I’ve been slowly working my way through the sermon on the mount, along with a little help from the good reverend Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones. A week or so ago, I came across the famous, and very often misapplied, “Judge not, that you not be judged” (Matt 7:1). Obviously this passage can’t refer to discerning whether an activity is sinful or not, because Paul reminds the passive Corinthians to “judge those within the church (I Cor 5) when they permitted sexual immorality to persist. Of course, how the church sometimes “judges” is grossly misapplied when prayer and time are thrown out the window.
Yet it certainly does mean something. To not apply scripture seems just as dangerous as misapplying scripture. I think I spotted a “perfect” example of the sinful kind of judging in the NFL yesterday.
Jay Cutler, who I really have no reason to defend, had to come out of the NFC championship game after sustaining a serious knee injury. However during the game, Twitter, which gives instant fame and following to people who probably don’t need instant fame and following, allowed for a flurry of the bad kind of judgments.
Even Derrick Brooks, beloved Bucs icon, couldn’t resist the urge to pass judgment on Jay Cutler. Many others, including Maurice Jones-Drew, questioned his toughness and talked about how he would have just toughed it out, as he had done before.
Today the diagnosis of Cutler’s knee was a torn MCL. Could he have gone out and played on it? We don’t know Cutler’s heart: whether or not he truly felt playing hurt (provided he actually could have) would have hurt his team or not.
We just don’t know, and therefore our ignorance of this matter can only lead to silence, not tweeted judgments. This sinful aspect of judging seems to at the very least comprise the making of definitive statements of superiority over others based upon our perception of their situation and heart. Both of which are often off the mark. Even the current NFL players who tweeted were ignorant of both the situation and heart.
While the heart is nearly impossible to discern unless you are God, there are still some discernible cues mainly consistent behavior over time.
Bears’ linebacker Brian Urlacher actually gives us a good paradigm. He claimed that Cutler was one of the toughest guys on the team, and never missed practice. Therefore, he wasn’t going to quit on the team if he could have played. Since he had already displayed toughness, and was one of the “toughest” on the team, we should not pass judgment. For Urlacher, Cutler couldn’t play, and if he could have, he would have only hurt the team.
All this to say, it is probably best to let those-in-the-know make the right judgments, and those not-in -the-know be slower to speak (or tweet), quicker to listen, and thus less judgmental.