Should we judge others?
Have you had someone tell you, “You shouldn’t judge people” when pointing out something wrong? Moreover, the phrase, “I’m not judging” has become commonplace, as if suggesting good choices is somehow inconsiderate.
Everyone’s a comedian
Late night comedians have used the Bible as a source to criticize Christians who are standing up for their beliefs.
When people tell you not to judge, they are in fact judging you. Perhaps you should challenge them regarding their judgmental comment?
Understandably, that will not make inroads with your critics, so let’s look at this closer.
First, I always find it interesting when people who discount the Bible as authoritative then turn around and use it when it suits their needs. Ask a person where the verse regarding “judging others” is found in Scripture and they’re usually at a loss for words.
The principle of judging others is taken out of context and frequently misquoted by biblically illiterate people, yet that doesn’t stop them from using it.
The famous words are found in Matthew 7:1, which says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
The teaching comes from Jesus, but he was NOT telling us to remain passive observers of dumb or destructive behavior. Anyone who pulls a verse out of context to make a faulty point is usually manufacturing evidence by using the “text” to run a “con.”
Therefore, let’s keep it in context. Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Class in session
So this is what Jesus is telling us to do:
- Get our act together, first. Chances are, we have several things—like a log in our eye—that need to be addressed before helping a brother or sister who may need a course correction.
- Once we have taken care of business that skews our vision, we are able help others see things clearly.
- A person with clear vision will be able to make judgment calls regarding the direction of someone going off course.
Removing “the speck out of your brother’s eye” involves judgment. The misquoted verse is not a command to refrain from judging, yet an example of how to judge. Don’t judge hypocritically, which is a universal problem.
Judgmental accusations from “non-judgmental” people
I have been challenged by people who’ve said: “The Bible is wrong.” … “There is no God.” … “Christianity is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites.” Do you see the irony? These are all judgments. While I’m not offended by the comments, I simply find it amusing when people claiming that we shouldn’t judge make judgmental accusations.
Sidebar: God has called me to be a witness, not his attorney. Therefore, I simply tell what I know and leave the results up to him.
What is the question?
The question isn’t whether we should make judgments, but rather how we come to conclusions that form our “judgmental opinions.” For instance, is truth involved? Can our conclusions be supported by evidence? Is there a moral basis for our conclusion?
Once we’ve answered the aforementioned questions, we need to answer a few more: Do I have a legal, ethical, or moral obligation to step in. i.e. judge. If so, what is the best course of action? What will happen if I remain silent or inactive? Is there an alternative?
This is why police officers need to be “above reproach.” We make so many judgment calls during the course of our day. As a result, we come to conclusions based upon what we know and believe to be true.
Police officers learn the elements of various crimes, and when a suspect crosses the line, we make a judgment call to initiate an arrest.
Next, the justice system comes into play. While officers make a judgment call in the field, the court will make the ultimate judgment of whether the person is guilty or not.
Sidebar: Notice I didn’t say “innocent.” While I certainly hope the innocent go free, I’ve seen far too many guilty people acquitted or had charges dropped due to legal technicalities.
Without getting into a deep theological dive, essentially, Christians are no more the ultimate judge regarding a person’s actions than a police officer is with crime. The court of jurisdiction will be the ultimate judge on crime, and God will be the ultimate judge regarding our actions.
Passive punching bag
For those who think Christians should be passive punching bags when it comes to genuine, public discussions about ethics and morality, a quick view of Matthew 23 might be helpful. In this passage, Jesus challenged the Pharisees—political and religious leaders of the day—in a manner that some would call “undignified” in our snowflake producing modern culture. He exposed them for their deceit and self-serving methods. Moreover, he wasn’t very polite when doing it. He was quite assertive.
“For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness,” Jesus told them. “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Continuing, this is a favorite of mine:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
Wow! Sweet and gentle Jesus said this?
Indeed, he did! Jesus was not Mr. Rogers! He was clearly compassionate and majestic most of the time, but he was anything but passive with people who demonstrated rottenness to the core.
Cleaning house and shooting straight
As a result, sometimes we simply need to tell people when they are wrong, but doing so after the “inside of our cup” has been cleaned.
Conversely, have you noticed that when you compliment someone, which is judging them, no one gets upset?
If I tell my wife, “Babe, you make that dress look beautiful,” she will not be unhappy with me. Actually, quite the opposite is true. Consequently, we make complimentary “judgments” without being called “judgmental” all the time … or at least we should!
So the truth is this: People simply don’t like “judgments” they disagree with. Furthermore, they are not honest about it. When you expose evil deeds, people are going to get mad at you—in police work and in your faith journey. Be prepared!
– Jim McNeff
(Feature image: Robert Thivierge/Flickr)