Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

Good judgment, Charlie Brown!

If Charlie Brown ever comes to me for advice, I’ll tell him not to do it. Until she shows some indications to the contrary, I’d recommend Charlie not trust Lucy’s promise that she won’t snatch away the football she is holding, the next time he runs up to kick it.

Some might say this is a rather uncharitable view of Lucy—that I should extend more grace. They may even accuse me of being judgmental, pointing out that as one of the people of the second chance, as followers of Jesus might be identified, I ought to give others a pass. Or at least the benefit of the doubt. After all, the argument goes, “Who am I to say what’s what?”

Certainly, the Bible tells us to forgive, to turn the other cheek, and all that. But we are also instructed to go out into the world as sheep in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16). I am pretty sure Jesus was not meaning we should carry a book of suggested recipes for lamb and a bottle of mint sauce with us. He did tell us to be shrewd in our dealings with others, however.

Grace is good. Grace is the gospel in five letters. Grace is God. But grace isn’t a free-for-all, it’s a forgiveness-is-free-for-all, and you can’t extend mercy without first identifying the need for it. So we shouldn’t turn a blind eye when people do wrong. We should turn one from which we have endeavored to remove the debris that clouds our own vision.

Saying that the Bible tells us to “judge not” is like saying it warns us that money is the root of all evil: close but no cigar (even if you are part of a men’s group where the occasional stogie is permitted).

1 Timothy 6:10 actually says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Meanwhile, in the light of what else He has to say later in the same chapter—and other passages—Jesus’ cautions about judging (Matthew 7) are more a reminder that we will be measured by the same yardstick we apply to others, rather than a strict prohibition.

Then there’s the prayer He taught us all. Asking to be delivered from evil, and kept from being led into temptation, requires you to know what’s good and bad, and right from wrong—to make an evaluation of some sort.

A judgment implies a verdict, meaning that you’ve heard all the evidence. I’ve found it helpful to remember that, in some situations, I may not have all the facts. But that needn’t prevent me from making some cautious decisions based on what I do know—an interim adjudication, if you will.

Hence my recommendation to Charlie Brown. Forget football. Go find something else to do. Like fly a kite. But, then again…

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