May 8, 2007

Is it ever appropriate to judge?

by Claire Melsi
Many who are exceptionally “open-minded” and “accepting” of all walks of life often look at “judgment” as a form of bleak and overly conservative discrimination against people or things with unusual philosophies, lifestyles, etc.

Dispelling that train of thought, which is a myth in most cases, is possible by embracing people with love and kindness while at the same time not necessarily accepting their personal ideals. In the midst of a variety of standards and moral convictions, society would be unable to function if judgment ceased to exist. Even the basic principles of right and wrong imply that some things must simply be rejected.

Prisons create a prime example. The actions of inmates are “rejected” by the standards which society has created through a judgment of what it deems to be correct and acceptable. Have you ever sat through a lecture knowing exactly what you thought the speaker was attempting to persuade you to walk away with? For me, predictability often causes my mind to wander.

More than once what I have taken away from a very targeted message has had nothing to do with the overall topic. The other day, in the middle of a psychology class, I experienced just that as I watched “Hells Bells 2,” a documentary on how various types of music are affecting civilization. At one point the video depicted an “actual event” with audio of a man leaving an angry message on the answering machine of the organization that produced the film.

The caller went off on a tangent about something along the lines of how Christians have no right to judge others and produce such narrow-minded material. The narrator then began discussing the topic of judgment, and having already encountered numerous conversations revolving around the subject, it caught my attention.

Though I was unable to watch the entirety of the video and determine whether or not I truly agree with its overall content, I did agree with most of what was said about the point that caught my attention.

Most of what I am about to write are thoughts provoked by the narration on the video, and are just as much the conclusions of the writers of the material as they are my own. Even so, they are valid and sturdy apologetics which are correct and worth sharing, since the topic often presents itself in Christian culture.

Matthew 7:1 — “Judge not, that you be not judged” (NKJV) — is almost always used in conversations about judgment as a point of reference in both Christian and non-Christian circles, but many overlook its context. As the video pointed out, the surrounding material makes it clear that it is referring to judging hypocritically or based on appearance.

As Christians, it is important that we filter our surroundings through a biblical worldview of absolute truth. Making any decisions based on absolutes results in unavoidable judgment and various passages of Scripture support the conclusion that we are to “judge” based on our knowledge of righteousness. Proverbs 3:21, for example, says, “My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight” (NIV). Similarly, John 7:24 says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (NIV).

The documentary pointed out that without judgment, elected government would fall apart. Were there no way to weigh candidates against each other, a world of political equality would lead to chaotic anarchy. Citizens would be in danger if they began to completely ignore obvious facts to embrace fanciful fiction.

Imagine if people with no street smarts, in an attempt to breakdown stereotypes, began walking around cities like Detroit, Compton and Camden all alone late at night with handfuls of money to give to the needy. The possibility of any long term benefits would be far outweighed by the grave danger those with such ignorant ideals would be placing themselves in.

Statistics speak for themselves and society uses basic morality and common sense to pass judgment on drugs, murder, rape, etc. Christians living in accordance with what they believe to be absolute truth will inevitably encounter accusations of elitism, but by finger pointing, the opposition itself passes judgment.

It is a cycle that is unavoidable and necessary within the right context. The trick to getting the point across is speaking the truth in love, not with hateful words or rash reaction.

Contact Claire Melsi at cvmelsi@liberty.edu
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