Jon Kennedy
Jon Kennedy


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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 come from.

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 penalties.

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," Proverb:15:1.

— 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 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.

Sallie Covolo




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Jon Kennedy's latest book is The Everything Guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia, now in stores, from Adams Media, F&W Publications. From May 9, 2007 through July 2, 2008 his blog entries or "Jonals" were articles inspired by readings in Lewis's work that didn't fit into the book. Click here for a list of all articles in the C.S. Lewis Overflow series. The book is available for purchase in support of the Liberty Museum in Nanty Glo and is also available on Amazon.



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