Beware of Snap Judgments

24 Jan

An Embarrassed ZebraA leopard went to see an optometrist because he thought he needed an eye exam. “Every time I look at my wife,” he worriedly told the optometrist, “I see spots before my eyes.”

“So, what’s to worry about,” replied the optometrist. “You’re a leopard, aren’t you?”

“Yes, but you see, my wife is a zebra.”

Sometimes we make snap judgments, don’t we? Just like that optometrist, before he had the whole picture.

Some people make snap judgments about people with disabilities. I saw a woman yell into the ear of a deaf man after watching him use sign language ~ as if that was going to help. We might assume that a person in a wheel chair is incapable and treat him or her like a child, when actually that person might be a brilliant intellectual, and clever in dealing with the struggles of life.

We might make snap judgments about people of another race or culture, or snap judgments about a friend’s intentions, or snap judgments about a spouse’s responses.

According to a study by US psychologist Alex Todorov, people respond intuitively to faces ~ so quickly sometimes that the reasoning of their minds “may not have time to influence the reaction.” We size people up at a glance and decide quickly whether a person has traits we feel are important.

Why the brain makes such snap judgments is “not entirely clear.…,” Todorov said, “But because we make these judgments without conscious thought, we should be aware of what is happening when we look at a person’s face.”

The key for the Christian is to become so familiar with how Jesus looks at and responds to people ~ with eyes of compassion and a heart that longs for relationship ~ that we quickly counter snap judgments with truth and a desire for more information.

Depending on the motive, snap judgments can be serious sin. One of the most quoted scriptures thrown at Christians ~ usually in the context of being “more tolerant” ~ is “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (from Matthew 7:1-5). These verses do not teach that to judge anyone is sin. The context is Jesus talking to they hypocritical Jewish religious leaders who condemned others for failing to meet their tough standards. The context is a harsh condemnation of legalism.

The Christian should seek to be discerning and to judge rightly. Jesus did say that we are not to judge according to outward appearance (John 7:24); see also James 2:1-4). For instance, the crowds judged Jesus for healing on the Sabbath, but Jesus encouraged them to judge righteously.

Judging according to our own opinions and motives can get us into trouble, but Jesus encouraged men to judge according to the Word of God. We are to judge, for example, whether our preachers and teachers are doctrinally correct (Matthew 7:15-20; I Corinthians 14:29; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:20-24).

We are not to judge people on non-moral issues (preferences) where the Bible has no clear teaching (Example: Romans 14:1-23). And we are not to judge (with a condemning attitude) another’s service for God (1 Corinthians 4:1-5); but discernment about ministry is acceptable, especially for those in a place of leadership. And we are to judge in disputes between members of local churches so these battles don’t end up in the world’s courts (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

The judgment of a Christian is always to restore, not condemn (Galatians 6:1-5).

There are other responsibilities Christians have for right judgment, based on biblical discernment. But the point is, the “tolerance” of the world is subjective, while the Christian lives by God’s absolute truth, the Word of God. We need to be careful of making snap judgments until we have all the facts; and then, once we know the truth of a situation, we should rightly judge according to the scriptures.

Let’s seek to encourage others, and respect them by not jumping to hasty conclusions. But let’s also pray that God will give us keen minds and discerning hearts.


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