In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us, “Do not judge, or you will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1-2)
We tend to make two great errors when it comes to the matter of judgment.
1: We jump to harsh judgments about people without learning the full story.
In his book, In the Grip of Grace, Max Lucado writes, “We don’t know enough about the person to judge him. We don’t know enough about his past. We condemn a man for stumbling this morning, but we didn’t see the blows he took yesterday. We judge a woman for the limp in her walk but cannot see the tack in her shoe. We mock the fear in their eyes but have no idea how many stones they have ducked or darts they have dodged.
“Are they too loud? Perhaps they fear being neglected again. Are they too timid? Perhaps they fear failing again. Too slow? Perhaps they fell the last time they hurried. You don’t know. Only one who has followed yesterday’s steps can be their judge.
“Not only are we ignorant about yesterday, we are ignorant about tomorrow. Dare we judge a book while chapters are yet unwritten? Should we pass a verdict on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? How can you dismiss a soul until God’s work is complete?”
Before passing judgment on another may we seek to listen to the person, to walk a mile in her or his shoes, to understand what lies in their past, and to hope for what they might become in the future.
2: We fail to judge the difference between what is good and what is bad.
Though we judge people harshly, we tend to judge ethics softly. That’s why Jesus follows up his warning not to judge others (Matthew 7:1-5) with a different warning: “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).
Many years ago, in an editorial in Christianity Today, Philip Yancey told about a friend who decided to leave his wife and three children—to leave his 15-year-marriage—because he found someone younger and prettier. The friend asked Yancey, “Will God forgive me for what I am about to do?”
The friend did not ask about what would be the right thing for him to do. He did not ask for God’s help to do the right thing. He simply wanted the guarantee of God’s forgiveness while rushing into what he knew was wrong. That’s trampling underfoot the grace and goodness of God.
We must always pursue what is good and just and right without merely covering manure with a frosting of grace.
Let us be gracious toward people and zealous to pursue what is good. ■
—Tom Tripp is the Pastor at the First Presbyterian Church of Colusa.