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Good Judgment or Judgmentalism? 05/23/2008


"Judge not, lest ye be judged." Does that mean we can't disagree?

I recently wrote an open letter to Oprah Winfrey. Our email system shows that it was read by more than 45 times the normal number of readers. This does not even factor in those who went directly to to read the letter. It had far more impact than I anticipated. (For those who have asked, we have not received communication from Ms. Winfrey or her staff, but we continue to reach out to her in love.)

The feedback to the letter also surpassed any other reaction. Most people appreciated the kind manner in which we attempted to communicate our concerns. A few wrote back with ridiculous, meaningless hate mail. But several people expressed the same objection, which motivates me to deal with an important issue: judgmentalism. Some actual comments included (with errors not corrected):

"YOU OBVIOUSLY NEVER READ OR EVEN OPENED [Eckhard Tolle's books]. And you have the nerve to judge?? This exactly what I despise about dogma, it teachs from what you were taught by thoes who were taught."

"I do not see where you can justify telling Oprah how to live her life or what beliefs she must expouse through her personal her life or her media life. Who gave you the right to tell her anything??? You have no more right to tell her what to do than I have to tell you what to do. Judge not, lest you be judged."

"Your letter was loving, well written but misses what God is saying through two anointed angels [Tolle and Winfrey] for this part of God's love program....I love you too much to let you get away with such foolish religious blindness. You short change God in that kind of judging."

In my letter, I expressed deep concern for the poor example many of us as Christians set (yet nobody accused me of judging Christians). Oftentimes rather than being attracted to Christ, people actually turn away, saying, "I might have been a Christian had I not seen some of them."

I shared that I prayed none of us (myself included) had caused Oprah to miss seeing the fact that Jesus is the Truth that sets us free. He is the One who enables us to live fully and freely "in the now." He grants us the grace to deal with the past and trust Him for the future. I am concerned that she is attracted to anyone who discounts the completeness of Jesus' life and work.

For this, I am accused of judgmentalism. But there is a vast difference between exercising sound judgment and actually judging people. Discernment and judgmentalism are entirely different practices.

God gives us the ability to discern character, attitudes and actions that disregard biblical principles, to discern right from wrong, and to recognize those who would manipulate us into doctrines, feelings and beliefs contrary to His word. We absolutely must practice sound judgment as it relates to important ideas, beliefs and choices in life.

At the same time, we have been cautioned by Christ to refrain from judging others. That does not mean we can't weigh the words and actions of other people in light of His standards. We simply should not judge their heart or their motives. In no way did I judge Oprah's motives or her intentions. As a matter of fact, I praised her motives, assuming that she truly seeks to benefit others. But I am concerned that somehow she has not understood the significance of everything Jesus said and did.

To take it to an extreme analogy, if one of your loved ones--perhaps a mother, sister or daughter--joined a radical immoral religious cult, would you not be concerned? And if she attempted to recruit other members of your family into that abusive cult, claiming it was the ultimate atmosphere of love, would you not raise your voice in objection and seek ways to prevent other loved ones from going astray?

The circumstances with Ms. Winfrey are vastly different, of course, but the point is that if someone is leading others in a way contrary to scripture, how can we be silent while God's people are being led down the wrong path? And if Jesus' words are true, that "no man comes to the Father" but through him, then would not a "many paths to God" ideology be potentially dangerous on an eternal scale?

Although what I shared would be considered a word of correction, it was also a word of encouragement. It was in no way judgmental of any person. I did not condemn Ms. Winfrey or Mr. Tolle. I did not even condemn their motives. I did, however, point out that the beliefs they are promoting do not line up with the Bible. Jesus did this with the religious leaders of his day. Paul did it in his letters to the early church. This is not judgmentalism; it is an exhortation to seek the truth and an affirmation that truth is revealed in scripture and demonstrated through the life of Jesus Christ.

Jesus did say that by the same standard we judge others or measure them, we will also be judged. It is important to know that if our evaluation is appropriate, we are being motivated by a spirit of redemption. Our analysis is inappropriate if we are motivated in any way by a destructive spirit. It seems obvious that some who wrote me concerning judgmentalism have already judged and condemned me for simply expressing my heartfelt concern. Interesting, isn't it?

We must, with God's guidance, exercise wise judgment to discern truth in light of Jesus Christ. Our words and actions will judge us and we will reap the consequences of bad choices. This, in the truest sense of the word, is judgment and it does not come from other people.

Finally, there is the aspect of judgmentalism that is an arrogant, critical, condemnation of others. The fact is, we don't know the hearts of others, so we cannot judge them. But we must judge their ideas, actions and the fruit they produce. Jesus said, "By their fruit you will know them." It is healthy to exercise sound judgment, while remaining personally approachable and teachable. I seek to love others as I desire to be loved. If I started preaching that Jesus Christ was not the way to God, I would hope that someone would confront my views and humbly, graciously disagree.

Author: James Robison

Word Count: 1070

About the author: James Robison is the founder and president of LIFE Outreach International, a Christian media ministry and mission relief organization. He and his wife, Betty, host of the television program Life Today; He has authored numerous books, including The Soul of a Nation, The Absolutes: Freedom's Only Hope and True Prosperity.

Media Contact: Randy Robison, editor at . Photo available upon request. Reprint rights granted with attribution for complete, unedited article. Revisions allowed only with approval.