Is it ok to judge the behavior or the attitudes of other people?
Whether it’s ok or not, we do it. All the time.
Here are three important questions to ask ourselves before we judge.
1) According to what or whose standard do we judge?
Honestly, we judge others by our own standards. For example, environmentalist might evaluate according to “green” standards, Christians use a biblical benchmark, and secularists claim a criterion of reason. We will not likely agree on a common basis for our judgments. It is helpful to recognize that fact.
As a Christian, I believe the Bible is the yardstick against which I should measure my life. However, I can’t expect non-Christians to acknowledge it as authoritative in their lives.
Paul, whose letters to early churches comprise almost half of the New Testament, regularly challenged believers to live according to God’s standard, but he did not judge unbelievers. He wrote this to Corinthian Christians, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside of the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” (I Cor. 5:12-13)
2) Do we consistently apply the same standard to ourselves?
The short answer is: No. We humans are born pre-programmed to evaluate ourselves with gentle mercy and others with harsh precision. That’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and will the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2)
Double standards abound, but that doesn’t mean we should indulge in them ourselves.
3) Do we form well-reasoned opinions or pronounce judgment?
The first two meanings of the verb “judge” from Merriam-Webster illustrate this distinction:
1: to form an opinion about through careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises
2: to sit in judgment on
We all judge in the sense that we form opinions. If only they were always the result of “careful weighing of evidence and testing of premises.” Too often we swallow the opinions of others and call them our own (I digress…).
We are not necessarily authorized to sit in judgment.
For example, the world recently expressed collective condemnation of an act of inexcusable violence: the gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi.
Public opinion evaluated the behavior and judged it to be wrong.
We are entitled to our well-reasoned opinions, but only those with the authority to judge are qualified to pronounce a sentence.
And God is the final authority.
Therefore, it is my goal (emphasis on goal – I frequently fail) to live according to God’s truth, to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, and to form wise and well-reasoned opinions. I’ll leave the judging to God.
What do you think?