I sincerely apologize for not posting last week. I was on vacation, and did not have access to a computer or a smartphone to post anything. I tend to travel light on vacation, especially when it comes to technology. That way, I can actually get my mind off of the cares of the world, and enjoy myself.
While on vacation, I decided to reread The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you haven’t read it before, it is a beautifully written book about the punishment affixed to a young woman, Hester Prynne, who commits adultery. The novel itself could be used as a case study on several different issues, but I will only discuss one. As the title describes, the chief punishment ruled down upon Hester is to wear a scarlet embroidered “A” on her chest for the rest of her life, serving as a reminder to herself and the community of the nature of her sin. This “A” for “adultery” was to be worn at all times, and was even to be worn while standing on a stump in front of the entire town square for three whole hours. You can sense the magnitude of the ignominy Hester must have felt: hundreds of eyes, each pair more penetrating than the next, staring at her as the raw personification of sin. It is miraculous that Hester summons the courage to carry on, raise her newly born daughter, and seek for peace.
This situation, to me, vividly displays the searing brand that unrighteous judgment burns upon the hearts of those who have done wrong. For Hester, it was physically manifested on her chest, but for those in today’s world, it lies chiefly in our hearts and in our minds. When others cast unrighteous judgment upon us, we feel vulnerable, weak, and helpless. We begin to label ourselves, and cast a false veil of sin over our whole identity.
What do I mean by unrighteous judgment? I believe that there is a difference between righteous and unrighteous judgment. Righteous judgment comes from stewardship. Parents make righteous judgments to protect their children, for example. This is perfectly fine for those of us on earth. In the New Testament, we read in John 7:24 that we are to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment”. Another translation of that verse goes “Judge not according to your traditions“. Whether it be according to appearance or traditions, unrighteous judgment is characterized by a labeling of an individual’s heart. I believe that no one knows the thoughts and intents of one’s heart save Jesus Christ. Hester’s forced ignominy as she stood in front of the town square is highly analogous to the woman taken in adultery in the Book of John. In this poignant account, angry men throw an adulterer at the feet of Jesus, and remind him that Moses and the law commands that those who commit adultery should be stoned. When asked what should be done with her, Christ responds “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. This merciful response demonstrates that only the Savior, who atoned for all of mankind, and who knows each of us perfectly, is able to judge our hearts. Christ’s unique role as the one who atoned for us all allows him to make judgments on our hearts and our eternal standing. Only He knows exactly where we stand when it comes to personal worthiness and our ability to become something greater than we are. This type of judgment is off limits to mortals, who like Hester, are imperfect.
Christ further teaches this principle by admonishing us to cast out the beam of our own eye when we find a mote in someone else’s eye. We are all imperfect. We all have sinned. We all need divine mercy. We are all at varying degrees of righteousness. I believe that we are not to judge unrighteously, and label a person’s standing before God.
I believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer. I believe that with His help we can become clean and pure, and that instead of casting judgment upon those who have done wrong, we should seek to help them overcome those things that cause them pain.
What do you believe about judgment? What do you believe about Christ as it pertains to this topic? How can we avoid unrighteous judgment?