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Session 15

Being Judged By Nonbelievers Can Be Good For You

Read: 1 Peter 4:1-6

For most Christians, the most uncomfortable conversation we’ll ever have is the one in which we tell someone who has known us for a while that we no longer do or participate in _________.

Fill in that blank for yourself: gossip, premarital or extramarital sex, alcohol, pornography, cutting, self-comparison. The list could go on, but that moment when our friends or coworkers or family look at us as if we’ve grown second heads never gets easier because we know that they’ve made a judgment call in a split second.

When you follow Jesus’ example, the people around you are going to notice changes in you. They might not be happy with, comfortable with or understand all of them. In 1 Peter 4:4, Peter describes this moment, saying unbelievers become “surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, wild living, and they heap abuse on you.”

Judgment is going to come, and when it does, remember “... whoever suffers in the body is done with sin” (1 Peter 4:1). Suffering “in the body” doesn’t just mean physical suffering; it encompasses the range of thoughts and emotions. Being judged hurts, and knowing that it may not be intentional doesn’t soften the blow. Knowing that judgment from unbelievers is a consequence of something much greater—and better—should.

Sometimes it’s difficult to see Christ’s work in our lives because all we see is how we fail Him. When unbelievers are “surprised” and judgmental of the decisions we make—or the activities we avoid—because of Jesus, we can take heart in knowing that if they didn’t judge us from a human perspective, we may not be “done with sin.” How others react to us can be a barometer for measuring obedient change in our lives. Pay attention. It might turn out that you’ll be surprised to see how Jesus has changed you.

Reflect:

  • Has anyone been judgmental of your decision to follow Christ (or of choices that follow from that decision)? What about your choices do you think surprised that person?
  • What’s one way you can use uncomfortable conversations with people who don’t understand your obedience to Christ to lovingly share the Gospel?
  • What’s one way your life has changed that brings criticism from non-Christians? Take time to thank Jesus for His work in you in that area of your life.

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