“What an idiot!” How many times have you dismissed another with that kind of assessment? “I just don’t know how anybody in her right mind could do that!” With those kinds of dismissive words, we judge; often without really knowing more than a few facts. Too many I have choked on regret after I allowed myself to form a pre-mature judgment about the actions of another. How easy it was for me to think that I knew why someone was acting in a way that I thought wrong though I had no actual knowledge of their thought process or unique circumstances.
I know that delaying a response to a ‘problem’ can often change my perspective yet I still have the tendency to act too quickly! I think that I “know” the why behind the what, that I have discerned a nefarious intent. Too late, I sometimes discover that they are acting out of fear, or they are unaware of options, or they were simply overcome by life. In this I sin by judging instead of loving! Why do we do judge others so harshly, so quickly? Prejudice, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance; and fear are several reasons I’ve done it. How about you? Let’s complete the thought. Jesus did not tell us to suspend good sense in our relationships or to drop all standards of right and wrong. Yes, we are to be people of mercy and love. And, we must also be able to discern and choose what is right. We can lovingly, firmly, and from a place alongside of, not above another, say – “We need to talk, because the choices you are making are not right. They do not please God. They are harmful to others and to yourself.”
We need judges who can discern guilt and innocence, who can cut through all the words and make a decision about another’s fate. But, Jesus says that you and I are not called to that office! Bluntly, He says, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” He creates an absurd picture to drive home the point – “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” (Matthew 7:1-5, NLT) In another situation where some men had dragged a sinful woman to Jesus for judgment, He heard them and then said, “The sinless one among you, go first: Throw the stone.” (John 8:7).
A person who is not making the right choices needs an advocate before he needs a Judge! An advocate will take time to listen, will be patient while they work their way to a place of wholeness. A rush to judgment shuts down dialogue and potentially destroys relationships. When we are working with those who are erring, we must act to restore, not to punish! Grace looks for a way to save, not to destroy. This is the heart of our Father.
Are you ‘fed up’ with somebody who just keeps making poor choices? Are you ready to walk off and leave some sinner lying the dirt because you have concluded that they are no longer worth your time? Think again. Yes, there is a time to ‘shake the dust off our feet’ and move on. Jesus also taught that. In the same chapter were we are told not to judge we read these startling words – “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matthew 7:6, NIV) Yes, not everyone is just ‘making mistakes.’ Some are cruel, evil, and malicious – like a wild dogs. They will not accept kindness, will destroy you given an opportunity. In those rare situations, Jesus tells us to move on. But, we do not have to go calling them names or calling down Heaven’s judgment! We can step away with a broken heart, praying earnestly for the Spirit to overwhelm them, to pierce the darkness with Light.
A judge, or an advocate? What will you be today?
Here is a word from the Word. Speak, Lord, to our angry hearts! “Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28, NLT) He came to die and save first. He will come to Judge.