Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. —Galatians 6:1-2 NLT
It’s so easy to judge. We look at a child having a temper tantrum and too quickly come to negative conclusions about his parents. We see someone untidily dressed in a store, and we decide she is drab and uninteresting instead of looking deeper to see her soul and her heart. Someone snaps at us in line at the post office, and we form unflattering opinions about his personality, knowing nothing about the day he has had or the bad news he might have just received. We judge people for wearing masks. We judge people for not wearing masks. We judge those who vaccinate and those who refuse it. We judge based on political parties and ideologies we often do not fully understand. Can we just … stop for a moment? The Bible has a lot to say about judging. Let’s ask some questions before we judge. It would make this world a much nicer place.
Question 1: Do I know this person’s story? “While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus said, ‘this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has’” (Luke 21:1-4 NLT). To the casual observer, the woman dropping the equivalent of two pennies into the offering box would look cheap and uncaring. Why even bother? How in the world does she think two pennies will help anyone? But Jesus saw her story. It was all she had. Her act of giving was symbolic of the way she lived—God first, even in her poverty. Simply by knowing her backstory, we turn from disdain to admiration. Let’s make sure we know the full story before we judge the screaming toddler, the disheveled shopper, and the irritated postal customer. Perhaps the person without a mask is in a state of grief because of the loss of a loved one and isn’t even aware she is without it. Perhaps the poorly dressed shopper just left a house full of chaos with unpacked boxes and needs food for a quick lunch before she unpacks and settles into a new home. And that person who spoke sharply to you? Maybe his child was just imprisoned or found with drugs. Can we simply not judge when we know so little about what’s going on in the lives of others?
Question 2: Am I guilty of what I am judging? “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye” (Matthew 7:1-5 NLT). Oh, we can be so hypocritical when we judge! We can be furious that individuals will not listen to our political viewpoint when we are equally unwilling to listen to theirs. We can shake our heads at the lack of self-discipline exhibited by a smoker, while we eat too many donuts. All of us fall short of perfection. All of us could improve, right? So, let’s be careful not to pick at others while ignoring our own glaring faults.
Question 3: Do I know the facts on both sides of the argument? “In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines” (Proverbs 18:17 NIV). Whether it’s discovering that the toddler complaining of being shoved actually hit the other child on the head with a block first or discovering that there are deeper reasons involved in a criminal case than first meets they eye, it’s only wisdom to gather the facts before rendering judgment. And when it’s impossible to know all the facts? Well, perhaps we could reserve our judgment and humbly admit we don’t know enough to make a firm decision.
Question 4: Am I treating this person as I’d hope to be treated? “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NIV). Okay then. If I’d like a chance to give an explanation for my screaming toddler or my weird dressing habits or my sharp retort … perhaps I ought to listen to the one I am judging before I judge. If I’d like people to believe the best about me and not the worst, then that is how I ought to treat them also.
If you have walked through all these questions and still see that a friend or brother or sister in Christ needs correction because they are truly behaving badly, then make sure to read Galatians 6:1-2 first:
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. (NLT)
Yes, sometimes we do need to help a dear one see that the path they have chosen is leading them to destruction. But even then, we need to ask some questions:
- Am I “godly?” Am I walking with the Lord, sensitive to His voice at this time in my life?
- Am I able to be gentle? Do I have a love for this person and a respect for her humanity and her wounds so that what I say is brought to her in a way that will help and not hurt?
- Am I humble? Do I know to my bones that I too am capable of great sin and huge wrong turns in life? I will correct and help someone much better when I am fully aware that I could also fall.
- Am I willing to help? Am I willing to share their burden and help them back to right living? Will I get my hands dirty, figuratively (or maybe in some cases, literally!), to help them get clean?
This is how we judge rightly. With loving desire to see each person fulfill his or her God-given purpose in this life, fully aware of how easy it is to slip away from that. When we judge, let’s judge from this perspective.
Oh, Father God, how grateful I am that You truly see each one of us. You alone know our motives, our stories, our capabilities, and our flaws. And the fact that You love us anyway is astounding. Thank You for offering us the free gift of salvation if we but turn to You in humility and express our need of Your help and forgiveness. Give us Your kind of love for each other, Lord. And when we are urged by You to judge others in order to help them, guide us in a way that honors You and genuinely helps. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
You are loved,
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