Judging by Appearance
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"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment" (Jn. 7:24).
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Jesus was condemned by his critics for healing a man on the Sabbath day (v. 23). Not only was their complaint inconsistent (they had no problem with performing circumcision on the Sabbath, v. 22), it stood against the very nature of the Law itself. If one of the foundation pillars of the Law is to "love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39-40), how could Jesus be guilty by making a man "completely well" on the Sabbath? Their condemnation of Jesus was based on shallow and fallacious reasoning.
"Righteous" judgment requires more than perfunctory dismissal of people we don't like. Until we have carefully investigated the circumstances of their lives, we are not qualified to pass judgment on them.
Yet we pass judgments based on superficial appearances all the time. In the first century, for example, the Jew/Gentile divide was exacerbated by attitudes on both sides of the fence, embodied in comments like, "All Jews are ______," or "All Gentiles are ______." (Fill in the blanks for your favorite libel.)
The same kind of vilification poisons our social discourse today. How often do we hear statements like the following--or perhaps we are guilty of muttering some of these ourselves?
“All men are______ .”
“All women are______ .”
“All black people are______ .”
“All white people are______ .”
“All cops are______ .”
"All teenagers are ______."
"All old people are ______."
On and on it goes. We are so busy flinging labels that we never stop to examine the underlying reasons behind our defamations. There is plenty of sin and evil in the world, of course; but are we improving the matter by writing off others, even entire populations, based on the flimsiest of evidence?
Enough already! When Jesus walked among us, He gave everybody the benefit of the doubt. Everybody had the opportunity to share in His blessings, until they rejected it. That's what earned Him the reputation of "friend of sinners."
Before we dismiss others based on frivolous opinions, we need to take the time to really know the circumstances of their lives.
After all, isn't that how we want people to form their opinions of us?