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Neighbor-Love, part 4: Judging and Testing

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. — Matthew 7:1-2

Test everything. Hold on to the good. — 1 Thessalonians 5:21


Each of these passages contains an instruction which we need to follow if we are to keep faith with God and our neighbors. I know this, but I often struggle to keep these two teachings in balance. I can usually tell afterward when I have erred on one side or the other.

I still struggle with judging people in a way that is destructive. I felt convicted when I read Henri Nouwen’s words in The Road to Daybreak: “I realize that islands of anger, bitterness and resentment still lie hidden in my heart… My inner life is so filled with opinions, judgments, and prejudices that real peace is far away.” I find it very easy to dismiss people who speak and act in ways that annoy me. This dismissal may be hurtful or discouraging to them. It certainly hurts me, in two ways. It makes me less likely to learn what God may be trying to teach me through them. And it makes it harder for me to forgive myself, and to know God’s forgiveness, when I speak or act wrongly.

At the same time, there is a kind of judgment which is simply necessary. I need to decide whose advice to take about farming and hospitality. I need to decide which questions and criticisms I need to think and pray diligently over, and which I can let go. If I try to take everyone’s advice on a given subject, or to agonize over every criticism, I never get anything done.

I try to judge only as I am willing to be judged. I don’t mind having other people decide that my farming methods or my reading recommendations aren’t a good fit for them. I do mind their assuming that I am therefore lacking in intelligence or character. I don’t mind their questioning me when they think I am going astray. I do mind their assuming that they know what is best for me. I can stand their deciding that they can’t work along with me. I hope they will continue to wish me well and pray that I will be set right by God, who judges us all with truth and with love.

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