What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: darrenjsylvester
A common tactic used by individuals who wish to silence a person making a judgment on a moral issue is to cite the Lord’s own words in their support: “Judge not, that ye be not judged”. The attempt to use these words to prevent any judgment from taking place is not only absurd, but scripturally incorrect.
For starters, one need only look as far as the Joseph Smith Translation which adds context and clarity to the Savior’s words. In doing so, we learn that the Savior instead was telling his disciples to not judge unrighteously. Further, he counseled them to “judge righteous judgment”, in effect instructing them to judge others—but based on the correct moral standard God had given them.
Ignoring this insight, people who try to end a discussion with an appeal to the “judge not” line of scripture evidently advocate a “live and let live policy”, where no individual judgment occurs, and thus each person implicitly condones and supports whatever his neighbor chooses to do. This warped version of the golden rule shirks our responsibility to stand for what is right—instead of advocating doing unto others what we would have them do unto us, we’re told to not do unto others what we don’t want them to do unto us.
Conversely, the Lord would have us act instead of being acted upon—taking a proactive stance to work in righteousness, stand for truth, and spread the light of the gospel. The golden rule has the right idea: we should do good unto others, not simply not do bad things.
Interestingly, the word “judge” itself conveys this lesson:
A careful study of the roots of the words judge and righteous can help us better understand and apply these concepts. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), the etymology of the noun judge in Latin is “ju-s right, law + -dic-us speaking, speaker.” Literally, a judge is someone who speaks rightly or someone who interprets the law for people. Because the concept of choosing rightly is inherent in the semantic DNA of the word judge, judgment presupposes righteousness.
The author of this paragraph goes on to make the following commentary regarding righteous and unrighteous judgment:
In other words, unrighteous judgment tends to call good evil and evil good; it substitutes darkness for light and bitterness for sweetness (see Isaiah 5:20). Unrighteous judgment distorts or ignores the truth.
Righteous judgment, on the other hand, honors and upholds the truth. It includes acts of charity, mercy, humility, and justice.
As Elder Oaks masterfully explained, there does and should exist righteous judgment where we interpret words, actions, and principles—both our own and those of others—in light of revealed truth and divine will.
Those who parrot the “judge not” line would rather not be the focus of such a judgment, and therefore argue that no such judgment should take place. To be sure, we are all, in various settings, the focus of righteous judgment. Only when we disobey and deviate from the proper path do we prefer the darkness to light, and loathe the judgment of other people observing our behavior.
The beautiful thing about this principle is its universality: while each of us is counseled to judge righteously, we are also to live our lives in such a way that others’ righteous judgment will see in us the light of Christ—His will, His teachings, His spirit. If ever we find ourselves detesting others’ judgment, then perhaps that is the time to seek the spirit and righteously judge our own actions. After all, we are our own best mortal judge.