Jonal entry 1119 | July 15 2010
I said last time that C.S. Lewis wrote that there are many topics
on which it's better not to be well informed. This is corroborated
by the fathers of the church (that is, those seekers after righteousness
whose teachings have been valued by the whole church). This is
because the more opinions you have, the bigger a sinner you are
likely to be or the more displeasing you are likely to be to your
Maker. And this, in turn, is because nothing is more important
in Jesus' teachings and those of many other biblical writers than
avoiding slandering or bearing false witness about your neighbors.
"Judge not that you be not judged," Jesus taught in
the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:1). "Judge not, and you
shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned:
forgive, and you shall be forgiven," He added (Luke 6:37).
In other words, have no bad opinions about others and God will
have no bad opinions about you. And when you have to judge as
a civic duty, He warns, "Judge not according to the appearance,
but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). In other words,
don't go by your first impressions or superficial evidence (like
a perceived "attitude" on the part of the person you
are trying to judge), but rather question where those impressions
Church catechisms about these teachings extend them to include
impugning anyone's motives and assuming anything about anyone
based on anything less than the whole truth. And as I showed last
week, what appears in the news media is far from the whole truth;
at best it can be true only as far as it goes, but it almost never
goes far enough. Usually, it's a half-baked opinion by a news
reporter based on the half-baked testimony of eyewitnesses, but
as many studies have shown, eyewitnesses to the same event seldom
see it in the same way.
Often, reporters base their reports on one eyewitness, but how
is he to know his witness is "judging righteous judgment"?
The shield against judging unrighteously is to use phrases like
"a witness said" and "in the opinion of one witness."
Similar shields must be used to hedge our own opinions about almost
everything if we want to avoid sinful error. In other words, instead
of thinking, "he's lying" when we see someone say something
that strikes us as highly unlikely, we should think no more than
"how could that be?" or "does he actually believe
what he's saying?"
Of course it's appropriate to "judge" that the mishap
that has led to crude oil gushing up into the Gulf of Mexico is
a catastrophe, a world disaster, and that the people whose lives
have been disrupted by it are victims of a great injustice in
a world that as a rule is not a just place. It's appropriate to
blame the sins that cause nature and human technologies to misfire
and go rogue. It's another thing to put blame on specific individuals
involved before all the evidence is in and it's probably evidence
of wrong motives and misplaced self-esteem (a sin of pride) on
our part to consider it appropriate to try to do that, assuming
you have not been called to serve on the jury establishing fines
And "not impugning anyone's motives" means do not assume
that because someone screwed up and that resulted in a world catastrophe
that you know he did so for evil motives or even out of ignorance
or inattention. Don't assume that you know anything that it is
not possible for you to know. For example, I tend to think every
"bad" driver on the road is intentionally being obnoxious
or trying to inconvenience me. But how could I possibly know that
even if it were feasible? This is why I find great comfort in
the fact that the most common prayer in Orthodoxy is "Lord
have mercy on me, a sinner."
The best hedge against judging unrighteous judgment and thus
bringing condemnation on your own head is to reserve judgment.
As the Apostle put it: "Let your speech be always with grace,
seasoned with salt, so you may know how to answer every man,"
Colossians 4:6. And long before that, Solomon advised: "A
soft answer turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger,"
Webmaster Jon Kennedy
7/16 Jon , More uneducated opinions from
uneducated grandma Sallie... Jon, this reminded me of your column...also,
so natch I had to write about it. From Our Daily Bread on July
16 2010 ..Judge Not! by David H. Roper http://odb.org/.
David quoted from Robert Burns..and I had this poem memorized.
Good Best Wishes, Sallie Covolo
7/15 Good Column Jon, I find that everytime
I speak hastily, or make hasty decisions, I regret it, and unfortunately
it is all too often. "Yes it is true we need to speak the truth,
but sometimes, some things are better left unsaid. Sometimes it
is better to remain silent, than cause someone unnecessary hurt.
We really do need the Lordís wisdom, we need to bridle our tongues
and we need to be sensitive to other people. We need to put ourselves
in their shoes, so to speak, to understand fully what our unkind
and unthoughtful words will do to the other person. May your speech
always be gracious, wise, loving and give blessing to your brothers
and sisters in Christ." We need to examine our motives before
we hold forth with our opinions.