People have always judged others. It’s as old as Cain and Abel. But like everything else in 2020, it seems worse now. People are so quick to judge and draw conclusions over just about everything. Who’s wearing masks? Who’s not? Why not? How could you ever vote for—fill in the blank? My pastor is too – fill in the blank. Forget baseball, judging is the new American pastime.
Ironically, Americans do not want their individual behaviors and attitudes to be judged. Everyone (judgers included) loves to quote Jesus’ words from the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not judge or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). I’ve heard it from every side and every angle in these hyper sensitive times. “Don’t judge me!” Then their ironclad argument stopper is invoked, “Jesus said, ‘Don’t judge me.’”
Jesus did say that. Jesus also said, just a few verses later, the following:
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7:15-20
Evidently to “watch out” for ferocious wolves who are dressed as sheep; and to ascertain whether I’m picking grapes and figs and not thorns and thistles; and to determine if a tree is good for fruit or firewood– a certain amount of judging needs to take place.
Apostles Paul and John (both weighed in on the topic of judging) wrote:
Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22)
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (1 John 4:1)
There’s only one way to “test everything” and “test the spirits to see whether they are from God”—that’s to make a judgment call. Which is it? Judge or not judge?
Here’s my simple answer: Yes. Here’s my more developed answer:
1) Judge the person in the mirror not the one in your bullseye
Jesus said, “First take the plank out of your own eye, and then (then, then, then) you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:5 the extra three “thens” are mine). Your brother has a speck in his eye. That’s no good. Have you ever had a speck in your eye? It’s irritating. Help your brother. But first take care of your own irritating habits. First, inspect your motives, motivations and habits.
2) Judge with an eye on mercy.
Jesus previously had said: For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Matthew 7:2). Jesus doesn’t mean that we are to ignore sin, but rather we are to judge with extreme caution. Judge as you would want to be judged. We all want mercy. Who among us hasn’t wanted the police office to ignore our slightly heavy foot on the gas pedal and give us a warning not a citation? Judge with mercy,
3) Judge but don’t be judgmental.
We need to discern right from wrong (obviously) but we don’t need to be judgmental in doing so. It’s tough to do. Here’s how Paul instructed young Timothy on such things:
The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:24-26)
Don’t be quarrelsome.
Don’t belittle anyone’s opinions.
Don’t become resentful.
Don’t bestow a social media rant against anyone (seriously, no one).
Instead, be kind. Gentle. Hope and pray for God’s grace and intervention in the life of everyone. We aren’t called to be judgmental, but we are called to judge right from wrong. We are called to love God—as holy and true as He is– and to love people—as unholy and untrue as they may be.