our best efforts?
- How well we like their parents.
- Their behavior in Bible classes or at events.
- What we perceive to be their attitude.
- How popular or unpopular they are with their peers in our ministries.
- Their energy level – either too high or too low (often compared to our own energy level).
- Whether or not they have special needs.
- Based on some aspect of their appearance.
- Based on their cultural background or country (or area of your country) of origin.
- Whether or not you consider them “at risk” based on income, neighborhood, school, friends, being in foster care or orphaned, parents’ marital status, etc.
- Based on having the same name as someone you disliked in the past.
- Based on favorite sporting teams, preferred sports (or lack thereof), other interests and hobbies.
- Based on their age.
- Based on their gender.
- Based on their level of Bible knowledge – especially compared to your expectations for someone that age.
- Based on whether they are introverts or extroverts.
- Our experiences with a sibling.
Some of the items on this list may seem silly to you, but I can almost promise you I have missed some that sound even sillier. Because these are often fleeting thoughts we might never voice, we believe we aren’t acting on them. Unfortunately, many of our students might view our interactions with them as being not equal to how we treat others in their class or group. To truly love others like God does, we need to watch our internal biases and do the difficult work to overcome them. Those students you may be neglecting desperately need you to make any needed changes in your thoughts, attitudes and actions.