Our biggest problem is not how others judge us, but how we judge others.
It’s not wrong to lovingly help others improve. It’s wrong to self-righteously point out a difficiency in others when we ignore our own misdeeds.
Caution: judge at your own risk. Make a serious pause and examine yourself before saying anything. It is better to “judge not” than to judge, since we will be judged in the same way we judge others.
Be Quick to Believe Innocence
The first way to take great care how we judge is to be slow to pronounce guilt when evidence is scant or hearsay or ambiguous. This runs counter not only to fallen human nature, but also our media-saturated culture that encourages hair-trigger judgments. We are wise to practice something codified in our judicial system.
In the United States, when a person is accused of a legal transgression, but the evidence against him is inconclusive, our jurisprudence demands we presume his innocence until sufficient evidence can demonstrate his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Such demonstration is typically not quick or easy.
Be Thorough Before Pronouncing Guilt
So, our courts demand a rigorous process of evaluating evidence in an effort to ensure that deceptive appearances and biases do not distort the truth. This process requires diligence, patience, and restraint. And while reasonable doubt regarding a person’s guilt persists, we are bound to believe — at least in a legal sense — the best about that person. We give him “the benefit of the doubt.”
Aim for Restoration
When evidence does confirm that a transgression has occurred, a second way we take great care how we judge is to “aim for restoration”. Our goal is not punitive, but redemptive. We must vigilantly remain kind to one another. Even if the guilty person is unrepentant and fellowship must be severed, the purpose remains redemptive for the offender.
Keep Quiet If Possible
If we’re not personally involved or are distant observers, we can still aim for the person’s restoration by, if possible, not saying anything. A wise rule of thumb: the greater our distance, the greater our ignorance. And ignorant commentary about a person or situation is never helpful and is usually nothing more than gossip or slander, which Jesus calls evil (Matthew 15:19).
We must remember how faulty our perceptions are and how biases distort our judgment. We often think we understand what’s going on, when in reality we do not. From a distance, love covering a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8) looks like not repeating a matter (Proverbs 17:9).
Judge with Right Judgment
How we judge others says far more about us than how we are judged by others. This is why God will judge us in the manner we judge others, not in the manner they judge us. Therefore, we must judge with right judgment (John 7:24). And right judgment is charitably quick to believe innocence, charitably slow to pronounce guilt, charitably redemptive when it must be, and charitably silent if at all possible.
And when in doubt, “judge not.”
By Jon Bloom