Hey, don’t judge me!”
Sound familiar? This might be one of the most common phrases in American society today. It’s uttered on a consistent basis whenever we get caught doing something wrong, stupid, or goofy. Sometimes it’s in jest, and other times it’s a harsh command. But is it true? Is it really wrong to judge others? Advocates will point straight to the Bible for support, especially when they’re being judged by Christians. After all, aren’t Christians showing themselves to be hypocritical when they continue to highlight people’s sins? Jesus himself said “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” – seems pretty straight forward. We should not judge.
Well, yes…and no.
See, things start to become complicated when you really think about what’s happening. Those who are so quick to shout “don’t judge me” are themselves also judging. To point the finger at someone else and tell them it’s wrong to judge is also pronouncing a judgment. You’re saying that what they’re doing is bad. The second problem is that without judging, how can we ever come to any conclusion about who to trust and who not to trust? How do we know right from wrong? In order to label anything as good or bad, there has to be some sort of discernment. There has to be some sort of judgment. Judgment is indeed unavoidable.
So where does this leave us? It seems that the only logical conclusion to draw is that there are two kinds of judgment – one good and one bad. In fact, I believe that Jesus words in Matthew 7:1-5 show a great deal of support for this.
Bad Judgment. To begin, bad judgment views people in light of man-made standards. Society has come to see some sins as worse than others. There is an invisible “sin hierarchy” that pervades over our lives. While these often have a rational component based on the gravity of physical consequences, it nevertheless promotes a distorted version of judgment. See, the problem with a man-made hierarchy of sins is that it automatically promotes comparisons to men. Some people will be seen as less good than others. It induces pride for those who are higher on the scale, and despair for those who are lower. Consequently, the intent of bad judgment is to promote yourself and demote the one you are judging. By pointing out their faults, your righteousness is highlighted. In fact, you may even offer to help them, only to emphasize your piety and the apparent morality gap that lies between you. In the end, it costs you nothing.
Good Judgment. The standard by which we should measure others is no longer a man-made hierarchy, but God’s glorious perfection. Now certainly, this will increase the number of sins for which we can judge…but it also levels the playing field. Romans 3:10 says “No one is righteous – not even one.” The irony here is that we could have already come to our judgmental conclusion without even knowing the action from which we judged. We are all much worse than we could ever imagine. And yet, as mentioned, we’re all also stuck together in the same spot with no way up the sin hierarchy on our own – we must rely totally on Jesus. Understanding this situation, however, allows us to genuinely care about other people without first caring about our status on the scale. Judgment can come from a compassionate heart. We see other people’s struggles with sin and honestly want to help them for their sake, and not for our own. Often times this might mean not even vocalizing their problem, but instead coming alongside them through actions. This also means that in order to help them to the fullest, you first must examine yourself. What are the sins and struggles in your life that may prevent you from best dealing with theirs? Are you facing or have you faced circumstances similar to what they’re going through? In contrast to bad judgment, this self-examination may be agonizing. Taking a log out of your own eye cannot be done without some pain. The cost is great, but the reward is greater. Empathy is a wise judge and great healer. Good judgment never only ends in condemnation – it has us turn painfully inward to provide a solution.
It is a shame that Christians are often pegged as bad judges. Sometimes it’s for good reason, and other times it’s not. However, the great reality is this: Christians should be good judges…because we will be judged by a Good Judge. God will judge us based on his perfect standard…which we will all fail on our own. However, he too has turned painfully inward to provide a solution. Although he himself did not sin, Jesus suffered and died for us. He can empathize with our sin and struggles. He took it all upon himself so that we could be seen as blameless – so that God’s judgement could find no wrong in us. Therefore, we must remember this as we judge others. Let’s not just see their sins, but let’s instead view them in light of God’s standard. Let’s remember our own sins and out of compassion help others with theirs – all the while pointing them to the Ultimate Judge and Ultimate Solution.
“For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” – Matthew 7:2-3
Empathy is a wise judge and great healer.