Judgemental people rub me the wrong way. You know the type — the person who acts holier-than- thou, always criticizing and judging others. These folks really get under my skin, but not for the reason you might think — I say this because there are levels and forms of judging others.
I want to start off with a passage from the Bible. While not all of our readers are Christian, I am, so hence my reference to the following Bible teaching:
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37
Regardless of your religious faith, or lack thereof, we can learn a great deal from Luke 6:37. What did Jesus mean by these words? Does he mean that none of us should judge and/or condemn another? Does he mean we should just let everyone live and act however they want, in a world run amok? No, I don’t believe this is the case at all.
I believe that Luke 6:37 is telling us that there is judging and then there is judging. Judgement has more than one meaning — there is passing judgement on another person and then there is judging differences – as in discerning between two things.
We see a woman standing on a sidewalk and she’s dressed provocatively. Knowing nothing about her, by the way she is dressed and where she is standing, we judge that she must be a prostitute. We then take a dim view of her and we harshly pass a judgement, diminishing her as a human being and condemn her by concluding that she is a low-life and a sinner. In this, we have judged her — we have discarded her, diminished her value as a human being, put ourselves above her and, relegated her to the dregs of society.
– or –
You’re on a jury for the trial of a man who you learn has been a “bad seed” since he was born, raping, robbing and murdering people throughout his life. Finally caught and faced with paying for his crimes, the evidence against him is overwhelming and he shows no remorse and says that given the chance, he would go on raping, robbing and murdering. By his actions and his own words, you conclude that he’s an evil person — devoid of any remorse, he is quite literally, the proverbial “bad seed” — in this case, you can judge (discern) he is guilty of the charges against him and you can find him guilty in good conscience.
In each case, there was judgement, but different types. One might judge the woman who is assumed to be a prostitute as evil, when in fact, she is a good person and isn’t a prostitute at all — she works as a Waitress and was simply waiting for a bus on that sidewalk. With the “bad seed,” we may judge that he is evil and discern that he is guilty of the crimes for which he is accused, and thus, deserves the proper punishment.
Quite the conundrum, isn’t it? So there is judging a person for no good reason and then there is judging in which we discern something and make a distinction, coming to a justified conclusion.
A Tree and Its Fruit
“No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:43-45
Good trees produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. The call to differentiate good from evil is to judge, (or distinguish), but to do so correctly.
Today, because of the power of mass-media, we hear far too many people arbitrarily judging and condemning others. The sanctimonious are quick to place themselves above their fellow man. For them, the homosexual is a sinner and will surely suffer God’s wrath. To them, the prostitute is a spawn of the devil and she will surely burn in hell. Or, so they judge.
When we arrogantly judge and condemn others, we are placing ourselves above them and declaring them to be worthless — we convince ourselves that we are superior to them and thus, God must feel the same way. Judgement causes us to see those we judge/condemn not as people loved by God, but as a dark thing — a person who is not worthy of this earth or of Heaven. This rush to judge and condemn others is in itself, perhaps the greater sin?
This is not to say that we must accept everyone and everything as they are. There are people who engage in crime or who violate human rights and this is not acceptable — we are not expected to live in a “do as you please” society. There are always going to be people we disagree with politically, theologically and socially, but once we cross that line from discernment into judging, dismissing, marginalizing and condemning, we have crossed a dangerous line.
When we see others as wrong, both in their beliefs and their souls, we are speaking for God. In effect, we’re telling the world that this person we judge is not worthy — that they are morally corrupt, misguided and don’t really matter, regardless of what is truly in their hearts.
No one can hide their true heart from God and I don’t believe that God needs or wants our “help” in this matter. We must be careful how and who we judge, because a hate-filled heart that twists the word of God to satisfy their own hatred of another person, is probably the one we need to fear more.
“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?” Matthew 7:3
Christians are meant to love all, as God loves us, even those we least understand. Christ died for all of us, not just the self-appointed select few, and the pious are no better than the non-believer. To hate, attack, belittle and condemn another human being, is to contradict God and the teachings of Christ. We may not like or understand the way another person leads their lives, but who are we to judge another of God’s children? Loving another person, regardless of whether you believe them to be wrong or sinful, does not make you guilty of that alleged sin.