The difference between judgment and judgmentalism

There is a Judge. And it’s not me. Neither is it you.

Everyone who has suffered injustice longs for a judge who will render a just judgment, because that means liberation (from prison or slavery or whatever form of bondage injustice takes) or exoneration (from false accusation) or restoration (of stolen or broken property or of lost rights, jobs, or station in life).

When you’ve been given the short end of the stick, you want a judge.

It’s when you’re in the position of privilege that you don’t want a judge, especially when that privilege has come from and is being supported by some form of injustice. In this case, not only are you in a position to lose, but you should lose. The judgment can and should go against you.

For those of us who believe in God and who long for there to be justice in the world, we look forward to the return of the King and his making all wrong to be right. The promised wiping away of all tears in Revelation 21 isn’t just for the end of tears that come from physical and emotional suffering. It’s for the end of tears that come from injustice.

Knowing that there is a Judge who sees and knows all (unlike human judges) and therefore judges justly every time (unlike human judges) is a great comfort. We call for his coming.

But in the intermediate time, we suffer false judgments. We experience them not just in the courts of law, but especially in the rest of our human relationships.

Because we do not see and know with the absoluteness of God, we judge badly. But that has never kept us from doing it, has it?

Beyond their truly amazing abilities, the main reason why celebrities exist is to satisfy our desire to judge others. We love exposing athletes who have cheated, especially the ones who tower over their sports — the Lance Armstrongs, the Tom Bradys, the Barry Bonds. We love the indiscretions of movie stars and the failed relationships of famous musicians. We love the failed policies of national politicians and the scandalous falls of religious leaders.

Celebrities are perfect targets for our judgmentalism because we have no relationship with them and can talk about them with impunity, knowing there will be no relational blowback. Besides, they’re so lofty that their falls are truly spectacular.

You see, the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden wasn’t an apple. It was the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It was knowing (or trying to know) if someone is good or evil, right or wrong. It is the fruit of judgment. It is trying to be like God by sitting in his throne as the Judge.

Now, I always thought I was good and distinguishing who is right and who is wrong, eating a steady diet of this forbidden fruit. But then I became a pastor and I had to deal with divorcing couples. And all of a sudden, I realized that I couldn’t tell who was telling the truth and who wasn’t. (And watching shows like Lie to Me didn’t help at all.)

And then I realized something. It wasn’t my job to decide who is right and who is wrong. It’s my job to lead people to Jesus. He’ll deal with them in the ways that need to be dealt with. And in time, he’ll render his judgment.

One of the parables of Jesus that comes to mind here is the often neglected parable of the wheat and the tares, otherwise known as the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30).

In the story, Jesus tells of a farmer whose fields have been sowed with weeds by a malicious enemy. Now, the weeds looked similar to the wheat crop, but it was obvious to the farmer’s workers that the wheat crop was infested with weeds. So, they wanted to root them out. But the farmer refused to let them do that, saying that it would endanger the true crop. He’d prefer to wait until both were fully grown and could be more easily separated.

Now, I was taught that this was about the separation of different kinds of people on the Day of Judgment. And Jesus’ explanation leads to that conclusion (Matthew 13:36-43). But it’s not just people, it’s “everything that causes sin” (verse 41).

The point here is that true judgment doesn’t take place now. It’s for another day. And true judgment isn’t done by us. It’s done by our Lord and his angels.

In the meantime, we wait for the Judge to do his work and we avoid stepping in and doing it for him. He’s quite fine with waiting for the Day of Judgment and doesn’t want to take over, trampling his field and rending poor judgments, tearing out wheat instead of weeds.

By the way, the Hebrew word satan means “accuser.” In the book of Job, the satan is the accuser, the prosecuting attorney, in God’s court. When we step into accusing judgmentalism, guess who we’re most like?