But my mind tells me this: (Oh, that’s a dangerous way to begin!) Be Wise! Be discerning. Evaluate everything and everyone around you. Assess everything through God’s Word. Be a critical thinker. How can you live righteously if you don’t examine the people and world around you and determine whether they are holy? And although you must always sprinkle your words with the salt of gentleness, you must not shy away from addressing evil or wrong-thinking. Christians are called to test the spirits, to be wise as serpents.
Am I making a mountain of a mole-hill? Can you refrain from judging others in any way, and simultaneously use critical thinking regarding your world? I don’t know how to do it. I usually err on the side of being the critical thinker and assessor, trying to do so objectively and never hatefully. But I get plenty of flak for it. (Just looked up that spelling for “flak.” The word means “strong criticism.” When other people criticize me for criticizing others, is that a double standard?)
I toyed with waxing eloquent about several links I’ve read lately that pertain to this judging theme, but I think I’ll just link to them and leave the reading to you. I agree with many parts of them. Here they are:
Cheetos for Breakfast - a Letter to Young Mothers, very refreshing
Troc, Broc, and Recup - a Pause in Lent, "Fast from judging others"Holy Experience - The Command that could Resurrect the Church
My bottom line is this: We must have the freedom to assess. We should never be cruel, thoughtless, or malicious in our criticism. But we must be able to look around at people’s parenting, public behaviors, opinions and writings, and think, “That is right,” or “That is wrong.” We may need to voice this also, for our good or someone else's. And we’d better be able to support our views, not being arbitrary or flippant. I agree with Voskamp that unity and love in the Body of Christ should remain a paramount concern. But that unity is preserved both by the assessor being thoughtful and careful, and by the ‘assessee’ accepting in a godly way the criticism that comes. He must work out how to accept such criticism gracefully. For every time I’ve seen a person do criticism badly, I’ve also seen a person accept wise criticism badly. Both sides must learn how the game is played properly, especially among Christians. The metaphor of the body is apt. We do not sever a body part with cruel words. Neither do we shy away from correct care of a body part in trouble, when correction is required. Such care can be painful for a wounded or dysfunctional part, but it must be done. The medicine that hurts, also heals.
This isn’t easy. I’m no expert! But we do the Body of Christ a grave disservice when we preach loudly, “No Criticism Allowed!” We should examine our terms carefully. To Judge means to sit oneself upon the bench as a judge over others, i.e., to determine whether they are guilty or innocent and to dole out punishment accordingly. To judge spiritual matters additionally means to decide eternal guilt and dole out eternal punishment. None should aspire to judge in this way. But that is entirely different from critical thinking and critical assessment. I’ve spoken out of turn before. I’ve also held my tongue when a word would have been useful. Both are wrong. Real wisdom is knowing when the word is needed, is helpful. Lord, help us all to know!