To judge or not to judge

“Shallow aphorisms like [Deepak] Chopra’s ‘Attractive people judge neither themselves nor others’ are wildly popular because they pander to a rebellious heart by promoting an indiscriminate tolerance.” – Greg Koukl

Anytime moral behaviour is assessed, one or a combination of the following verses will be trotted out (of context): “Judge not”, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone” and “… all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In our post-modern Pandora’s Box the “judgemental” label is second only to “intolerant”. As is the case with the new intolerant “tolerance”, definition is key.

When the world says “judge not” what it really means is do not comment on, disagree with, or in any way evaluate another person’s behaviour. It is a prime example of what Pope Benedict XVI meant by the dictatorship of relativism. To get a full grasp of how much nonsense this is, imagine an accused before the court calling the whole process “judgemental” and walking out after being found guilty.

Some kinds of judging are unavoidable and necessary. Nay. Judging itself is unavoidable and necessary. The admonition to “judge not” used out of context is self-refuting because that statement itself is a kind of judging.

When Jesus said “judge not”, he was not speaking against judging itself or forbidding the assessment of moral behaviour but against the condescending and hypocritical type of judging — pot calling the kettle black and all that. Elsewhere, he commands it and gives a clue as how we should go about it, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.”

To trot out “judge not” out of its proper context and pass it off as the only thing that was said about judging is misleading. Stop fronting; it is unavoidable and we all do it. What we have to be careful of is the motive behind it and the spirit in which it is done.

It would be hard to reconcile Jesus forbidding judging after instructing us how to do it properly and the fact that his message begins with judgement about our condition, “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil” (John 3:19). His message also ends with it (John 12:48). Imagine that.

— Adrian Sobers

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