September 13, 2008 in Features

When judging candidates, careful you don’t condemn

Paul Graves Staff writer
 

Now that the Democratic and Republican conventions are behind us, let the judgments begin!

People from all sides of the media, the internet and from each side of Main Street are weighing in on each candidate for president and vice-president. Plus we have congressional candidates to judge.

But what do we do with Jesus Christ’s warning to not judge others or we’ll be judged in the same way? I’ve seen more than a few letters to the editor in recent weeks recite that warning to others who seem to trash-talk one candidate or the other.

Unfortunately yet predictably, we will too often counter one negative sound-byte with a sound-byte solution. They may add to the heated conversation, but not offer any lasting light to our dilemma about judging others.

I may not add as much light as I would like to. But permit me to offer my take on our “judging others” quandry during this head-shaking, eye-rolling political season. See, already I’m judging the season of presidential politics. At least I know I’m not alone.

Christ’s words on judging others come from two places, Matthew 7:1-5 and Luke 6:37-38. The Matthew quote is part of what we call the Sermon on the Mount, Matt. 5:1-7:27. Luke’s version is also part of what some scholars call the Sermon on the Plain (or Level Place), Luke 6:17-49.

Both “sermons” are a random collection of sayings that Matthew and Luke believed critical to their telling of Christ’s story. Much wisdom is found in both sermons on a variety of topics. For now, the topic is “judgment”.

In the Luke version, please first read verses 27-36. You’ll get a better idea of why Christ is so intent on telling his followers not to judge or condemn. Some of these folks dealt with injustice and inequality by condemning those persons whom God seemed willing to let off the hook. Can you imagine a God like that?

It appears some of Christ’ listeners weren’t comfortable with a God who gave parties for prodigals and welcomed sinners to dinners. But they were quite willing to judge others whom God would not judge – but should. How considerate of them to relieve God of that nasty burden!

So Christ counters their actions of condemnation with God’s plan of grace and fairness, of measure for measure, of reward and punishment. The measure you get back of what you give will overflow from your lap and run onto the floor.

Christ throws the challenge back to his listeners: Will the overflowing measure in your lap be a condemnation of your own actions, or will it be a blessing offered to you because of the blessing you shared with another person?

In the context found in both Matthew and Luke, Christ’ discussion about “judgment” has everything to do with condemning others. That is quite clear.

What doesn’t seem so clear is that “judgment” is not always such a horrible act.

Condemning others? Absolutely. But what about evaluating someone else’s thoughts and actions, or our own thoughts and actions? Is that kind of judgment bad?

Evaluation is indeed a form of judgment. We really can’t get away from evaluating everything around us – and within us. Even dramatic religious conversion stories are, in part, the result of a person’s self-evaluation. Every day, with nearly every breath, we are evaluating something in our lives.

That begs a few more questions: Is your evaluation meant to condemn another person or to bless another person? Does your evaluation condemn yourself or give you another chance? How honest and realistic are you willing to be in your evaluations of others – or yourself?

Before evaluating anyone else, we need to take inventory of our own motives for evaluation. And remember to check how big the log is in our eye before shaking our finger at the speck in the eye of another.

The Rev. Paul Graves, a Sandpoint resident and retired United Methodist minister, is founder of Elder Advocates, an elder care consulting ministry. He can be contacted via e-mail at welhouse@nctv.com.


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