“Do not judge.” (Luke 6:37)
“Judge righteous judgement.” (John 7:24)
We are commanded to judge righteously and forbidden from judging at all.
The word judge cannot have the same meaning in both sentences. That would be a contradiction.
We know Jesus doesn’t contradict himself. What he says makes sense and describes reality. A contradiction can do neither.
But why did Jesus use one word to mean two things?
Isn’t this what we do? We praise one person, saying, “She judges fairly.” And we criticize another, saying, “She’s always judging.”
The bad kind of judging we call judgemental. The good kind we just call good judgement.
We often confuse them.
Sometimes we assume an angry person is judgemental and a calm person is judging fairly.
Though that can be true, there are people who express judgemental attitudes in the most infuriatingly calm way.
And then there’s Jesus who called such people a brood of vipers and said their father was Satan.
He spoke his mind with a freedom that scandalized the respectable folk of his day—and still scandalizes us.
But he wants us to speak as freely as he does. And we can—if, like him, we never judge and always judge righteously.
Try as we might, we can find no outward sign that infallibly distinguishes judging in the bad sense from judging justly.
The distinction is an inner distinction. It is in fact a spiritual distinction. Good judgement comes from a spirit of caring, concern, scrupulous honesty, integrity, and fairness.
Judgementalism comes from another spirit altogether.
This distinction is not conceptual. Thinking alone cannot show us the difference. The smartest people often fail to make it correctly.
The only person who can reliably make a spiritual distinction is the person who acts in the Spirit of Truth and Love.
We are such a person when we do as Jesus tells us.