The national Fitness Chain, Planet Fitness, has landed on a brilliant marketing campaign. Printed beneath their logo and painted on their walls is this message, “Judgment Free Zone.” Why is that such a smart slogan? They know that an imposing impediment to beginning to work out is intimidation.

Research shows that when those who are not gym guys or gals visit a gym for the first time, they can sometimes feel like they’ve entered into the land of the buff and beautiful, where everyone is all spandexed and strong, toned and together. Planet Fitness has set out to ease the anxiety so that the ones who might benefit the most from time in the gym would feel welcomed, not judged.

When I learned their approach, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus. Jesus was frequently criticized by the religious leaders of his day for associating with and accepting all manner of social and spiritual outcasts. The religious leaders preferred to maintain separation and to dole out shame. Jesus chose extending mercy and grace, and here was his rationale. He didn’t come for people who already looked like the after picture. He came to love and help all those who have some work to do (which happens to be all of us).

That’s one of the reasons Jesus forbids judgment in Matthew 7. Judgment doesn’t give life; it takes it. Judgment doesn’t promote growth; it stunts it, hurting both the one being judged and the one judging. My prayer is that our church, our Life Groups, our relationships would always be a “Judgment Free Zone.” I pray we develop the reputation of Jesus so that everyone feels truly wanted and welcomed at Chenal.

About Bryce Kittinger