“I looked down into that carriage and I swear that baby was judging me.”
Gwen (Catherine Zeta-Jones), “American Sweethearts”
Things have gotten to the point where, not only can’t you talk about religion and politics, you can’t talk about much of anything without stirring controversy.
Christians have been cornered into trying so hard to be nice to other people we seem to have made it OK to not be nice to us. And being nice often takes the form of relaxing God’s standards. Christians will even have their own scriptures thrown in their faces in condemnation. “Judge not lest ye be judged!”
In Romans 14 St. Paul writes to the church there to stop judging each other. In Matthew 7 Jesus says, ““Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
There seems to be biblical evidence that maybe we should not be judgmental. Maybe we are supposed to keep our mouths shut and let others live their lives. But wait! Read the following from Proverbs:
“My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion.” Proverbs 3:21
So am I supposed to be judgmental or not? The first thing about interpreting bible passages – or any written word – is to be sure to read around the passage. Get the context.
The first verse of Romans 14 reads “Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.” Paul then goes on to write about how one individual eats only vegetables and is judgmental toward the ones who eat meat. There were other, non-scriptual disputes over what they thought was good, Christian behavior. There were doubtless any number of issues that the Roman church was fracturing over, with plenty of opportunities to be judgmental. It was apparently getting personal and people’s faith was being damaged.
In Matthew 7 Jesus sounds pretty adamant against being judgmental. If you read the whole thing, you realize He is advising us to be very careful about putting ourselves in the crosshairs by calling other people out on their behavior. Now read the rest of that section:
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Jesus is telling us to not be hypocritical by judging others for a behavior that we ourselves practice. It’s stupid, a bad witness, and we put ourselves in jeopardy. He does indicate that, once we’ve cleared up our own vision, we will then be able to see clearly to, ahem, be judgmental. Now let’s go a step further and look more closely at the analogy. Jesus talks about removing a speck from our brother’s eye, clearly an act of kindness.
AN ACT OF KINDNESS!
Think about what you’ve read so far, and you’ll see that there are two types of being judgmental on display here. In Romans, Paul was trying to stop people from being judgmental in a way that was one-upmanship and personal. In Matthew, Jesus was talking against hypocrisy and also warning us to be very careful and kind with being judgmental. Proverbs tells us we must be judgmental to discern the right and the wrong and to know when a witness is needed.
I was on an international flight some years ago. My seat mate from Detroit to Amsterdam was a nice, young Scandinavian lass. As our discussions ranged, we got to the topic of religion. After some talk, she asked me if I thought she was going to hell. I thought I detected a bit of a challenge and realized I was in a very precarious position. I was a Christian potentially being set up by an unbeliever to be judgmental. My mind raced. God gave me the words to say.
“You must realize it gives me no pleasure to tell you this,” I said with heartfelt sadness, “but I do. And it isn’t me passing judgment on you. I’m simply answering your question based on what God tells us in the bible. If you don’t believe in Jesus as your savior, yes, you will go to hell.”
I was given the clarity to let her know that God is her judge, not me. I’m just the messenger holding up the yardstick God has given us all to use.
Sometimes I think about that young girl on the plane. Did that tiny seed of God’s Word ever take root or not? Did hearing Truth and my sorrow for her plight get her thinking…and seeking? Does telling anyone of any age the difference between right and wrong in love and sincerity do any good? I think it must. Certainly it does not every time, as many people’s hearts have been hardened. I do believe that society needs to know right and wrong.
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, that human beings are something akin to the product of a factory. The bible is the instruction manual. It tells us how to operate the human “machine” without damaging it.
Go ahead. Be judgmental, but in a good way.