Last time, we talked about Jesus’ injunction from Matthew, Chapter 7, urging us not to judge. We explored some of the problems with judgment, which boiled down to this:
When we judge, we reduce the world and the God who created it, placing our judgments at the center of the universe and refusing to acknowledge anything that falls outside them. Since other people and God are far bigger than we can comprehend, we end up missing out on everything important in the world, settling instead for a small, plastic copy of the universe that complies with our judgment.
Acknowledging this doesn’t solve our problem entirely. Judgment is necessary in a world full of sin. Anyone who imagines we can do without it should imagine the disaster at a four-way stop when everyone says, “Should I stop? Should I go? It doesn’t matter…who am I to judge?” In the absence of judgment chaos will ensue, followed closely by injury and death. Judgment keeps us safe. It also keeps us from harming each other.
Remember our limitations is critical as we engage in judgment. Our judgment does not determine all of reality. People of faith are safer viewing judgment as a regrettable necessity, a concession to sin rather than a cure for it. We must always remember that our judgments do not save us. We judge because we are occasionally forced to in order to prevent even more harm than the judgment causes, not because we think our judgments are right or the final answer.
That final answer belongs to God and God alone. God does not concede to sin; God eradicates it. God’s judgment is not regrettable, but cleansing. Our judgment is not God’s judgment. The two exist on wholly different levels with wholly different effects.
Remembering this helps make our judgments more effective. We are free to judge the things subject to our will—whether to stop at an intersection or whether a person walking down the street is likely to harm us—without attempting to usurp God’s reign over the things above us: the fate of the world or the people in it. We’re able to exercise common sense judgment without claiming that God is bound by our common sense. We own our judgment without becoming imprisoned by it or imprisoning others with it.
Christians judge. They can’t avoid it any more than anyone else. Christians are also supposed to realize that plenty of things in the universe are more important than their judgment, including and especially God. They don’t abdicate their responsibility to make smart decisions but they don’t fool themselves into thinking those decisions are infallible or eternally binding on their Lord and Savior.