So my opening question to the group was: What is the worst thing about judging other people?
We talked about this for awhile, and agreed that judging gives you a false sense of superiority, it scares other people away, it can become a habit which leads to a judgmental lifestyle that turns into bitterness and cynicism, it wounds other people, and it masks our own problems.
My next question was: What is the best thing about judging other people?
Well, judging other people is very fulfilling, it helps us know whether to hire someone for a job, helps us evaluate a prospective son-in-law, gives us the ability improve other’s behavior, lets us know how to genuinely help other people.
The Bible says many things about judging other people; sometimes it tells us to leave all judging to God, other times it reminds us to make our own judgments about who we follow and who we associate with. It isn’t a simple discussion. We must engage the world around us if we want to share the love and life and grace of God, but we can’t engage effectively without picking-and-choosing, without passing a few judgments.
We were studying from I Corinthians 5-6, where the Apostle Paul wrote a lot about judging other people. He started off by stating his disbelief that the church had allowed a blatantly immoral situation to remain among their membership. He urged the church to drastic action … to pass judgment. Paul made it clear that he had judged the situation already, even from a distance.
I had been chewing on this question of judging other people all week as I prepared my lesson for Sunday morning. One day as I read from my Daily Bible, from the prophet Hosea, I realized it spoke to the issue of judging, if only tangentially. Hosea has always been one of the hardest books in the Bible for me to read because of what happened. The prophet (Hosea) was told by God that he should marry Gomer, a habitually-unfaithful prostitute, in order to communicate a message to the people. Gomer’s adulterous life and Hosea’s continued acceptance of her would remind the people of their own betrayal of God and his own acceptance of them. While it was a powerful real-life illustration, it seemed like too much of a burden for a man to bear, even a prophet of God. Surely being a prophet was hard enough without being saddled with an intentionally bad marriage.
When I read Hosea I wondered about my own prayers to know God’s will for my life. What if God told me he wanted me to do something terrible just so my life could be an example for the people around me? I didn’t want that. Maybe I didn’t want to know God’s will if that sort of thing was a possibility.
Then I realized my mistake. I had always put myself into the story as Hosea, wondering if God would do something like that to me. I should have put myself into the story as Gomer, wondering if God would heal me and take me back. I assumed I was always the faithful prophet and never the unfaithful sinner.
And then again, while running on Monday it occurred to me that when I asked those questions – What is the worst thing about judging other people? What is the best thing about judging other people? – I asked them from the perspective of being the judge, not the victim.
We assume we are the judges who know the absolute truth, and whether we hammer people with that truth or accept them with that truth, it is always our choice. At least, that was my personal perspective.
But what if I am the person being judged? How do I answer those same opening questions? Now what is the best and worst part about judging? How arrogant it was for me to think I was always the person in position to judge and never the person who begged “please take me in I need healing.”
What I know now is that I have a lot more thinking do about this topic. I just hope my own arrogance doesn’t keep getting in the way of my understanding.
“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32
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