Judging has gotten a bad rap these days. Don’t judge! Judge not! Jesus said so. Our society has so fully bought into this mantra that we have people walking around that literally do not know right from wrong in any capacity. They would even argue that there is no right or wrong. There is only “right for you.” However, there clearly is a time where we need to exercise good judgment and make judgment calls. This begs the questions how and when.
As a child, I remember making two specific judgments. One turned out to be right and one was woefully wrong. One had to do with an action, and one had to do with a person.
My first judgment was that smoking stunk. Literally. You see, my dad was part of a generation that believed smoking was a rite of passage. He started this nasty habit at the ripe ol’ age of 12. And it turned out to be a hard…habit to break, as Chicago would put it. Going to sleepovers meant enduring the “Ewws” and “Your pillow stinks” comments from my friends. Going out to dinner meant riding in a car filled with smoke which rendered my perfume application a useless ritual.
Smoking stinks, I observed.
I don’t want to stink, I realized.
I will never smoke, I concluded.
At that age and stage I made another judgment, but this one was about the smoker. You see, the older I got the more I learned about this thing called second-hand smoke. From what I understood, the people that lived with a smoker were in as much danger or more than the person actually lighting up.
Breathing second hand smoke hurts your body, I understood.
If you love someone you don’t hurt them, I knew.
My dad doesn’t love me, I concluded.
I struggled with this conclusion. On an emotional level I knew it couldn’t be true. But logically, I knew it had to be.
As a child, I made the same mistake many adults are making today. I equated a person with their actions.
The one that is pointing their finger too often says, “You are making bad choices, therefore you are bad.”
To make themselves feel better the moralist declares, “I am not making that bad choice, and you are, therefore you are bad and I am good. Ahhhh.”
However the one making wrong choices can be equally guilty of this same faulty connection. They say “If you call my choices bad, then you are saying I am a bad person. Therefore you cannot call my choices bad.”
The liberal denies the distinction between an action and a person with the goal of removing all moral boundaries.
“…… judging other individuals, is, as we all know, dangerous and forbidden by Christ Himself because judging persons as distinct from actions is God’s prerogative. Of course that does not forbid us to judge actions, for to do that would undermine all morality.” (Peter Kreeft)
As a child, I didn’t understand the science behind a smoking addiction whether psychologically or physically. If I did, I would have realized that my second judgment wasn’t entirely fair. There were too many factors to dare assume that because my dad smoked, he didn’t really love me. However, it would be equally wrong to abstain from making the judgment that the act of smoking was wrong. Maybe that’s why we are told to judge rightly, but not to judge (condemn) people (Luke 12:57)
If I had never judged the action, I would have likely become a smoker myself, perpetuating the same sin and harmful consequences as my dad. Even though he did eventually have the strength and resolve to quit smoking, he is now missing half a lung as one of the few lung cancer survivors. On the other hand, if I would have continued to judge the person, I would have missed out on the relationship I now have with my father that is the source of so much joy. Whether you are the one judging an action or the one whose actions are being judged, it would behoove you to remember this truth. The worth of a person is not equivalent to the quality of their actions. We are allowed to disagree with an action, and even distance ourselves from the person sinning. But we are also encouraged to remember that we are all created in the Imago Dei, the image of God, and remember that there but for the grace of God go I. It is my true hope that my children will judge rightly in accordance with the Word of God so that they will act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.