Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:1-2)

It’s time to work on that summer body. My Wife and I recently tried out a new gym. A new Planet Fitness opened in our neighborhood and we thought we would check things out. During the tour, (think sales pitch) we kept hearing the same phrase over and over again; “We are a judgment free zone.”

Planet Fitness prides itself on providing a judgment free fitness experience. A place where anyone at any level can come and begin their fitness journey. The phrase was printed on brochures featuring athletes with optimal bodies. It appeared in large letters above the weightlifting equipment where intimidating biceps were curling impressive amounts of weight. So while there may have been no judgment, there was a good deal of, shall we call it, personal self-critique.

Thinking that maybe one day we could look like the person on the promotional material, Kim and I decided that we would give the center a try. The representative then produced a contract with no commitment (pause and think about that for a few minutes). We were assured that we could cancel anytime, no matter what nobody was going to judge us.

As we placed initials and signatures on paper, we were presented with a document labeled “Terms and Conditions.” Printed on this digital document was a list of do’s and don’ts, what would be permitted and what would be impermissible. Actions which the company had “judged” to be inappropriate and inconsistent with corporate objectives and customer safety. Then it dawned on me, at Planet Fitness, judgment free does not mean rule free.

Can you imagine if it did? Someone decides they are going to set idly on the last open bike while arguing with their mom on their phone, but employees can’t say anything because it’s a “no judgment zone.” Another would-be gymnast decides they want to get buff in the buff, but all you can do is look away because it’s a “no judgment zone.” A fitness enthusiast decides he will publicly blast 80’s techno music through a JBL personal speaker system and you’re forced to listen because it’s a “no judgment zone.” Another person showers a machine in sweat and then moves on without cleaning it afterwards, but nobody can coach them on proper gym etiquette because it’s a “no judgment zone.” And a 110 lb bodybuilder loads up 300 lbs of free-weights for a chest routine, but you can’t say anything because it’s a “no judgment zone.” And yes, I have actually witnessed some of the above.

A lack of judgment is not a prerequisite for being judgment free.

Scripture is clear. You and I as fallen human beings live in a “no judgment zone.” In this life, like our new gym, everyone is on their own spiritual fitness journey. Some are healthier than others. Some have been training for a long time, others are just getting underway. We have no right to judge their spiritual appearance or journey. But “no judging” is not the same thing as “no rules.”

Today, many around us like to declare their freedom from critique. “Who are you to judge?” “What gives you the right to judge me?” “Judge not,” they quote, “lest you be judged.” But living in a judgment free zone does not give one the right to act wrong.

We live in a “no judgment zone.” But there are terms and conditions, rules put in place by God to ensure a safe and productive spiritual journey. It is not only permissible to graciously point out when these rules are being broken, it would be negligent to do otherwise. Because “judgement free” does not mean “rule free.”

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