Judgments. We all make them. There are times in life we have to. I need to judge which products I buy, which route I take and how I tackle a particular task.
There is another kind of judgement. We all make them. There are times in life when, I look at another and make a decision about them. Our judgment can be based on many things clothes, accent even the location of where we see that person. Sometimes, we cannot even define it, a subconscious decision.
We make our judgments based on previous experience, fear, self-preservation and assumptions. Before we meet an individual, without even knowing we can “pre-judge” them. Our judgments may prove to be right or wrong.
Jesus warned His hearers about the danger of judging others on what you think you know about them;
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
(Matthew 7 vs. 1)
The judgement that, I think, Jesus talks about here is not the judgement that comes from wisdom. Jesus does tell His disciples to be “as wise as serpents and gentle as doves” (Matthew 10 vs. 16). I believe that the judgement Jesus speaks out against is the one that says “because you do… I am better than you”. Or, the judgement that is willing to point out somebody’s faults and failings, whilst ignoring our own “Have you seen what …. is doing, I don’t do that sort of thing”.
I think we sometimes miss the humour of Jesus when He says;
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”
(Matthew 7 vs. 3)
Eugene Peterson, in The Message, calls this “smudges and sneers”. We see the chaos in another’s life, and pretend that there is no chaos in our own.
So, why is Jesus so concerned about not judging people. Firstly, I think it has to do with the barriers that it creates. When we judge somebody else we, instantly, erect a barrier which stops us reaching them and them reaching us. We create an “other”. In our world at the moment we see all kinds of examples of division. As a human race, we need to bring barriers down in order to work together for the good of the whole of humanity. There should be no “us and them”, there should only be “us”.
Secondly, I think Jesus challenges judgement because it creates a false impression of what God is looking for. God is not interested in our “performance” or where we come on a “league table” of faith. He is interested in our hearts being open and receptive to Him.
We do not know the chaos that there is in another persons’ life. We must be willing to allow God to work through the chaos in our life. One story I came across comes from the tradition of The Desert Fathers, it really spoke to me;
A brother at Scetis committed a fault. A council was called to which Abba Moses was invited, but he refused to go to it. Then the priest sent someone to say to him, “Come for everyone is waiting for you.” So he got up and went. He took a leaking jug, filled it with water and carried it with him. The others came out to meet him and said to him, “What is this, Father?” The old man said to them, “My sins run out behind me, and I do not see them, and today I am coming to judge the errors of another.” When they heard that they said no more to the brother but forgave him.
(quoted from “The Monastic Way” edited by Hannah Ward and Jennifer Wild)