As teachers and as ministers we make 100’s of judgments as part of our work, don’t we? It is very difficult not to do so—our work almost demands that we make decisions about people, their motivation, their openness to learning, their morals, their abilities, their attitudes—the list can go on and on. I know the Bible says “judge not that you be not judged”…but show me someone who can say that they follow that in all cases and I will show you exhibit one for a Class #1 Liar! (Here I go, judging again!)
Let me tell you a story that grows out of my teaching career to illustrate the danger in making judgments, even when it appears there is a lot of evidence to back it up. This story is about a girl I will call “Sarah”. Sarah was a student in a senior civics class I taught at Poway High School back in the 1970’s. She had managed to go through almost an entire semester with me and not hand in a single assignment that I had given. She was, of course, failing the class, and because of this Sarah had an “attitude”. She was belligerent, she challenged me as a teacher anytime that she could, and she caused me all kinds of problems in trying to control the class that met during the last period of the day.
I had decided that not only did she have a bad attitude but that she was extremely lazy. She was definitely a “weed” in my teaching garden!! One Friday afternoon I made some remark that set off Sarah. She called me a number of very colorful names and stormed out of my classroom. As required, I turned in a disciplinary referral to the Principal immediately after class, but since Sarah was long departed from the premises, any action would have to wait until Monday.
When I returned to school Monday morning I had a note from Sarah in my mailbox. It was, as far as I was able to make out, an attempt to apologize for her behavior—-but you see, Sarah was unable to write words and sentences that I could understand. Most of her note was just meaningless combinations of the alphabet. Somehow, Sarah had made it to her last semester of high school without being able to read and write! The girl I had judged as a discipline problem with a bad attitude in addition to being lazy was struggling with a handicap that she had been successfully able to hide to that point. She was NOT lazy—she was incapable of doing what I wanted her to do and was too proud to admit that. She did not need discipline—she needed help!!
Sarah got that help—I saw to that. But I owe Sarah a huge debt, because she taught me a lesson that I hope I will never forget about being too quick to judge another person. That lesson applies both to teachers and to ministers, especially but also to any one who works with people on a daily basis. Let’s all resolve to let God do the judging and let’s all assume that every person is a child of God, created in his image.