I can’t stand rule breaking. Whether it’s a road rule, a parking sign, rules in the workplace, or even just ignoring instructions for putting together a piece of furniture.
I’m also pretty quick to judge other people for breaking rules.
As I’m driving, I constantly have to remind myself, “Sarah, you are not the police. You can’t do anything about that driver failing to indicate, boiled as your blood may be. Simply drive on and ignore it, you Judgey McJudgerson.”
Recently I was convicted of my judginess.
Judging parents at Bunnings
I was at Bunnings, enjoying the free playground facility (well, to be honest, my son was). The instructions written on the gate clearly stated that parents must supervise their children at all times.
Of course, I obeyed the sign and I supervised.
At one point, I looked around and realised that, of all the kids in the playground, I was the only parent following the rules and supervising my child.
At first I was angry! “How dare those parents leave!”
And then I was self-righteous. “Well, aren’t I wonderful for being the only parent to follow the rules and actually watch my child!”
And then I was worried. “What if something happens to a child and their parent isn’t there to help them?”
After I spoke to a friendly Bunnings worker, they made an announcement encouraging parents to return to their children.
Saying something I regretted
As parents arrived back, to my shame, I spoke out of turn, and caused a reaction to come flying back my way.
The parent snarled at me, “Nobody likes a dibber dobber, you know!!”
In some ways, it was the reaction of a parent who knew they had done the wrong thing by leaving and was simply lashing out.
However, in another way, their reaction towards me was somewhat justified.
While I was right to take action to ensure parents returned to their children, I also did some bad judging in the process.
In speaking out the way I did, I had quite likely caused this parent to feel attacked and shamed.
There is good and bad judgement
There is good judging and there is bad judging.
Good judgement is about taking into consideration and balancing all the available facts and information at hand before coming to a conclusion.
Bad judgment is about judging on face value, without any thought to underlying factors driving the behaviour we see.
I judged the parent without any knowledge of their situation, their background, their motivation. And my judgement had caused pain and embarrassment.
As I drove home, I wished I had kept my mouth shut. Wasn’t it enough that the parent had come back? Why did I feel the need to butt in? And what would have been a better, more Christ-like way to handle things?
We’re all under the judgement of God
It’s not wrong to have a sense of right and wrong. It’s not wrong to long for justice. It’s not wrong to desire that people do the right thing.
But I think it’s pretty important to have a balanced sense of grace and mercy, to go along with justice, because everyone is under judgement, but it’s not mine. And it’s judgement that matters the most.
It’s the judgement of God.
We have all fallen short of the standard that God has set. And his rules are even more important than those made by the staff at Bunnings.
And God’s judgement is way better than mine. God has all the information at hand before he comes to a conclusion.
Better that God be the judge than me
In one sense, I am always glad that God is the judge. Because he is the only one who can judge completely correctly.
It also means that all the unfairness we see in the world does not go unnoticed and it will not go unpunished.
In some cases, this is a good thing. The person who appears to have gotten away with murder, should face a consequence and pay a price for what they’ve done.
It is right to long for justice.
Long for justice, but don’t take joy in punishment
But desiring strongly to see other people punished by God is not a Christ-like attitude.
Instead, a Christ-like attitude would be to desire that those who have done wrong and deserve punishment would come to know the grace and forgiveness available from God, because of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Even as he hung dying on the cross, Jesus asked his Father to forgive those who sinned against him.
So while I’m driving around my neighbourhood, witnessing all kinds of traffic infringements (it’s Sydney, there are plenty), it’s a good reminder to me who the actual Judge of these people is.
(Hint: it’s not me)
And while I’m reminded of this, it’s a prompt to pray for the salvation of those who only know God as their Judge, and desperately need to meet Jesus the Saviour.
Sarah Urmston is a follower of Jesus whose current season of life sees her fully occupied by raising two gorgeous young children with her husband Stephen. In moments when time allows for pursuits of the heart, Sarah loves to keep in touch with friends (especially thanks to Facebook), sing and play piano, and enjoy a good cup of tea.
Sarah Urmston previous articles may be viewed