BREAKING: It’s okay to take a break from constantly questioning your faith!

I dated a guy a while back who took DTRing to a new level. We were talking about “us” before we had time for an us to grow. No jokes, our dates were like listening to a live commentary on our dates, by us. It was disorienting and exhausting.

I don’t say this to be ungracious to a former Gallolover (lolz), but to make the point that as essential as DTRing can be, it is not essential at all times. In fact, sometimes it’s plum inappropro. Most times, it’s nice to enjoy each other at whatever stage the relationship happens to be in. If you constantly have to bring everything to a screeching halt to pick apart, analyze, and forecast future directions for your relationship, true intimacy will shrivel like a salted snail.

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Let your intimacy be a healthy, thriving snail! Ewww! Nm. You get it. (image from pixabay)

Now, let’s pivot from romanticals to Jesus-lovin’.

Theological investigations are great. Especially if you’ve been in the church since birth and have been following Jesus since you remember having conscious thought, it’s important to update your theology as your knowledge grows and your capacity for critical thinking develops. Yes indeedy – sometimes my faith hasn’t been able to “move on” until I gain some sort of enlightenment on a theological quandary that has been bothering me.

That being said — if I stay in the questioning or conceptual mode for too long it’s like being in a constant DTR with God, instead of just enjoying who He is and living out what I do know and understand. My intimacy with God shrivels like a salted snail.

I don’t want to discourage honest inquiry, and I definitely don’t think your intelligence should be laid aside for some sort of vague mysticism that doesn’t clearly delineate a spiritual experience from indigestion. I do want to encourage you to create space in your life to enjoy who Jesus is and just… rest.

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Kermit gets it. (image from pixabay)

Selah.  

 

 

The Good of Guilt

Recently I did something that I’m not particularly proud of. What did I do? Nunya business, honestly. I don’t want the focus of the post to be on my scandals.* What I do want to make it about is the guilt associated with my scandals.

The next day after my scandalous behavior I woke up with that sickening  guilt that churns around in your gut relentlessly. When I sat down to read my biblio and pray, I felt like a traitorous infidel.

Then my ego-preservation-mode kicked into overdrive, and I thought of so many reasons why what I did wasn’t all that bad. My mind performed some impressively creative feats of self-justification, and one side of me was like, “Chillax, yo! So many people have done so much worse!” but another side of me was like “Nah, you dumb.

Then my self-disgust-mode kicked into overdrive, and I felt a strong compulsion to do some penance. My mind generated several paths of punition for me to complete until I (hopefully God, too) would feel okay about me again. One side of me was like “You are a disgusting worm, and now you must roll around penitently in the dirt like a worm, but another side of me was like, “What’s done is done, brah.

So I sat there for a while, battling myself. And both of mes were kinda right, and both of mes were kinda wrong.

Then a few thoughts struck me as I sat there like a Guilty Gabriella –

  • One of the reasons I didn’t want to pray was that I didn’t feel I deserved for God to give me anything. Uh-oh, legalism-o! Apparently my heart had swallowed a sneaky nugget of self-righteousness dunked in entitlement sauce without my conscious consent.
  • This deep sense that my misdeed deserves punishment is rooted in a truth, but an incomplete one. My actions did demand a punishment, but I wasn’t the one that would take it.** It was such a discomfiting idea – that immediately after I had done this legitimately foolish deed, I was good.  No flagellation required.
  • It’s much more difficult to judge people when I remember how… delicious… sin can be. The humility of receiving grace takes the wind out of the judgiest of sails.
  • I wanted to tell someone about what I did, right away. And I didn’t want to tell someone who would pat me on the head and tell me I is kind, smart, and important (but I also didn’t to tell someone who would look aggrieved and spread this “prayer request” to the rest of the gossip girls).

In toto: Guilt is one of the worst feelings to ever assault the human mind, body, and soul. It’s not appropro when it causes you to obsess over your own badness, but neither is it always an inappropro feeling that should be dismissed immediately. It can 1) expose our general sense of entitlement, 2) awaken us to the heart-twisty kindness of Jesus, 3) give us grace towards others, 4) motivate us to confess (which ultimately helps keep us accountable in the future so we will be less likely to turn right around and repeté).

Don’t try to dismiss your guilt, but don’t wallow around in shame, either. Use it as an opportunity to become all the more in awe of and thankful for the kindness and necessity of Jesus.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Don’t let your imagination run too wild. If you need something concrete to tack onto this story- just pretend that I threw away recyclable plastic in the trash… yah, that was it *laughs nervously*

** “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” – 2 Cor 5:21

 

Modesty is more than covering your bosoms

“…the answer isn’t to try and outdo each other in modesty until we’re shuffling around in form-masking body suits made of brown paper bags”

I grew up in a southern Baptist church AND was homeschooled, so I have endured my share of lectures on dressing modestly. I even took some classes at a church that wouldn’t let women on their property if they were wearing pants. I have never experienced more wrath than when a homeschool mom yelled at me, her golden eyes sparking with hatred, because my shirt showed my tums when I raised my arms (Now, I find it hilarious and maybe a little ironic that I have been slut shamed). Granted, these examples stick out to me because they’re outliers.

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Stanley and I feel the same about immodesty being a female privilege.  (this was a still from a gif that wouldn’t show up on this page properly — please don’t sue me!)

But even so, we all know that a “modesty” talk will be directed exclusively toward women. And it will be about what they’re (ornot) wearing. Because you know, the thrill of being immodest is a female privilege.

Some of you may want to sit down for this one. Ready? Here it comes – Men can be immodest, too. Maybe they aren’t teasing with low cut v-necks, but they may hog the “air time” during a group discussion to showcase their exquisite insightfulness.

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This center giraffe is immodestly hogging the convo. Smh (pixabay really limits my options, y’all – worth with me!)

Or they may show breathtaking creativity in how many times they can oh-so-casually work their six-fig income into a conversation. Or they may plaster their social media with pics of them surrounded by village children in Haiti, to really drive home their compassion and sensitivity. All can be forms of immodesty, all achievable without ever showing the smallest amount of bosomery. Amazing!

 

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“To be holy, thou shalt look Amish.” said Jesus, NEVER (image from pixabay)

I’m not advocating for us to chuck propriety out the window. There IS a balance somewhere between looking Amish and frolicking around in nekidness. But rules like No Skirts Above Thigh Where Fingers Reach When Standing Straight With Arms Fully Extended don’t really get it… and the answer isn’t to try and outdo each other in modesty until we’re shuffling around in form-masking body suits made of brown paper bags.* Because really, immodesty is about drawing attention to yourself. Yes, showing some cleavage is a great way to get some attention** but

1) it’s just one of many ways to draw attention to yourself

2) men aren’t exempt from clamoring for attention

3) immodesty is a visible symptom to an insecurity that goes all the way to yer ticker.

This myopic focus on women’s bosoms and bootays when discussing modesty does a disservice to women AND men. Making up detailed rules to emphasize your rightness and expose the unrightness of others… 100% guaranteed to make all hearts involved worse off. Now, how to change the heart so that it doesn’t want or need validation from others? Hmm.. 😉 ***

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Consider Jesus’ sermon on the mount. One of the main themes was how the commandments all went way beyond a simple rule to the heart behind specific commandments… not a stricter rule. For example, Jesus didn’t say, “Hey – remember that rule about not murdering? I say, don’t even pinch a brother.” No, he said, “Remember that rule about not murdering? I say, don’t even be angry in the first place.” (paraphrase, Matt 5:21-22) This is frustrating, because it’s like.. “but, that’s internal! I can kinda control my actions, and barely control my thoughts on good days – but control my innermost desires?! Impossible!” And it’s like Jesus was like, “Bingo!” [cue Holy Spirit].

**So I’ve heard. *sniffs self-righteously*

***[cue Holy Spirit]

 

No, God did *not* tell that guy He wants y’all to be together

[NOTE: I don’t harbor any ill will or contempt for the persons mentioned in the story below. But if someone has to go through these insane-o experiences, others might as well learn from them!]

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^How Sydney felt (smoochies to Pixabay for the free image)

So my friend* Sydney found herself in a situation a few years back in which (I believe) a well-intentioned but misguided Christian man was convinced that he and Sydney were supposed to be together. And she just wasn’t feelin’ those kinda feels. But then he played the “but I think this is God’s will,” card and Sydney panicked. She tortured the interwebs with search phrases like “does God want you to date someone you’re not attracted to?” or “is it possible that God will tell one person but not the other that he wants you to be together,” etc. etc. (Google be like “showing results for psychiatrists near you “) She grew agitated with God. Praying didn’t seem safe because she was so afraid God would confirm this .. coming together .. that turned her stomach.** It took several of her Christian mentors looking at her incredulously and saying “No! This guy is trying to manipulate you. to keep Sydney from having a major crises of faith. And lo and behold, they were correct. She is single and sassy to this day, y’all! *praise hands*

This wasn’t an isolated event, either – another friend of mine, Kelly, had a similar experience. Another (I believe) well-intentioned but misguided Christian man told her he knew God wanted them to be together AND she should break things off with her fiancé (At least Sydney was single. Geez laweez, Papa Cheese!). Fortunately for everyone, Kelly wasn’t impressed with his claims of divine guidance and held her ground. And lo and behold, now she’s happily married AND the insta-prophet — who was so spiritually arrogant he was willing to basically steal another dude’s betrothed — is now happily engaged to another woman.

So why tell you this? Certainly not to make single Christian men – or Christians generally – look like complete crazies, but to 1) ease the tortured mind of any girls who might be legit confused because someone is using the Holy Spirit to MANIPULATE THEM and 2) to admonish men who have used this this form of spiritual abuse to CHECK THEMSELVES (or if you have brochachos who do, CHECK YOUR BROCHACHOS).

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^This guy totes looks the part of a Blasphemous Bobby. (ty for the free image, pixabay!)

 

Blasphemous Bobbies: if God wants y’all to be together, it will happen. Don’t mistake your shouting hormones with the still, quiet voice of God Almighty. If you think that a girl you’re interested in is not responding to the Cupid nudge of the Holy Spirit, then I would strongly suggest praying that she would hear his voice directly &/or through her spiritual mentors. If it’s divinely ordered, I’m sure He can get the job done without your interference. As Matt Chandler pointed out – taking the Lord’s name in vain is more than saying “Oh my G*d!” but the heart behind the commandment [you shall not take the Lord’s name in vain] is that God will not be co-opted, and you will not use the authority of the Lord to flex power and manipulate and coerce others (12:45 – 13:00). So don’t vainly use God’s name to manipulate some bewildered Christian woman.

Bewildered Betties: although I’m not aware of any biblical precedent for this sort of thing, God is very clear that “[love] does not insist on its own way” (1 Cor 13:4). And if you read the juicy and provocative Song of Songs, it’s pretty clear that the bible celebrates being wildly attracted to your man. So I really, really doubt God will torture you with someone you genuinely find creepy. God is not a bully, and I don’t think he wants you to be with one, either. But neither does the Galloswag want to use the Lord’s name in vain (I mean, God did tell Hosea to marry a whore) so by all means, if you’re in this situation please talk to a lot of mentors. There is wisdom in many counselors (Prov 11:14), but make sure those counselors are legit.

So praise Jesus for fulfilling the Priesthood, Law, AND Prophets so He can communicate it directly to you… and will very likely NOT speak “a word” through Blasphemous Bobby that so conveniently fits his relationship agenda and violates yours.

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Hallelujer!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

* 😉

**Sydney finally said [through gritted teeth] “I’ll do it if you want me too! But Father if there’s ANY other way, take this cup from me.. !”  And maybe that surrender is why God allowed all of those shenanigans. But the main point is, no one should subject anyone to this sort of soul torture.

 

Evil Triumphs When Men Do Bad, Stupid, or Ineffective Things

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ~Edmund Burke

This quote has begun to annoy me immensely. I’ve seen it used by conservatives and liberals alike as a rallying cry for political action. Yet usually the call for action of conservatives is to counteract whatever cause liberals want “good men” to act on. So who is good, and what is evil?

There are so many assumptions in this quote that are almost hardly ever true —  1) They, (the quoter) are good 2) Their followers / friend groups are good 3) They know what’s evil and what isn’t evil 4) action of any kind by good people can defeat evil.

Prob numero uno: what makes people good? Well… what they do!* So if good men are doing nothing, are they really good? And if good men do something with good intentions that has unintended consequences that end up producing bad, are those good men now bad? Ack, the circularity! Prob numero dos: If good men do “something” that is just all-round ineffective and ends up changing nothing, wouldn’t evil still triumph? Ack, the incompleteness!

Let’s put some of this in more concrete terms and use gun control activists and 2nd amendment supporters as a relevant example. Pro-gunners say “Rise up good men and defend our 2nd amendment rights so we can protect ourselves against the tyranny of government and rando criminals!” and anti-gunnerssay “Rise up good people** and add constraints to the 2nd amendment so the government can protect us from rando criminals!” Both of these groups think they know what the greater evil is, and both of these groups think they are the “good” ones.

Let’s be as generous as possible, and agree that the majority of people that belong to either group truly want a safe society. So who’s evil? Probably neither, really. But if one of those groups does “something,” the other group will very likely see the outcome as evil. And if one of those groups does “nothing,” the other group will think they have defeated evil. Also, let’s say either is right. What do they do? Should pro-gun people run around town shooting their AR-15s in the air to prove a point? Should anti-gun people raid people’s houses, steal their guns, and melt them down to use as gardening tools? Even if neither pro-gun people or anti-gun people are evil, surely you can appreciate how they could both start acting in ways that many people on both sides would see as evil. And evil would triumph.

I guess the main point of this ramble is that there has to be a balance somewhere between passive apathy and taking the time to think about and research 1) what’s really “evil” in any given situation and 2) what sort of action would actually be “good.” There is a difference between stubbornly refusing to act in the face of evil – when there is an obvious good action – and taking time to learn and understand at least *some* of the facets of a really complicated issue. Similarly, there is a difference between acting emotionally, passionately, “spinning your wheels,”etc. and actually doing something effective.

Now the main point of the main point: I want to be willing to consider that the outcome of my actions, no matter how well intended, could be evil. And if I’m going to act, I want to take some time to think about the best course of action — and that will likely involve having non-antagonistic convos with people who do not see the world exactly as I do.

Btdubs I’m not trying to be wishy-washy and say there is no truth or no evil or whatever, but I have Christian friends who would be disgusted by the political actions of my Christian parents, and my parents would be appalled by some of their activism. So especially within this community – which should be empowered by the same Spirit and working toward the same end goal – we should be willing to at least entertain the idea for 30 seconds that we could learn something from our sibs in the Lort!

This is good stuff y’all. I’m going to applaud myself.

😉 Dr. Galloswag out!

— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*I actually think that someone’s heart makes them good or evil. But as Jesus said, “you will know [evil men] by their fruit,” and as James said “I will show you my faith BY my good works.” The point is- only God knows what’s truly in our own and others hearts and so we can use people’s behavior as a proxy for where their heart is.
**Because pc, yo

Single and Dignified: The Valentine’s Day Edition

Being a singleton is a tough gig these days.

Our Moms are furtively creating online dating profiles for us…

pics from our ex’s Cancun weddings are splashing across our FB feed…

our friends have stopped protesting and instead pat our arms sympathetically when we indulge in self-deprecating rants..

andddd we’ve started to wave back encouragingly when randos honk at us.

Indeed, it is difficult, if not impossible, to be Single and Dignified. The Day of Valentine is especially proficient at stripping the dignity from singletons. How should one who flies solo face the barrage of ooey-gooey love-declarations?

Don’t overcompensate. You may be tempted to not just like, but heart all of the social media posts from your couplet friends. You may want to comment “OMG! best couple everrrrr!! #slay.” You may want to post something on your own timeline about how seeing everyone’s couple pic is like a glitter explosion of good feels. Hold the keyboard, Bubbles. You’re going to come across as trying too hard, and these responses will be seen as a valiant but unsuccessful attempt to cover your loneliness.

Don’t be a bitter jerk-face. If you’re a dark soul like myself, you may be tempted to go on a jaded and self-deprecating rant. You may want to troll other people’s pics and leave comments like “OMG! You and Alphonso look great. Almost as great as you and Jo-Jo looked last year.” Or you may be tempted to post a pic of you and your dog, with some statement about how humans can’t be trusted but this little guy has stuck with you through the ages. All of this is unadvisable. Your anger and sarcasm is inappropro, and will probably only result in people pitying you, which will only further enrage you.

Don’t ghost. If you’re very passive, you may be tempted to just avoid all forms of social media. This is not as pathetic as the other options, but it makes you look like a bad sport. Your silence may not be noticed, or people may assume you’re binge-watching rom-coms and crying hysterically, throwing half-eaten chocolate truffles at the screen. Don’t let people’s imaginations wander.

 

Don’t do Galentine’s Day. Very likely to turn into commiseration and re-hashing of everyone’s last decade of failed relationships.

Don’t get drunk. Expensive. Also, pathetic.

For the love of all human dignity, DO NOT VISIT, CALL, TEXT, EMAIL, FAX, TELEGRAPH, OR SMOKE-SIGNAL YOUR EX. 

Do love expansively. A reasonable balance is to re-share a post of your favorite couple, like maybe your parents, and then log-off social media for the rest of the day. Go workout or get a pedicure, and then remember how uninspiring V-Day was even when you were in couplehood. I’ve only been in a relationship one time when ol’ V Day hit, and we went to Longhorn. We chatted about an international trip I was about to embark on. He gave me a card that was uncharacteristically sappy and featured glitter cats, which was puzzling because neither cats nor glitter held a deep meaning for either of us. He didn’t write anything extra in the card, it was simply signed “-Ethan.”* Pretty sure he just grabbed the first pink card he saw. So if you’re feeling morose, just remember that being in a relationship on Valentine’s Day isn’t guaranteed to be all that spectacular anyway. Then call your Grandma or someone who has shown you unconditional love and tell them that you love them. Maybe donate to an organization that actually puts love into action (e.g. International Justice Mission). Maybe contemplate the cross, the greatest act of love in all of history. But don’t over-cheese, don’t be sulky or bitter, don’t hide, and DO NOT CONTACT YOUR EX. Hold your head high, singletons, and love the fact that romantic love is only a very tiny sliver of the love pie.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Chronic smoker grateful for support of Alternative Health Community

ATLANTA- Local resident Hank Womack has been smoking for the past 29 years. At first, he was suffocated by a judgmental community of “health experts” and anti-health family members who constantly tried to shove their own views on air quality and lung function down his throat. “They could see how much I got a kick out of smoking, but still they wanted to take it away from me. Probably because they are scared and don’t really understand cigarettes or lung function,” Hank confided in me. “I mean, at first I tried to quit. But it was mighty hard to impossible. If quitting is that hard, then continuing has to be good for me… This is who I am- Hank the Smoker.”
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Hank continued to explain that he grew up in a family that was brainwashed by Western medicine, and were completely closed minded to alternative views on smoking. His family, in the name of health, would subject him to odious lectures on cigarette toxicity, even going so far as to suggest he end friendships with other habitual smokers. So when Hank was about 32 years old, he cut family ties and found an alternative health community that recognized inhaling tar in your lungs as a legitimate form of breathing. “They welcomed me with open arms.. made me feel comfortable,” Hank wheezed.
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This small but dedicated alternative health community reanalyzed and reinterpreted decades of research on smoking, and a panel of chronic smokers concluded that the findings of these studies were being inappropriately applied to smokers. One of their major conclusions is that most studies were done on the harmful effects of smoking Salem cigarettes in night clubs, whereas most smokers now enjoy Marlboros in parks with their families. “This is a radically different context than the context of these landmark studies. Therefore, we reject the general consensus of the medical community that cigarettes are harmful for health,” they issued in an official statement.
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Hank added his own logic, “I feel so good when I smoke.. how can anything that makes me feel this good not be good for me?” He paused for a brief fit of coughing, which ended with him hacking blood into a napkin. “Nothing would be more anti-health than taking these away from me,” he finally rasped. This is in line with his alternative health community’s tag line “Healthy is What Makes You Happy.”
Hank plans to dedicate the rest of life freeing other smokers from the dogma of the mainstream medical community.

I will not not judge you

I would like to declare, loudly and proudly, that if the new definition of “judging” is “evaluating stuff, sometimes negatively,” then I fully embrace the title of judgmental.

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We’ve all experienced it. At just the wrong moment, you accidentally make eye contact with your coworker as they slyly reach for their third piece of almond pie* and they guiltily exclaim, “Don’t judge me!” And although you truly don’t care about their pie consumption and even confide in them that you were just diving into your fourth piece, the coworker proceeds to spend the next ten minutes rambling about how clean they’ve eaten all week, that they plan to go on the Stonewall Ab Diet** as soon as the holidays are over, the first two pieces were small, etc. But let’s get real. They don’t actually want you to NOT judge them. They actually want you to say, “No prob, Bob,” or better yet, “Girl, you should be proud of eating that pie. You do you!”

Why am I rambling about this? Well, people get huffy when you express disapproval about – anything – they do, from eating too much pie to sleeping with your best friend’s wife. They then become angry because you pointed out their shame, and then try to shame you – by branding you as “judge-y.”

I declare, loudly and proudly, that if the new definition of “judging” is “evaluating stuff, sometimes negatively,” then I fully embrace the title of judgmental. I can’t believe that this has become a revolutionary statement, but it is okay to tell someone that their actions are wrong, and it is okay to tell someone that their opinions are wrong.Let’s face it, a lot of people are doing and thinking a lot of stupid shoot these days. And no, we are not compelled to respect all opinions equally. Some opinions are very well informed and logical, but too many are not. We are also not compelled to have the exact same level of respect for all people, regardless of their opinions and actions.

Granted, I try to have a baseline respect for people, if only for their great accomplishment of being a part of the human race. But let’s imagine a man who insists that Robin Williams is coming back to earth as a rainbow colored snail to lead a few devoted followers down into the core of the earth to live in toasty harmony. I am absolutely not obligated to respect snail-man as much as I respect Tim Keller ❤ , for example. It’s not that I think snail-man needs to die, or that I’m a fundamentally more valuable person than him… but I’m not going to read 8 of his books, recommend them to all my friends with wild abandon, or creepily namedrop him in 37% of my blog posts. If you really think about it, I’d wager you probably wouldn’t respect snail-man either. Please note, I don’t think that everyone who disagrees with me is this ridiculous – there are scales of absurdity, and there is a strong, inverse correlation between your absurdity and my respect for you.

In all seriousness, I hope you judge me too. I don’t want to think or do things that are dumb, wrong, or downright evil. I need people to challenge my foolishness. I especially need kind, smart people to challenge me. And yes, the degree to which I respect you will scale how much I value your challenge. Even if it makes me a little butt-hurt, “better a butt-hurt from a friend than a butt-squeeze from an enemy,” as they say.

So let’s all get over ourselves a bit and stop being self-righteously indignant about other people’s (we think) self-righteous indignation. I judge you, do you judge me? Check yes or no.

 

—- EDITORIAL NOTES —-

*I WILL MAKE ALMOND PIE A THING

**This should also be a thing. STONEWALL!

Okay, if you’re not a Christian you can stop here. If you are, please huddle in for a little family chat. [WARNING: about to drop some serious J-bombs!]

***********************************************************************

Yes, Jesus did indeed say “Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7). But He also goes on to say that you will be judged with the same measure that you judge other people with. The only measure I use to judge someone in the most serious sense of the word is whether the person  1) confesses their own imperfection and 2) realizes that Christ’s perfection in life makes his death the only and perfect way for them to be restored back to right relationship with God. And truly, I’m okay being judged by that measure. But even beyond eschatological concerns, the bible actively encourages Christians to evaluate people, especially other Christians. We are told to evaluate whether someone is full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to determine if they are truly Christian (Galations 5:22-23; Matthew 7:16). We are also told to exhort (definition: strongly encourage / urge someone to do something) each other so we won’t be hardened by sin (Hebrews 3:13), and to confront each other when we do something wrong (Matthew 18:15-20). The Apostle Paul also strongly chastised Peter (Galations 2:11) and entire churches in his various letters (e.g. 1 Corinthians). So, it would seem evaluating other people’s actions and confronting people who are doing or thinking wrongly isn’t going against Christian teachings, it’s actually a crucial part of it. I’m assuming, however, that this is done out of love for the confrontee(s), and that the confronter(s) is perfectly aware that their *ONLY* merit is through Christ and approaches the entire issue in complete humility. But I don’t have no Doctor of Divinity, so please look into this yourself and seek out other sources.