The people's voice of reason

On Judging Others

Teachers take care to include every conceivable guideline in the class syllabus. I suppose years ago syllabuses used to cover pulling a girl's pigtails and chewing gum, but these days other issues are addressed.

At one school we carried on a running dialogue about cell phones. Some teachers thought they should be banned outright from the classroom and others thought this was a losing battle, especially when students could quickly look up a fact or a date if the teacher needed help. And it's impossible to maintain the strictest classroom order and force everyone to pay attention. One coed told me, "We can text under the desk and you'd never notice!"

I took the entire first class one term and went over the syllabus in excruciating detail. I pointed out all assignments, due dates and class decorum. I did so pointedly so every student would know exactly what was expected and could schedule their time accordingly.

One young lady missed the first class. I never knew if she missed carelessly or added the class later. Whatever the case, she ambled in to the second class and asked a lot of questions about the syllabus. She also asked me to repeat myself several times during the hour. I was a bit resentful to waste class time on something we'd already taken care of, and to be interrupted for what I thought were no good reasons since we had material to cover.

After class she asked to speak to me for a few minutes. "I have a hearing aid," she said. "I couldn't get a front seat tonight but I need to sit close in the future."

Her long hair covered the hearing device and I'd not seen it. I was ashamed that I'd judged her as a careless student rather than a student with disability.

This experience reminded me how quick we are to judge others before appropriating all the facts. It's been said the most frequent exercise for most of us is jumping to conclusions and running to bear tales!

Scripture is very clear about judgment. Whereas members are sometimes called on to make judgments in congregational churches, such as voting on leaders, we're never given license to condemn other people without mercy. Scripture reminds us that God has given mercy to us and we must share mercy with others.

We should remember Paul's sobering word in Romans 14:10, “You have no right to criticize your brother or look down on him. Remember, each of us will stand personally before the Judgment Seat of God.”

Actor Michael J. Fox once said, “The least amount of judging we can do, the better off we are.”

I think he's right.

Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala., and adjunct instructor of speech at Jefferson State Community College, Hoover. Permission is granted to use this material with attribution.


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