Both the psalm and the gospel in this morning’s lectionary remind me of a basic principle of law in the United States of America, i.e. “innocent until proven guilty.” We are still in chapter 7 of John’s gospel where people are divided about Jesus. As yesterday, they are convinced he cannot be the messiah because he comes from Galilee but the guards say to the authorities, “No one has ever spoken like this man!” The Pharisees are still resistant asking, “Have any of the authorities or the Pharisees believed in him?” (as if position alone yields probity.) It is Nicodemus that enters then and asks my question: “Does our law condemn a man before it first hears him and finds out what he is doing?” Would that this question always be raised at moments of personal and/or public judging in our lives!
The psalmist turns the job of judging over to God, as in psalm 7 he cries out: Judge us, judge me, judge everything and all that’s in your care. Weigh me on the scale of innocence, according to your law, and as you establish justice, bring evil to an end. For this I know, you are the source of justice done, the fairest judge of all. You know what’s in the human heart to the very secrets of the soul. You are also the great protecting one, you shield the good, defending all that’s true. (vs. 8-11)
The faculty of judgment in the manner of discernment is essential to our lives in assessing what is beneficial and what is not – from what we ought to eat, to wear, to spend our money on, etc. When judging moves into the public arena, however, where we begin to assess the intelligence, worthiness of respect, good character – or any other quality – of another person or the rightness in a situation, we ought to be sure we have spent the time and energy it takes to really make an informed judgment. And, in truth, we would be better off leaving that kind of judgment to God, letting love be the measure of our lives. I will try today to notice how quickly I move to judgment in my thoughts throughout the day and I will try to keep those thoughts to myself for the benefit of all!