By Jesse Jost
Our culture’s favourite verse, which is applied very selectively, is “do not judge.” (Matt 7:1) A verse that is not so quoted is where Jesus sheds more light on the topic by warning us “not to judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” (John 7:24)
In a world full of evil and danger, wisdom forces us to try to discern between the harmless and the harmful, between the hazardous and the healthy, and between the true and the false. So at one level, making judgments is unavoidable. But our need to judge others seems to go far beyond our need to survive. We love to size up other humans; we make snap-judgments and stereotype. We are quick to make assumptions that aren’t warranted, and declare a verdict based on insufficient evidence.
Judging an issue or another person is serious business. Our judgments have consequences: they dictate our attitudes and our course of actions. When we judge, we are deciding reward or punishment. We reward with trust, time spent with a person, words of affirmation or praise, money spent on a product, etc. We punish by avoidance, emotional withdrawal, silence, criticism, boycotting, slander, or worse.
Clearly, getting our judgments right has huge implications for our self and others. To punish the innocent or reward the evil is a serious offence to God and results in the decay of society.
Incorrect judgments cause much misery and relationship breakdown. I’m sure you don’t have to look too far into your own past to see hurt brought about by an unjust judgement. Our capacity to judge is a loaded weapon with explosive power. Sadly, we swagger around firing the bullets of judgment with reckless abandon, caring little about the serious damage we are inflicting on others.
Some will advocate for judgment pacifism, a mutual disarmament on all judging. I don’t believe that is the answer. Dangers need to be recognized, frauds need to be exposed, evil needs to be unmasked. These are vicious cancers that prey upon the weak. When evil lurks, the vulnerable suffer the worst. Love that stands by and does nothing to speak up or protect is not love, but sentimental cowardice.
Sin is always destructive, which why our loving God abhors it. To not judge sex slavery as evil is to contribute to the ongoing torture millions of girls are experiencing every day. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. The more we grow in our relationship with God, the more we will passionately love the world He has made and those who bear His holy image. Greater love will result in greater passion to bring freedom and healing to those who are enslaved in sin’s corrosive clutches. This requires making a right judgment.
But while fighting for truth, goodness, and beauty requires judging, we must be ever wary of the devastation a hasty and incorrect judgment inflicts. I would like to suggest a quick safety course on the correct handling of judgment. Continue reading…