We live in a world where we must make judgments everyday on a variety of matters and there’s nothing wrong with that. From the person we married to the type of friends we have chosen to associate ourselves with, we have made these decisions based on judgments. We examine the things other people believe and the type of behaviors they engage in, passing judgement on whether such people are the type of people we want to associate with. This is a normal part of life and everyone seems to accept that (and I have yet to meet any one person who doesn’t make such judgments).
Then there is another form of judgment where people are condemned for their moral behaviors (or lack of), their religious beliefs, political views, etc… Some people are very quick to pass such judgments, condemning others as though they received a direct word from God. When it comes to Christianity and the Bible, they are the ones who seem to think they have “rightly divided the word” (cf. 2 Tim 2:17, KJV) and therefore can condemn all others who have a different view. On the other extreme are those who think Jesus condemns passing any judgment whatsoever. These people will paraphrase Jesus, “judge not lest ye be judged” from Matthew 7:1 without ever considering what else Jesus has to say about judging.
I wonder if we could actually listen to all of what Jesus has to say about passing judgments. So here is Matthew 7:1-6
“Do not judge, or you too 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. 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? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 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 turn and tear you to pieces.”
It seems to me that Jesus is neither condemning nor encouraging the passing of judgment on others. Rather Jesus is reminding us to be careful in passing judgment on others because we not only will be judged by the same “measure” (or standard) we judge others but also because we have too many of our own faults to spend our time criticizing the “speck” of another person.
When it comes to Christianity and the faith we are called to live, there are going to be disagreements on certain theological issues and interpretations of scripture. That is just the nature of the beast when we are two-thousand years and many cultures removed from the time of Jesus. This does not mean that we must abandon a vigorous quest for the truth. However, in that quest we should probably remain humble in that quest and not be so haste in passing judgment on others who arrive at different conclusions. After all, without such humility, it seem as though we have established a measure of judgment that already condemns us.
Just something to think about!