I’m starting to think God might be on to something with this whole ‘judge not’ thing.
I’ve always (Okay, mostly. Well, as best I can.) accepted that I HAD to obey about judging, because, well, God is all powerful.
But I didn’t GET it.
I saw it as God-is-perfect-you-aren’t-get-off-your-high-horse. But that didn’t really make it clear WHY.
What I never noticed is how judging others limits us:
We can’t learn from those we judge.
The kind of judgement I’m thinking of here is not ‘using sense and discerning the truth of a situation to be safe or wise’, which the Bible is clear we must do.
I mean deciding someone is unworthy, worthless, or unredeemable based on their choices, behaviour, or characteristics. Writing them off. Condemning them.
On THIS God is crystal clear.
And when I judge you like that, I make you a thing, a set of characteristics, rather than a complex human being.
YOU, as you, don’t really exist for me anymore.
But YOU, as you, are where all the lessons, and experiences, and knowledge, and emotions, and VALUE lie.
So I don’t get that anymore when I judge you. I lose all the good in you – the lessons you’ve learned, the experiences you’ve had.
And let’s face it, no one person can make ALL the mistakes, or encounter all the experiences in the world and live to tell about it. So if we aren’t learning from others’ trials and errors, victories and failures, losses and recoveries, we’re going to miss a lot.
And we won’t learn the right things. How do I know the best way to change a situation I find incomprehensible, unless I learn from someone who has been there?
And we miss the point.
Recently I’ve learned the name of a football player. The last football player’s name I knew was Joe Montana, so, clearly not my area of expertise.
While caring no more about football than when Joe Montana was actively doing whatever quarterbacks do, I now know the name of Colin Kaepernick.
Mr. Kaepernick is famous for not standing up during the National Anthem.
Inspired utter hysteria.
Without exaggeration, the man could have beaten his wife or raped someone and gotten far less attention for it. I hear he’s even getting death threats now.
But I’ve seen precious little discussion of the values our National Anthem represents. Or what the place of active dissent is in upholding those values. Of the importance of the rights we share, and of safeguarding them – even against our own preferences.
To me, those are far more important than Mr. Kaepernick’s sitting, or standing, or taking a knee.
When we are ready to kill a man over his response to a song, it may be time to refocus.
It doesn’t matter if this is a racial protest, a political one, a famous one, or a commonplace one: if ever there was a country where you should be safe expressing your deeply held values, it is the one nestled under the Star Spangled Banner.
Perhaps worst, we lose our sense of responsibility.
One of the scariest outcomes of judgement I’m seeing is that we don’t feel responsible for fixing what we can judge instead.
Examples of this are legion!
- People who passionately campaign against abortion but don’t lift a finger to provide safe homes and intensive, ongoing support to parents in crisis pregnancies and their babies.
- Or fight to ensure that adequate healthcare and decent waged jobs exist to support young families.
- Or provide help in healing to women and men for whom it’s too late to prevent this terrible choice.
- People who write off millennials as a generation of whiners without taking the time to understand their complaints – or offering to mentor any of them! (Or maybe be mentored BY THEM; because, my experience of millennials, almost without exception, has been that they are talented and dedicated, with work ethics that put mine to shame!)
- People who don’t vote in elections because they don’t like the current political system, for goodness sake!
- And people like me, who judge all of those people for years before realising there must be SOMETHING I can do to change things, and that if there is, I’m probably obligated to be doing it!
Mentors and judges seldom coexist in the same body, it seems. But responsibility is where the power is: judges seldom change the world, mentors regularly do.
Maybe God chose to withhold the right of judgement from me because I don’t see fully enough to begin with, so the last thing I need is more limiting!
I used to think not judging was something I HAD to do, because God was clear that it’s the only exit door from him judging me.