People often come to us with stories about other people, and we tend to believe whatever they tell us. Consequently, the person is judged and condemned in a matter of minutes. Jesus warns us against doing this. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” he says. “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:1‑6).
This should frighten most of us into exercising caution when exercising judgment, but let’s accept it: we love to judge others. It gives us a feeling of moral superiority, and, consequently, the temptation to sit in judgment can be irresistible. On the more charitable side, there are occasions when we might need to make judgment calls. If someone is a kleptomaniac or a sexual predator or a serial killer, or a drug pusher, we need to be made aware, if only to protect ourselves and those we love. So, what do we do?
There are two sides to every story, no matter how obvious something may seem, and we need to hear both sides before we arrive at any conclusions. Even in the world, a court of law allows a defendant to refute what the prosecution says. And until the prosecution has proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that the defendant is guilty as charged, we presume innocence. (Or should, anyway.) How much more should Christians do this?
Now, in a court of law, the prosecution will do everything in its power to convict the defendant, resorting to every trick in the book to win. But, then, the defense will do nothing less to ensure the defendant is acquitted. However, there is a certain degree of fairness in the process. People who slander others have an agenda that usually stems from hurt, imagined, or real. Like a prosecutor, they will do whatever they can to ensure that the other party is portrayed as guilty. The accused will do whatever they can to ensure they are not seen as such. So how do we determine who is right?
If we know the person being slandered, we should go by our knowledge and experiences with them. Have they been bad? Or have they been good? We factor that into our judgment. If we don’t know the person, we can attempt to find out more, not by gossiping, but by speaking directly to the person, allowing them to tell their side of the story and explain their actions, if necessary. Nothing else is fair.
If we don’t ever get to know the whole story and are likely to err in judgment, let us err on the side of love and mercy, because one day it will be our turn to face judgment, and I am sure we would all like to be spared the punishment we *all* deserve.