Not the Same as a Judge

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I have recently given a couple of exhortations on receiving slanders and misunderstandings about us with joy. That is all good, and remains important.Exhort

But if we are to live peaceably in community, there is another side to it, and that is that we must not slander or misrepresent others. The judgment with which you judge you shall be judged, and it does no good to be very tight in your definition of other people’s misrepresentations of you (and to receive it in all joy, like a good Christian), but to be very loose in how you understand it when it is coming out of your mouth.

In the midst of conflict, it is very easy, for example, to think of every inaccuracy as “a lie.” Now to show that it is inaccurate, all you need are the facts of the case. But to show that it is a lie you need the facts of the case, along with a thorough knowledge of the other person’s awareness of the facts of the case. And, if he was unaware, whether that lack of awareness was culpable or not. This requires a lot more information—and usually it is a level of knowledge that only the Spirit of God has.

We tend to judge others by the raw action, and to judge ourselves by our intention. If we say something inaccurate, we know that we did not intend to lie, and so we chalk it up as a “mistake.” But if the other fellow says something inaccurate, we tend to attribute motives, and assume that he said everything he said on purpose, and that he got the requisite malevolence involved directly from the devil.

And when a situation is in a crisis, and when emotions are inflamed, this folly is much easier to fall into. The crisis conditions excuse you, and convict your rival. That’s a nice set-up.

But it is the central reason why you should not be the referee. If there is a dispute, you are a disputant, which is not the same thing as a judge.

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8 years ago

Amen. These are words of wisdom. I try to remember that if I were in someone else’s shoes, given their same circumstances, it’s quite possible I would respond even worse than they are. I am a “disputant,” quite frequently, but never a judge.

Mark Hanson
Mark Hanson
8 years ago

This is really a matter of applying the Golden Rule – to give others the same benefit of the doubt that we give ourselves (and that we hope that they would give us). C. S. Lewis deals with this very well in “The Screwtape Letters”