Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Read Part 1
Before I ramble on about judgments, and before you judge me for it (just kidding…sort of), this must be said: One person’s connotation of a “judgment” probably differs from another. Often I hear the phrase “Don’t judge”, but a judgment is not necessarily bad. If one of my daughters, lost in New York City at night, walked down a dark alley and saw a man coming from the other direction, I would not want her to postpone judgment in effort to discern his character. A judgment of her surroundings could save her life, and so we must consider that judgments can benefit us in healthy ways.
Jesus says in John 7:24b, “judge with a right judgment”. Make a right judgment. What? Jesus does not always discourage judgments? In this instance, he challenges the way the Pharisees superficially judge rather than basing their conclusions on righteous principles. We cannot function in life without making judgments. Should I drive through the storm or get a hotel for the night? Should I push my exhaustion to its limit by staying up late to finish my work, or should I get up early? I crave milk with my chocolate chip cookies. The expiration date says two days ago. Yet another judgment. If judgments are so much a part of life, why do we call the Department of Defense each time we feel wrongly judged? Because when people wrongly judge us, we feel like the milk I just threw in the garbage. Wrong judgments in the context of relationships cut us and break us and burn us like nothing else. I wish dictionaries would add this definition to judgment: “That which disconnects relationships”.
In a Dallas convention center one afternoon, a black man dressed in khaki pants, corresponding shoes, and a colorful collared shirt waited, briefcase in hand, for the elevator. The door opened to reveal three Caucasian ladies whose floor had not yet come. As the man stepped onto the elevator, the three women hurried to the opposite corner. He chuckled. The doors closed. A moment later, the black man jumped toward them like a child, “Boo!” The ladies shrieked. He confronted them, “When I walked into the elevator, you judged me!” In his Rwandan dialect he continued, “I am a pastor!”
The ladies defensive stance sank into a shameful attempt of alignment, “Oh, we’re Christians, too!”
“Then you need to repent!” replied my friend, Celestin.
Celestin is an ordained minister. He has two master’s degrees, and a PhD. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 tragically altered the entire makeup of his family and life. Years later, he risks his safety to preach reconciliation and forgiveness among warring and tormented people in Africa, even in places like Darfur, Sudan. And yet, if we’re honest, many of us would have joined the ladies in the corner.
So I’m okay with my daughter’s judgment in New York City, but not with these ladies in Dallas. Believe me, I’m not trying to make this a North-South thing. But when exactly is it acceptable to pronounce judgment?