“Hey, stop judging me! You can’t judge me and my beliefs!” How many times have we heard something like this? The implication of such exclamations are clear: someone’s personal beliefs about religion or morality are off limits—they cannot be discerned to be right or wrong. Beliefs are subjective and thus true for some and not others. Such a sentiment fences off one’s beliefs from being analyzed and weighed for validity. But is it true that we should not judge others? Are religious and moral beliefs really just personal opinions? I suggest that I want people to judge me and my beliefs, and it’s o.k. Really. Here are five reasons why.
1. A real world exists
For one thing, a real world exists outside my own perceptions. If you disagree, just try driving your car into a tree and see what happens. It doesn’t matter whether you perceive or believe a tree to be there or not. If it is there, you will run into it and the car (and perhaps even yourself) will be damaged or hurt. Humans cannot escape the reality of an independent existing world outside themselves. Since a real world exists, I want people to judge whether my perceptions of it are correct, especially if it involves life and death issues. So, judge me. I’d rather be alive than dead.
2. Some actions are really wrong
Just like a real objective world exists outside of myself, objective morally right and wrong exist apart from my beliefs. Granted, it is popular today to believe in moral relativism—the idea that there is no right and wrong that everyone must live by. I have my ethics; you have yours. But this isn’t true. It does not matter who you are, everyone believes that murder, rape, and torturing babies for fun are morally wrong actions. Imagine a world in which moral relativism was true: it would logically follow that the atrocities committed by Pol Pot, Hitler, Stalin, and numerous others would be morally permissible and not wrong. As such, no consequence should follow from such actions. It would be a stalemate: my opinion against yours and no one is right or wrong. But even if someone were to believe that murder is right, it would not make it right. People’s beliefs about ethics can be wrong just like a belief that the moon is made of cheese would be wrong. I could also be wrong about ethics. I am not perfect and I would like to know where I need to improve upon my moral character. So, judge me.
3. Judging can’t be avoided
Everyone makes judgments every day. Although it’s popular to say, “Do not judge,” no one really accepts this idea. Even those who express the idea in fact judge: “Do not judge” is a judgment. Judging is an aspect of being human and is unavoidable. For example, when you go to a restaurant, you judge between menu items and weigh which entre would be the best. Likewise, people choose religious beliefs by judging between religions. If a religion claims to save you from sin, as Christianity does, a person (using some kind of criteria) judges whether this is true and worthy of his or her acceptance. I personally have judged Christianity to be true and have committed my life to following Jesus. Others have judged otherwise. It is just a part of human nature to judge, so judge me for what I believe. I am going to judge you, so you might as well judge me (you can’t help it anyway). Besides, I may be wrong in my judgment and I would like to know if I am incorrect.
4. Judging avoids an arbitrary life
Imagine if no one judged between beliefs and actions. No one would have a rationale for what they think or do and thus everyone would end up living life arbitrarily. Consider if you were to ask me over dinner in the midst of an engaging conversation, “So, why are you a Christian?” If I did not judge, I would not be able to answer such a question definitively. Why? Because to believe something—in this case, Christianity—entails making a judgment that Christianity is true or at least worthy of acceptance. In other words, it means to have reasons—which includes weighing and judging evidence for and against—for belief. If I did not judge Christianity or any other religion to be true or false for any reason, my beliefs are just arbitrary. I might as well paste the names of all the world’s religions on a dart board and accept my religion on the fate of a dart’s landing. Judging is something that must be done if our beliefs are to be reasonable (or unreasonable!) rather than arbitrary. So, judge me. I don’t want to live an arbitrary life and you can help me discern whether I have good reasons to believe what I do.
5. Jesus said to judge
Some may find it difficult to imagine, but Jesus commands us to judge. When some leading Jews were upset with Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, Jesus told them, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24; NASB). Even in an oft-quoted text used to support the idea that we ought not judge (“Do not judge so that you will not be judged”; Matthew 7:1), Jesus actually commands us to judge: “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). In other words, Jesus commands us to judge correctly rather than hypocritically, not that we should avoid judging altogether. Judging in this case is for the betterment of a Christian brother or sister—something to be done to help each other become more righteous. Therefore, if Jesus said we ought to judge, then it must be o.k. So, judge me. I would rather be right with Jesus than for you to be “non-judgmental.”
I thus give you permission to judge me. Really. It’s o.k. Don’t listen to the judgmental naysayers. I want to know where you think I have gone wrong in my beliefs and actions. I want to know whether my beliefs correspond to the real world and whether my actions are ethical. More importantly, I want to be more like Jesus. Perhaps by judging each other we will reach a better understanding of truth and become better people for it. Judge on!