Yesterday in church we visited the addage “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” My personality theory professor (who knows, maybe he was preparing this lesson for this same class in his own congregation) was asking our thoughts on judgment this week and concluded that judgment is not always negative. Judges decide things. They declare innocence as well as guilt. On a list of feelings and mental capacities I had in positive psychology, I was surprised to note that “worthy” appeared in the judgment column.
Judging is deciding, like deciding to treat someone as lovable and worthy. Mercy is contrasted with justice, but mercy is a decision, and a function of judging. So it is that if we are merciful with others, we may hope for mercy, particularly from our own conscience.
The more popular quote appears in Matthew 7, but in John 7:24 we read “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” I take this to mean that we should not decide whimsically or superficially, but come to love them as we love ourselves, and then decide how we will treat them.