Judging People

It is impossible to suspend judgement on people all the time. A person whom you’ve seen before walks into the church after Sunday School is over and picks off some of the lunch food while the congregation is praying, then keeps to himself even when you try to talk with him. He asks for a ride to the nearest BART station. Do you do it, or do you suspect foul play and decide against possibly being forced to do more in a vulnerable position alone with a stranger?

If you do what he asks, you must judge that this man is not dangerous and that it is safe enough to take him whither he asks. If you decline, you must judge that this stranger is likely enough to be dangerous to you that it is not safe to give him a ride to the BART station. Either way, you must judge, and it isn’t a question merely of being nice or playing it safe: there is absolutely no way to suspend judgement, and any course of action that looks like it is actually just a decision that most people make honest requests or that many people are not up-front about what they’re asking for.

Jesus said:

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

There is a right kind of judgement, and there are several wrong kinds of judgement, as Prof. J. Budziszewski explains. The key is to avoid hypocrisy carefully and vigorously and, where possible, to know people enough to make an accurate judgement, and then to discern in love. Easier said than done, yes, but unavoidable.


4 responses to “Judging People

  1. So how would that philosophy help in the above situation?


  2. I’m thinking where it really comes into more controversial play is when we would be afraid to do something that would get us the blanket label of “judgemental” without any clue as to what kind of judgement it is and why it might be bad.

    Surely the fact that we all sin even after Christ has saved us, until His salvation is completed when He gives us glorified bodies, means we can still be imperfect, yes, sinful, and not be hypocritical.

    With the above situation, though, what can you do? The guy’s a stranger, so you can’t “get to know” him in a short, short time (except by American criteria – certainly not Swiss), but you can’t avoid judging something, as long as you’re not trying to usurp Christ’s final authority.

    In normal situations it would get you called judgemental if you decided he wasn’t trustworthy enough for you to believe him and take him in your car even though it might be considered a “nice” thing to do. Then what do you do?


  3. take him anyway. what sort of vulnerable position could you be put in? if hes gonna kill you then hey, its your time to go. if hes gonna mug you then hey, you know what he looks like, and perhaps God meant for something like this to happen for some greater purpose. either way, i would go with doing the nice thing. what do you have to lose that is of eternal value?


  4. I think it depends just how sketchy you think the guy is. You certainly don’t walk into a terrorist training camp unless you think God wants you to go minister to terrorists (in training). No one dies against God’s sovereign will, but that doesn’t mean everyone who dies has always done the responsible thing.

    It might be godly to take a guy somewhere in your car, but it could also be incredibly foolish. Now, you might give him an AC Transit bus pass if he’s not in a hurry.

    But if by his destination you think he’s going there for something bad and there’s separate evidence for it outside of your own prejudices against people who look like him, maybe you don’t want to take him somewhere where he would, baldly speaking, be likely to commit crimes. Now, of course if you think you can, you should ask him more about his story.


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