Summary: There is a judgment that we must use but we have to make sure we use the right criteria. Whatever judgment we use, that’s the judgment we also want Christ to use for us.
Here Come Da Judge!
By Pastor Jim May
All of us have found ourselves being judgmental at times. It’s a natural thing to make quick judgments of another person based upon our own pre-conceived beliefs and personal standards for dress, appearance and mannerisms. The first time you meet someone, you always find yourself sizing them up. Are they dressed right? Is their hair combed nice? Are their clothes dirty? Are they outgoing or introverted? Do they meet my standards? Do I meet their standards? We are always comparing ourselves to others and measuring them by ourselves.
This is why we are often told that “We need to make a good first impression.” I’ve seen it happen in the church when a stranger walks in. No matter how hard we try to be friendly, and try to love people, no matter who they are, the color of their skin or their background – it never fails that we still find ourselves passing judgment.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing for we also have a built in self preservation instinct that warns us of any impending danger to our bodies, our minds or our feelings. I’ve seen a lot of people in the church who wore their feelings on their sleeves because they have been hurt before and they are on guard lest it should happen again.
When people walk into our church it is a natural thing to move with caution. That’s one requirement for protecting yourself from becoming involved in something that will be destructive in your life. Those people that died in Guyana under Jim Jones would have been much better off if they had been a little more judgmental in choosing a leader. I believe that America would have been a lot better off if we had been much more judgmental of our presidential candidates before our last election. Sometimes judgment, right judgment, can be a great asset. Of course there are times when judgment can be dangerous, especially when we make too many assumptions.
In 1884 a young man died leaving his grieving parents behind. They decided that they wanted to establish a memorial to their son so they went to Harvard University to speak with the president of the university, Mr. Charles Eliot. When they walked in they had not special appearance of being wealthy or education, so Mr. Eliot was not very impressed. When they told him that they wanted to establish a memorial to their son, Mr. Eliot quickly thought that the best they could do was to set up a scholarship fund.
"Well, we were thinking of something a little more substantial than that...perhaps a building," the couple said. In a very patronizing and unbelieving manner, Mr. Eliot brushed the idea aside because he just knew that these common people could not afford to build a building at Harvard University. Then he dismissed them and said that he had other pressing business to attend to. The next year, Charles Eliot learned that this plain, common couple had gone elsewhere and established a $26 million memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford University! Eliot’s quick judgment went down in history as one of the worse decisions ever made by a Harvard president.
Judging the appearance of other people is as common as rain and we often make snap decisions based upon that alone.
On such judgment was made by Dodie Gadient who had been a teacher for 13 years. She decided to travel across America and see the sights she had taught about. Traveling alone in a truck pulling a small camper trailer, she took to the open road. One afternoon, as she was rounding a curve on I-5 near Sacramento, CA in rush-hour traffic, the water hose blew on her truck. She was tired, worried, scared, and alone. In spite of the traffic jam she caused, no one cared enough to stop and help her.
"Leaning up against the trailer, she prayed, ’Please God, send me an angel . . . preferably one with mechanical experience.’ Within four minutes, a huge Harley Davidson motorcycle drove up, ridden by an enormous man sporting long, black hair, a thick scraggly beard and tattooed arms. Acting as though he knew exactly what he was doing, he got off his bike and, without even glancing at Dodie, went to work on the truck. A few minutes later he boldly stepped into the path of a big truck that was stuck in the traffic and convinced the driver to attached a tow chain to the frame of the disabled truck and trailer and pull it off the freeway onto a side street. Then he went back to work.
The schoolteacher was too intimidated and dumbfounded to say anything; especially when she read the paralyzing words on the back of his leather jacket: ’Hell’s Angels -- California’. When he finished working, she finally got up the courage to say, "Thanks so much," but couldn’t find the words to say much else. Noticing her surprise at the whole ordeal, he looked her straight in the eye and mumbled, "Don’t judge a book by its cover. You may not know who you’re talking to." With that, he smiled, closed the hood of the truck, got on his Harley, and with a single wave, he was gone as fast as he had appeared.