There’s an awful lot of talk these days about “judging,” and I’m not referring to the Miss America beauty contest, the annual American Kennel Club canine soiree, or even the annual flower show at the mall. No, it’s the judging that is presumed to take place when we comment unfavorably on the behavior of another person or group of people.
Aren’t we tempted to judge when we hear reports of the latest shenanigans of a Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan or Miley Cyrus, once seemingly pure and pristine child stars that have leaped from fame into infamy? And we have a tendency to rush to judgment upon learning of the misdeeds of prominent business leaders and politicians. There is, as the Bible says, “no one righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10), right?
The Scriptures teach, however, judgment is God’s job not ours. In reality, sins that trouble us most tend to be ones that mirror our own. When I notice a person wrestling with anger, acting in an inconsiderate manner, or speaking in brash, overbearing tones, maybe it bothers me because it’s like looking at my reflection. It helps to remember that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23), and leave it at that.
But sometimes we confuse judging with not agreeing with or not condoning the actions of another. I might disagree with someone politically, ideologically, or not share their values, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I am “judging” them any more than I’d want them to judge me for not seeing things as they do.
We’ve all heard the saying, “Live and let live.” And I suspect most of us have tried to abide by that philosophy. The problem arises when that saying is changed to mean, “Live – and give hearty approval to the way I live, like it or not.”
Pastor and author Rick Warren makes this observation: “Our culture has accepted two huge lies. The first is that if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, you must fear or hate them. The second is that to love someone means you agree with everything they believe or do. Both are nonsense. You don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate.”
Over my many years of meeting with men in mentoring relationships, friends have admitted to many kinds of sin, but never have I responded with judgment or condemnation. That’s not my responsibility. Besides, I’ve been guilty of some of the same failings. A wise person has noted that given the right place, the right time and the right opportunity, we each could succumb to any temptation. As 1 Corinthians 10:12 states, “So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
At the same time, when these men willingly confided in me, knowing what they said wouldn’t be shared with anyone else, I didn’t pat them on the back and say, “Way to go!” or even offer the convenient excuse, “Well, hey, you’re human, right?” They knew what they had done wasn’t right, and bringing their failings into the open, admitting them to a trusted friend, was a big step toward redemption and change.
We find the scene in the Gospel of John where Jesus intervenes on behalf of a woman about to be stoned by the town’s religious leaders after she was caught in an act of adultery. They remind Jesus that Moses’ law mandates stoning. Then they ask, “Now what do you say?”
Jesus proceeds with a cryptic act that’s not fully explained. The passage says, “Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’ (John 8:6-7).
We don’t know what Jesus wrote, but He clearly was showing the self-righteous leaders that before condemning someone else, they should take an honest look at themselves. But what’s most important is what happens next. After her accusers left, Jesus asked the woman, “where are they: Has no one condemned you?” (John 8:10). When she responds no one remains to condemn her, Jesus says, “Neither do I condemn you.” His next statement is most telling.
While not condemning her for wrong behavior, Jesus did not say, “You go, girl!” or, “Hey, I understand. A woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do.” No, He simply admonished her, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
He wasn’t passing judgment on the woman, but neither was He endorsing her behavior. Even though being the Son of God, He had every right to do so. Instead He offered forgiveness, demonstrating compassion and understanding – and pointed out there was a better way to live.
We’re not to judge the wrong behavior of others – but we’re not to condone or endorse it, either. As Dr. Warren said, we don’t have to compromise convictions to be compassionate. Jesus gave us the example; I can’t think of a better one to follow.
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Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, a former newspaper editor and magazine editor. He is presently vice president of communications for Leaders Legacy, Inc., a non-profit focused on mentoring and coaching business and professional leaders. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and has authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” “Business at Its Best,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. He also posts regularly on two blogs, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, and www.bobtamasy.wordpress.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.