Read Matthew 7:1-2
1 Do not judge others,and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. (NLT)
This is a commonly used (and abused) text. Let’s be clear first of all that it does not forbid constructive rebuke and being critically discerning. In context,it is about our getting on our moral high horse and looking down our noses at others. It is about our being blind to our own failings whilst being harsh on the failings of others. It is about making sweeping,decisive verdicts on others. It is about reminding us that,as recipients of the grace of God,we need to extend such grace to others. Would we like God to assess us as we assess others?
It is so easy to make snap judgements about other people. We react to their speech,their appearance,their political views,their religious tradition,their position in society. We stereotype them,putting labels on them which mean we don’t have to think more carefully and sensitively about them.
It is all so very dangerous and demeaning. How can we know what is truly going on in the life of someone else? Can we be sure we understand how that person came to be who he or she is? Can we ever really walk in their shoes? What has happened in the near or distant past to shape that person whom we might be tempted to condemn?
We may yet have cause to make legitimate criticism,but even that has to be in the context of grace and humility: we simply don’t know all the facts. The poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it well: “If we could read the secret history of the world,we should find in each person’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”