Judgment. This is something every human has had to deal with since man’s creation. Adam and Eve were judged by God and so judgment can most definitely be counted amongst man’s earliest experiences. Have things changed since then? No. All of us have experiences of judging or being judged that go all of the way back to some of our earliest experiences. Even today and tomorrow, we’ll experience it. It’s especially a common occurrence for my family. My husband, children, and I are self-funded missionaries. We go where the atheists, agnostic, felons, drug dealers, “meth heads”, homeless, child molesters, and spiritual people are because those are the people you will never see walk through the church doors on Sunday. I see every day how believers judge those people and look down on them. I see every day how those people judge the believers with disdain and hypocrisy. I see every day how the believers judge me for hanging out with those people and I see how those people judge me based on religion. I see the way in which people judging each other can either make or break a relationship and push people further or closer to God. We’ve dove into the maw of judgment, so to speak. It something we’ll never escape from. You, I, and everyone else will be dealing with it for the rest of our lives until the time comes where we face judgment from the Almighty. Must the way that we’ve been judged and the way we’ve judged others be a painful experience? Is there a correct way to judge? A fair way? Insightful judgment is what we need.
The reason I picked judgment of each other as a topic is because I am surrounded by judgment daily and see the ramifications judgment can have on others. My husband, children, and I are self-funding missionaries. We go where the lost people, atheists, agnostic, and spiritual people are because those are the people you will never see walk through the church doors on Sunday. I see every day how believers judge those people and look down on them. I see every day how those people judge the believers with disdain and hypocrisy. I experience every day how the believers judge me for hanging out with those people and I see how those people judge me based on religion. I noticed that the way in which people judge each other can either make or break a relationship and push people further or closer to God. Judgment is a big factor that surrounds my everyday life.
I am going to start by defining what judgment is. Judgment is an act that a person takes to form an opinion to ascertain the truth and justice (KJV Dictionary Definition: Judgment.). When we judge each other we are forming our own opinion of a person’s actions, beliefs, behavior, and mind set based off of our beliefs, culture, presuppositions, and so forth to find the propriety of another’s actions in relevance to the general beliefs of the people within society.
The next thought to contemplate is if we are supposed to judge others to discern right from wrong, then why is there such a problem amongst each other when it comes to judging? “If someone isn’t what others want them to be, the others become angry. Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist. When we cannot clearly look at ourselves then we must ask how we have the right to point out another’s flaws. “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbor, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.” (NRSV. Matthew 7:3-5. p. 1679). Jesus is warning not to attend to another’s sins if you have your own sins that need to be deal with (Burge, G. and Hill, A.). We are not capable of right discernment of another’s sins when we have our own sins that need to be dealt with. Being insightful is recognizing when we should use judgment and when we should not.
We are to use discernment when judging in order to determine right from wrong within ourselves and each other, but when we do not do that, it is a land slide that puts people quickly into a negative place. The negative place is when we cause others to break relationships and/or push out God. If we judge a person without correct discernment then we may be causing disassociation (Cochran, R. p. 51). On the other hand if we judge correctly then we, as instructed, help our fellow believers in Christ stay on the correct path otherwise they might lead others astray. “My friends if anyone is detected in a transgression you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted.” (NRSV. Galatians 6:1. p. 1980). We are supposed to help fellow believers conquer their sin, but we have to be make sure we, ourselves, are in the correct place to do so.
A growing question in today’s world, to touch more on the subject, is if we should judge each other. In Matthew 7:1 it says, “Do not judge so that you may not be judged.” (NRSV. Matthew 7:1. p. 1678). In this verse it is easy to assume that a person should not judge others. However, if you keep reading Matthew 7:2 clarifies, “For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” (NRSV. Matthew 7:2). It is not saying that we should not judge at all, but we must be careful in the way we do judge others because that is exactly the level of judgment that will be used on us. It is more of a matter of how we judge. Matthew is telling us to use insight when we judge or think of judging others.
The discernment we use to determine right from wrong is the main determining factor to answer the question if we should judge. A human community would not and could not exist if we did not judge. A believer uses the bible to set the standard in which a person should live by (Broochan, R.). An atheist would have to judge everything as permissible, which in turn would make everything acceptable and therefore, eliminate judgment. “There must be an absolute if there are to be morals, and there must be an absolute if there are to be real values. If there is no absolute beyond man’s ideas, then there is no final appeal to judge between individuals and groups whose moral judgments conflict. –Francis A. Schaffer, How Should We Then Live?” (Broocks, R. p. 40.). A human society must have judgment in order to have morals to live by. In order to have morals there must be judgment and the standard for judgment must come from somewhere. Believers have a moral guideline that comes from God. “The unbeliever can’t describe the world we live in without borrowing the biblical concepts of good and evil.” (Broocks, R. p. 44). If a person is a believer or a nonbeliever there is always the agreement of good vs. evil and the only way to discern that is through judgment.
When we judge a person, the most important part to remember, as in Matthew, is the manner in which we judge others because this will come back on us. “Do not judge and you will not be judged; do not condemn and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you. A good measure pressed down, shaken together, running over will be put into your lap for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.” (NRSV. Luke 6:37-38. p. 1774). Any person can have an opinion and we all form those, but a judgment is when you take that opinion and compare it with knowledge and spiritual discernment to determine right from wrong (Smedes, L.). It is important that we use spiritual discernment and that is the way we should approach right from wrong. Jesus warned against judging like the Pharisees because they judged by the law and not by the spirit. If you are going to judge others like the Pharisees whom believed they were above being judged then it is better that you do not judge at all because you will be judged with the same severity (Smedes, L.). Jesus did not say absolute no judging, but rather he was cautioning to use insight before we judge because it will come back on us.
The place in which I have recently been spending my time as a missionary has been a real eye opener and pushed me towards the topic of judgment. It’s a rather rural area with two neighboring cities, Rio Vista and Isleton, but the statistics I found on both cities do not quite represent the outer regions and the people that live there. I have been focusing my attention on a couple of marinas on the Delta Loop in California, which are technically considered Isleton by county lines. The reason I can say that the majority of the people are low income, homeless, drug addicts, and without faith is because I have been living here watching, experiencing, and interacting with people on a very personal level. The reputation of the marinas on this part of the Delta Loop are considered low income and have a reputation for housing pedophiles and drug addicts. Due to the high drug problem, there have been fist fights that break out on the docks, car altercations on the levee, and late night stalkers. I have witnessed this, as well as my children, first hand, on more than one occasion.
As far as statistics go, the median age in the county is 42 for Isleton and 57 for Rio Vista, which is higher than the surrounding cities (City-Data.). The regulations of California require that a sex offender is not allowed to be within a half mile of any school, daycare, or place where children congregate (Sex Offenders’ Residency Restrictions). When a state does this, it limits where certain people are able to live and this in turn targets certain areas to be higher in population of criminal offenders. Due to the laws established within the State of California, people have to abide by the regulations or they are put in violation (Sex Offenders’ Residency Restrictions). It seems that since some people are forced out of areas and others congregate because lack of police activity, those areas then get a reputation for being unlawful.
Part of the reason the Isleton area has a higher percentage of criminalistics people is because the lack of police force. The Isleton Police Department was shut down in 2012 because of lack of funding and corruption on the force (CBS Sacramento). When the police department was shut down, it then became the duty of the Sacramento Sheriff’s Department to patrol and cover the remote surrounding areas of the Isleton area (News10). The area now has a growing reputation for criminal activity and drug problems.
The religious faith in the area is mostly agnostic and atheist. According to a report done in 2010, the majority of the population in both counties is “unclaimed” (ARDA). The report had seven categories: evangelical protestant, black protestant, mainline protestant, orthodox, catholic, other, and unclaimed. An astounding 892,803 people claimed to have no religion or any affiliation with religion in the Sacramento County area. I spoke with a pastor in one of the local churches, Lighthouse, about the issue of judging each other. The pastor recognizes that the people in the area are definitely in need physically and spiritually and has made it the vision of the church to help those people both physically and spiritually.
This pastor told me he made the vision of the church to help others because he believes we are all broken and should only judge each other as Jesus would. If Jesus thought they were worth dying for then who are we to judge them so critically? Lighthouse church takes in the people that were rejected from other churches because of harsh judgment. The church recognizes who the lost people are because they once were lost. Through preaching, prayer, and conversing, they remind themselves everyday not to be harsh in their judgment but to me humble.
While conducting the research, I found a few authors that were rather helpful on the topic. One particular author, Lewis Smedes, had several interesting insights regarding judging others. If people were not to judge at all then it would be impossible to have a human community because no one would ever be held accountable and therefore, why would anyone get anything done to make the community function (Smedes, L.)? Part of the problem is that we live in a society where judging is not welcome because we are all flawed and therefore, do not have the right to judge. Any person can have an opinion, and we all form those, but a judgment is when you take that opinion and compare it with knowledge and spiritual discernment to determine right from wrong (Smedes, L.). Jesus warned against judging like the Pharisees because they judged by the law and not by the spirit. If you are going to judge others like the Pharisees whom believed they were above being judged then it is better that you do not judge at all because you will be judged with the same severity (Smedes, L). It is important to be either humble in our judgments or to not judge others.
Another author I found very helpful and logical was Rice Broocks. In the book God’s Not Dead, Broocks raises quite a few interesting points when it comes to judging. One point he makes is that we have to have judgment to function as a society. In addition, we need judgment and discernment in order to pinpoint false prophets. He ends his portion of the book on judgment by making the simple, yet often overlooked fact, that without God there would be no judging and without judging, everything would be permissible. If we let go of judgment and allowed everything to be permissible then we would be going against the very grain of human nature. God intended us to judge when he gave us free will.
One of the articles I read, Discernment vs. Judgment by Jeremy Youst, had a view point that I did not find entirely helpful or logical. The author mentions that usually judgment is negative because the emotion it is based off of is something bad, whereas discernment is based off of emotion as well, but the emotions do not have a past history so they are usually positive (Youst, J.). I do not completely agree with Youst’s statement because of his view on discernment and judgment relating to emotions. If they are both based off of emotions, which are not always logical, then you cannot specify one as better than the other without letting a person’s presupposition interfere. If you are to say that a person cannot judge correctly because of their emotions, then how are you to say that the person can discern well even though it is based off of their emotions? Also discernment is a matter of spiritually judging what is right or wrong therefore, you cannot have discernment without judgment.
In order to understand what is being said about judging, we must take a deeper look into it. “Do not judge so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. Do not give what is holy to dogs and do not throw your pearls before swine or they will trample them underfoot and turn maul you.” (NRSV. Matthew 7:1-2. p. 1679). The gospel of Matthew was written for the Jewish Christians who were in conflict with religious traditions and are a collection of Jesus’ teachings to help make disciples of others (Keener, C.S.). It is a part of the teachings of Jesus known as the Sermon on the Mount.
The short verses in Matthew 7:1-2 makes references to judging in various forms four times. It cautions against inappropriate eschatological judgments (Burges, G. and Hill, A.). The idea is that man is on a scale and however he chooses to judge others will be the way that he will be judged as well because God apposes unjust judgers (Keener, C.S.). A person should be careful on their criticism of judgment because God in turn will use that judgment on the person (Carson, D.A.). Every person should be cautious in the way in which they judge because God, a just God, will in turn take that same judgment and use it on the person who felt to be critical in their judgment of another. This is why it’s so important for us to use insight in our judgments of others.
In Matthew 7:3-5 it is an extreme metaphorical example of how people tend to judge others (Keener, C.S.). People do not walk around with logs in their eye literally, but Jesus was trying to communicate how important it is to remember that we are not perfect when we decide to point out another’s faults. It is a tempered call to discernment when judging each other (Burges, G. and Hill, A.). Disciples are called to exercise a right kind of judgment (Carson, D.S.). It is not saying not to judge at all but to be careful and use caution and insight in our judgment, especially when it involves pointing out the flaws of another.
Matthew 7:6 mentions to not throw your pearls to swine. The word “pearls” is mentioned eight times in the New Testament and was considered to be the most precious substance (Bible Dictionary). The word swine is mentioned fifteen times and was considered to be the most unclean of all the animals. The word maul is referred to as a weapon of destruction. If we look at the passage, we do not throw our holy words, the word of God, “pearls,” to the unclean, filthy “swine” or they will destroy, “maul,” it in turn. It is a caution to be careful of what we say and whom we say it to. Again, we should use insight in our judgment, how we judge, and what we say.
In the end, I hope to reach out to both insiders and outsiders and change everything as it is now. The way things should be isn’t the way they are. Insiders are known for being extremely judgmental. Should it be this way? Why would anyone that doesn’t believe be interested in exploring Christianity when the insiders they do meet raise their nose at them before turning their backs? Can all of us live together without judging one another? Absolutely not. Does every Christian judge harsher than they should? No. Can we learn to live together and judge more responsibly? Yes. Can the church start fresh in this new age and build a reputation for loving everyone just as Jesus did? Yes. Once we can teach ourselves, the insiders, to use insight in judgment, then we are setting the example for nonbelievers and showing the true love of God through us.
Bible Dictionary. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://biblehub.com/dictionary/p/pearls.htm
Broocks, R. (2013). God’s Not Dead. W Publishing Group.
Burge, G. (2012). The Baker illustrated Bible commentary. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books.
Cochran, R. (2014). Not off limits: Questions you wish you could ask at church. Abilene, Texas: Leafwood.
Carson, D. A., France, R. T., Motyer, J. A., & Wenham, G. J. (Eds.). (1994). New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed.). Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press.
Discernment vs. Judgment: Power of Breath Institute. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://powerofbreath.com/articles/discernment-vs-judgment/
Isleton, California. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.city-data.com/city/Isleton-California.html.
Isleton disbands police dept.; fire may be next. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2015, from http://www.news10.net/story/news/local/elk-gove/2014/01/21/4699395/
Keener, C. S. (1993). The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
KJV Dictionary Definition: Judgment. (n.d.). Retrieved March 14, 2015, from http://av1611.com/kjbp/kjv-dictionary/judgment.html
Meeks, W. (1993). The HarperCollins study Bible: New Revised Standard Version, with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books. New York, NY: HarperCollins.
Reports. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.thearda.com/rcms2010/r/c/06/rcms20
Rio Vista, California. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.city-data.com/city/Rio-Vista-California.html
SEX OFFENDERS’ RESIDENCY RESTRICTIONS. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2015, from http://www.cga.ct.gov/2007/rpt/2007-R-0380.htm
Smedes, L. B. (2001, Oct 01). Who are we to judge? Christianity Today, 45, 70. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/212017769?accountid=41006