The Weakness of Judgment

Watching Making a Murderer is an exercise in frustration. There are moments when you believe, without a doubt, that you have zeroed in on the truth. You shake your head, believing, that you’ve finally gotten that key piece of evidence that makes all the jumbled pieces shake into place. Then it all falls apart. The picture that looked so clear moments before is skewed and unsatisfying. It is a peek into the complexity, and injustice, of a fallen and broken world—no matter your final belief about the people involved.

It is a reminder of our inability to rightly judge another.

It is unfortunate that anyone has to be in a position to decide whether someone is innocent or guilty. But, without a system of justice, and those willing to put their lives on the line to uphold it, society would fall apart. I get that. But it is a flash of divine wisdom, I believe, that we would—when considering the future of anyone made in the image of God—consider any reasonable doubt as that person’s innocence.

In criminal law, Blackstone’s ratio is that “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer“.

I don’t think many Christians believe that at times.

Our ability to judge is severely limited by a) our own sinfulness, and b) our lack of insight into the life and motivation of others. Yet, even knowing that, I’m sure I’ll judge some poor sucker before the day’s over.

Once we have been redeemed, we sometimes tend to fall into an ideology which tempts us to harshly judge those who “are as [we] once were” (1 Cor 6:11). Steve Brown often says that a cat will never sit on a hot stove more than once, but he’ll never sit on a cold stove again either. His point is that we sometimes mislearn lessons.

That’s what I think happens to us as Christians.

Instead of realizing the simple fact that Christ saves sinners, of whom I am the worst (sorry, Paul), and offering the gift of free forgiveness we were given in Christ to others who are perishing in their sin, we instead see ourselves as better than them.

How dumb is that?

It’s like the story Jesus told about the guy who owed a bajillion bucks (I paraphrase) to the king in Matthew 18:21-35. The debtor couldn’t pay him, so the king ordered he and his family be sold to repay the debt. The man begged for mercy. Then, in a wild act of grace, the king felt pity and forgave the debt. THEN, the first thing this guy did was run out and grab a man, who owed him just a few hundred bucks, by the scruff of his neck and demanded repayment. This guy also begged for mercy, but the debtor had none and threw the guy who owed him a pittance compared to his own debt in jail until his debt was paid.

Do you see it?

How foolish we are to point out the speck of sawdust in another’s eyes missing the two-by-four in our own? How ignorant of the mercy we’ve been shown when we hold back forgiveness because we perceive someone’s debt bigger than the one we owed.

Jesus’ parable shows that every sin against us is a pittance compared to what He has forgiven.

I don’t know if Steven Avery is innocent. That’s not what this post is about. But I know that his story, as presented in that documentary, reminded me that my judgment is weak. That I don’t know the whole story of anyone’s life or how someone else has twisted it for their own purposes or filtered it through their own prejudices–even me.

All I know is that my debt is forgiven, and that my job is to love, not pass judgment on any and everyone (1 cor 5:12). Love, boys and girls, triumphs over judgment (James 2:13). Human judgment  itself is an exercise in frustration when it is done outside of the knowledge of God’s grace in one’s own life.


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