Yes, I created that title on purpose!
We were talking in Sunday school yesterday about the fact that saying “Judge not” and stopping right there is a misrepresentation of Scripture. Jesus told us to judge not lest we be judged. He said the same measure we used to judge would be used against us. He told us to get the log out of our own eye before we try to take on the speck in someone else’s eye . . .
There are times we will be called to judgment. Or say “discernment” if that feels more comfortable.
Here are four (this list may not be exhaustive):
1) I can judge your actions if they are immoral or illegal. If your actions clearly disobey Scripture, I can judge you. You can me judge me if my actions cross this line, too.
2) I can judge your words. If you speak hatefully, stirring up outrage against unsaved people rather than encouraging us to go win them to Jesus, I can judge you. If you speak against a Christian brother or sister, trying to create factions within the church, I can judge you. In situations like the above, there are Scriptural precedents for how to handle situations. Wantonly running our mouths is not one of them.
3) I can judge your patterns of behavior, or lifestyle. When I do this, however, I must take care to not “take a snapshot” at one moment and assume that I know everything about you from that one moment. That is generally why God does not call strangers or casual friends to conduct Biblical confrontation with each other. If I have not invested deeply into your life, I probably don’t know you well enough to confront you. This is key.
There are any number of times that people who have known me in the past and currently know me through Facebook will make comments about some aspect of my life and . . . they won’t get it right. Somehow, because of their own lives and other people they have known, they are overlaying assumptions on me that don’t belong. In these cases, I generally just try to laugh and move on. It would not be any more appropriate for me to “counterconfront” these folks than their original confrontation was.
We were laughing in Sunday school about an example of “point in time” judgment I used. Four of us cleaned the church Friday. Two vacuumed; two cleaned bathrooms. I vacuumed, then after 1.25 hours of vacuuming, I went in to help finish the bathrooms. I stopped for five minutes to check my email and Facebook posts on my iPad. I stated that, had one of the bathroom cleaners come in at that moment, she might have assumed that I was loafing while they were cleaning, no? And that would have been wrong. It is easy, and common, for us to see the five minutes of aberration in somebody’s day as the rule for how that person conducts the rest of the day!
So we need to really know someone’s lifestyle before we presume to comment on it, and especially before we try a Biblical confrontation with that person (wouldn’t it be silly to confront the person Biblically, only to find out we had our facts wrong?).
4) I can judge you if you are not yourself judging righteous judgment. This category is legion. Our human tendency is to try to judge the thoughts and intents of the hearts of others. The Bible says we can’t possibly do that. We can only judge actions and words and lifestyles. The rest is unrighteous judgment.
You see, we do this: we judge ourselves by our intents, which we can see. “I meant to be helpful, but I didn’t understand the situation and I actually made it more difficult than it was.”
We then judge others by their actual actions, without allowing for the fact that there might have been a pure motivation that got messed up in action (just as we ourselves can have happen). Or worse, we assign a motive to the person that may or may not actually be there . . .
“Look how she screwed that up . . .” we say (while never remembering how many times something we tried, out of a pure heart, backfired on us). Or “She meant to derail that process because she has never liked me . . .” we say (attributing an evil motivation to a person we probably don’t even know well).
So, yes, I can judge you on actions, words, lifestyle, and unrighteous judgment. And you can do the same to me . . .