Every week for about a year I have shaken my internal head at the ensembles that this young woman in her early 20s wears. Literally, she looks like she gets out of bed and grabs whatever her hands first touch, whether in her closet, drawers, chair or on the floor. It is not unusual for her to have on a pair of black ankle boots, white tights, brown skirt, beige shirt and yellow cardigan two sizes too big and all clothes not ironed. I have contemplated talking to her, asking her if I could give her some tips, show her how to groom and style her hair, assess her wardrobe and take her shopping to give her whole style a makeover. But I love her and her parents and don’t want to risk offending them. Still, I believe I need to say something. I see a beauty with so much more potential that doesn’t seem like she’s giving God her best in her appearance: she loves the Lord deeply, evangelizes children, has a pleasant face, bright smile and has a gorgeous body. I really want her to do better so I continue to wonder “What’s wrong with her? Doesn’t she see herself before she leaves the house? Why does her mother let her leave the house looking like that?” Then last week when shaking my internal head I heard in my spirit “What if she has mental problems and that’s why she dresses that way?” I stood convicted. I made the judgment that she shouldn’t dress like that because she has to know better and there is no good reason she should dress like that. God quickly helped me see that there could be a good reason that she dresses like that and I must not judge because I don’t know.
I thought I had gone beyond judging people, which was something of a family trait. My family, strong in discernment, would know something about someone but take that further and write their life story. This is a classic dialogue between my sister and me:
“She needs so much attention,” my sister might say.
“Her parents probably didn’t give her much affection when she was younger.”
“She better deal with that because a husband ain’t gonna want to deal with that all the time.” Here, my sister and I not only acknowledged her issue but also determined why she likely had the issue and what the fate of her issue would be. I had learned to reconcile “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1) and “judge not according to the appearance but judge righteous judgment” or “…judge a right judgment” (John 7:24), the first verse telling us not to “unfairly find fault in others and pronouncing an opinion concerning right and wrong” while the second is telling us “to pass judgment on the words and deeds of others,” not making judgment about the person (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon on Blue Letter Bible). In order to judge a right judgment we must 1) discard our opinion; 2) not determine a fate for the person that God hasn’t determined; and 3) not determine the worth of a person that God has not determined.
I, however, crossed the line with the young lady by determining that she should know how to dress. I can’t have that opinion. In addition, my opinion unfairly finds fault in her. Perhaps her mother or some other older woman never took the time to tell her about the importance of neat appearance and certain styles and colors complimenting each other. I don’t know what’s going on in her head, heart or home concerning her dress. I can only see what she looks like, not the reason she looks like that. When I determine the reason without her, someone close to her or God revealing the reason to me, then I am judging. And when we judge, we cannot show love.
So this week’s challenge for us is what God through the Apostle Peter tells husbands how to love their wives: “according to knowledge” (1 Peter 3:7). If we operate toward others based on what we know for sure, in this instance, “to judge a righteous judgment” then we steer clear of speculation, finalization and a know-it-all attitude. We may know that something is wrong but we may not know the why and sure fate that will result from the wrong. We often just see what people are experiencing not why they are experiencing what they are experiencing or who they are. Only the all-knowing, all-seeing God knows not just what they are experiencing and why they are experiencing it but who they really are. We only see what is on the outside. And the outside is not sufficient for us to make a judgment. God is the only one who can judge and gives us that power in limited situations. Judgment is final. It’s something inescapable if it is the consequence that God has ordained. We can only speculate if we are observing someone’s life. We must be careful to use terms like seem and looks like and we should even reserve those terms for our thoughts unless God leads us to speak to the person. If we go to the person we must know that God wants us to love them; there is no room, and we have no right, to condemn.
Take a Risk Challenge: Judge someone righteously, remembering that means judging the words and deeds not based on your opinion and without your condemnation. God will no doubt lead you to pray on that person’s behalf and perhaps speak the truth in love for their edification. Judging righteously is truly a radical act of love.
Join Soul Delights for its Natural Health Tour to Urban Farms Saturday, April 26, 2014