The last twenty years have brought us a tide of sentiment into our world that recites the mantra, “Don’t judge me.” Along with that core statement come many iterations of the same: “Tolerate,” “I can’t tolerate intolerance.” “Who are you to judge?” “Don’t be hatin.” We usually precede these words with a lot of emotion, passion, and well…judgment.
The fact is, we cannot live without judging. In fact, the people with the best judgment live the best and often the longest lives, while those with poor judgment often remove themselves from the food chain. The question then is: “How best to judge?” While the scope of this blog cannot answer this entire question, I want to share some observations gathered along my travels and perhaps, help you gain some insights into better judging.
1. There is an external reality. Reality matters. We live in a world of reality outside of us that we didn’t create. Without a grasp of true reality you can only make decisions based on what you think is true. If what you think is true is really false, then you tend to make decisions that harm you.
2. Not all things are the same. Fruity-Pebbles is not the same as oatmeal. Judgment differentiates. It stands upon the first law of logic that states: A is not non-A. This may seem elementary, however, people often ignore this law by saying things like, “All religions lead to heaven,” or “You have your way, I have mine, it will all work out in the end.” Ummm, no.
3. Truth is exclusive. People use the word, “narrow-minded,” as an insult. However, truth is narrow and exclusive. This doesn’t work in real-life. “I clocked you going 65 in a 25.” “Uh sir, aren’t you being a bit narrow minded?” or “You failed the test.” “Mr. Jones, I was giving you my interpretation of the questions, who are you to judge?” Try these just for fun.
4. There’s a difference between truth claims and preference claims. Bumper sticker, “Don’t like abortion, don’t have one.” Sounds logical. But hidden in the phrase is the assumption that moral issues are equal to preference issues. Try this, “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own one.” Hmmm. “Don’t like murder? Don’t kill anyone.” Moral truth claims stand above us. Morality is given to us through the character and nature of God. It is not our jurisdiction. It is above our pay grade. God has given us free-will, yet this is a limited sovereignty. He is the ultimate Sovereign. We can choose between vanilla and chocolate, but we cannot choose our own morality.
How to Judge?
We cannot live without judging, yet a misuse of this ability can lead to broken relationships and pain, which is bad. Jesus pointed out that judging wrongly is wrong. So how do we judge rightly?
1. We live in a world of ideas and people. Reality shows us that there exists equality with regards to people, and elitism with regards to ideas. We get onto thin ice when our judgments rank the value of people rather than the value of their ideas. God has placed in all of humanity inherent value. If we, in our judging, devalue another person, we have judged wrongly. We run into all kinds of problems when people put their value and identity in wrong ideas then when the idea is denounced, it’s taken personally.
2. We can judge wrongly when pointing out a speck, with a log in our eye. When we make a moral pronouncement, it comes best through people who have moral authority. Jesus’ often quoted “don’t judge” passage is really a denouncement of hypocrisy, not of making judgments. However, a lack of moral authority in the pronouncer doesn’t negate the morality of the pronouncement. Just because a thief denounces your stealing doesn’t make stealing right. It just makes the thief disingenuous. Mother Teresa denounced abortion during a prayer breakfast in front of President and Mrs. Clinton, when asked about it, President Clinton remarked, “It’s hard to argue against a life so well lived.”
3. Align your judgments with the sacred. Some things are sacred. Anything expressly and exclusively given by God or owed exclusively to God, is sacred. We cannot prefer in this arena. Things like life. Life is given by God and owed to God. Our sexuality is sacred – given and designed by God. It is biologically purposeful, powerful to create the immortal, bond families, and pleasurable. We should judge ideas and actions that de-sacrilize, life, worship, marriage, and sexuality.
As we live in this world of ideas and people, may we learn to love deeply and judge rightly. As the prophet said, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)