Have you ever been told: “Who are you to judge me? You don’t know me!” How many times have you felt that way when someone judged you in some setting? Was it a teacher, a coworker, a friend…a pastor? I’ve often thought that Christians are the most judgmental people on the planet, largely because they have a set of immutable standards given them in the Bible. Unfortunately, it often goes further than that because they judge out of a sense of “I’m better than you,” which is a horrible thing to do...and a false concept as well. Oftentimes the judgments go beyond the standards given by God and are applied simply because of superficial things that have no real meaning. For example, the guy with all the tattoos is judged as a bad person by some people, or the woman with the tattered and dirty clothes is judged as a bad person, and the list goes on.
But aren’t I being naïve if I fail to judge? We are born with an innate ability and need to judge. It keeps us safe. We make judgments on the weather based on the clouds; we judge the driving risk when the road is wet. We avoid dark alleys and certain areas at certain times. Or maybe we see a rickety bridge or even a hungry cougar and decide it isn’t safe. But sunny days come along and roads dry out. We judge an event or condition based on time. Things change…and people change, too. I remember the vivid image in the Scarlet Letter of the woman who committed adultery being shunned and forced to wear a big red “A” on her clothes forever. She was judged. There is a huge difference in judging versus disciplining. I would hate to be judged that way forever on my mistakes and sins. How about you? Those early pilgrims were taking on the role of God in permanently judging character rather than giving loving discipline over behavioral mistakes. Our court system was fashioned on this principle, yet so often the ex-criminal carries the stigma of judgment like a “Big Red A” on their chest even if they are completely reformed by their “discipline” in the court process.
I worked with the Major Crimes Task Force for several years, and we rotated undercover officers out of those drug and prostitution environments regularly. It was not a place to hang out for long. It would be naïve to continually and closely associate with people who constantly involve themselves in sinful behavior as men like the well-known “Preacher of Bourbon Street” in New Orleans found out. That’s the kind of “judgment” we all have to make to take care of ourselves. Going to wild drug parties or cruising around in cars with people who plan to commit burglaries would be pretty dumb. Telling those people that their behavior is wrong would not be. Jesus hung out sometimes with serious sinners for the express purpose of disciplining their behavior and beliefs, but his close inner circle, that he spent most of his time with, were those he picked for their more mature qualities. Were they perfect…not in the least. And when they were visibly imperfect, Jesus disciplined them with love…but he did not judge them.
He was the only one who actually had the right to judge them and he didn’t…can we do no less?