A Better Way Than Judging
Jesus said, “Do not judge”. But the response is ‘But we have to judge, don’t we?’ Well, yes and no.
Judging does not mean suppressing our convictions or being silent when we should speak, as Dante said puts it; “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.’ Making good judgements about our time, money and life’s choices is vital, so, what does it mean, “Do not judge?”
Addicted to Judging
Mrs B berates her husband for not being courteous, she cites Mr C next door who opens the passenger door of the car to let his wife in every morning. She, in turn, leans over to open the driver’s door for him. Mrs B’s judgement is, ‘How wonderful and thoughtful is Mr C’ …. or is he? You see the reality is the driver’s door lock on Mr C’s car is broken and can only be opened from the inside.
Good and bad judgements come naturally to us, but we are often wrong because rarely do we know all the facts. It is said the only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions.
If we stop and become more aware of what we are thinking it is likely we will see that we are addicted to judging. ‘He’s fat, she’s rude, they are greedy…. corrupt, lazy, strange proud, disloyal, bad, good, etc’
Judging other’s motives or labelling people based on limited knowledge is the core of a judgemental spirit.
The Unseen Heart
“ It is the Lord who judges me, therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time. Wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” (1 Corinthians 4:4-5)
In this passage, Paul addresses the fact that the motives of the heart are unclear. Unless an explicit sin has been committed, we shouldn’t be quick to pronounce guilty verdicts. It is easy to stand in the place of God but here the bible says, it is the Lord who judges, because only God “can bring light” to what is unseen.
Four Good Reasons To Root Out Judging
1. Judging others is self-condemning. Gregory Boyd in Repenting of Religion puts it this way “We judge others harshly in order to judge ourselves with approval.”. This type of harsh judgement Boyd suggests is often rooted in superiority which takes strange enjoyment from looking down and correcting others. We see from Christ’s words, this can be self-condemning; “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you too will be judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
2. Judging puts us in the place of God. Satan lied in the Garden of Eden when he said, “You will not die”, there was a twisted truth when he said, “You will be like God knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). Before the fall, man was innocent and in a loving dependent relationship with God. Eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a rebellious act that said, “God is not enough, He is no longer the centre as judge, but we are.“
“There is only one lawgiver and judge”(James 4:12) and it’s not us. Let God be the judge. He does it far better.
3. Judging damages relationships and divides people. In Romans 14 Paul deals at length with judging one another in what he refers to as “disputable matters” (Romans 14:1), differences that are not of any real significance (Col 2:16-17). We are urged to contend for the revealed truth (Jude 1:3) but in areas that are unclear, we are encouraged to hold our view without condemning others who hold different views. It is easy to confuse unity with uniformity. A diversity of opinion can be healthy, and we can hold strongly different views and still live in ‘peace and mutual edification’ (Romans 14:19)
Negative judgements are almost always received as an attack and evoke a defence response, either to attack back or to close down and pull away. When we move away from judging, we can celebrate differences rather than feel threatened by it.
4. Judging fails to live under grace We often judge some sins far worse than others, but in James 2:8-13 it says that we are all lawbreakers and prejudice is no less a sin than murder or adultery. Judging others when we want to be shown mercy is reflected in the story Jesus tells of the two debtors (Matt 18:21-35). Is it right that we demand justice for others but want grace for ourselves?
Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye and the whole world is blind.” Twice Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 and asks us to learn what it means, “I desire mercy not sacrifice” (Matt 9:13, 12:7), and James says that “mercy trumps over judgement” (James 2:13). As we live under grace, we will learn to show grace and follow the example of Jesus who “when they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate when he suffered, he made no threats, instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23).
A Better Way
We often have strong ideas about how some things ought to be and end up having kneejerk reactions when some things don’t look “the way we would like”. It could be in the areas of how people live out their marriages, how people date, how others bring up their kids, how people spend their time. This can lead to prejudice when others don’t do things according to our strong ideals.
Weeding out our judgemental spirit takes time and work. First, we must see and own where we make judgements. The book ‘Non-Violent Communication’ addresses the need to make observations without judgement or evaluation. This is to limit our focus to the facts without adding our twist.
To say “You are always late” is a judgement. To say “You were late three times last week” is a fact. To say “You didn’t call because you don’t care” is a judgement. To say, “You didn’t call I wonder why?” removes the judgement. By asking clarifying questions, we discover new information that will inform our view and consequently shape our renewed response. Instead of forming our conclusions and finding reasons to back it up.
Looking Up By Looking Within
Boyd makes this astute observation “Our fundamental sin is that we place ourselves in the position of God and divide the world between what we judge to be good and what we judge to be evil. And this judgment is the primary thing that keeps us from doing the central thing God created and saved us to do, namely, love like he loves.”.
When we focus on the plank in our own eye, we will not see so many specks of sawdust in others (Matt 7:1-5). By seeing our sin more clearly we will embrace Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith who did not come to condemn the world but to save us. By allowing the good news to resonate deep into our hearts, we can extend that grace towards others. That is a better way than judging.
Written by John Partington
John Partington lives in Surrey and serves as a Shepherd in a Church in Reading and a Christian counsellor. He is married to Rose and together they have one son and two grandchildren. John is also involved in development work in Zambia, Nepal and Jamaica.
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