“You have a demon,” the crowd replied. “Who is trying to kill You?”
Jesus answered them, “I did one miracle, and you are all amazed. But because Moses gave you circumcision, you circumcise a boy on the Sabbath (not that it is from Moses, but from the patriarchs.) If a boy can be circumcised on the Sabbath so that the law of Moses will not be broken, why are you angry with Me for making the whole man well on the Sabbath? Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly.” (John 7:20-24)
Here’s what impresses me about this red letter passage: the importance of judging justly. Literally, this means to make a righteous judgment. It means to appraise a situation correctly and fairly, without any bias. The Jews did not judge righteously when it came to Jesus healing on the Sabbath. They had a double standard. It was okay for them to circumcize a baby on the Sabbath, but not to make someone well. And they were completely blind to their wonky thinking.
The message of being fair and unbiased is all throughout the Bible. From the early days, the law specified that the Jews were to not mistreat those who were different than them. “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” (Ex 23:9) Here are some other great verses about this:
- “This is what the LORD of Hosts says: ‘Administer true justice. Show loving devotion and compassion to one another.’” (Zech 7:9)
- “And He will delight in the fear of the LORD. He will not judge by what His eyes see, and He will not decide by what His ears hear, but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” (Isa 11:3)
- “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:4-5)
- “But the LORD said unto Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.'” (I Sam 16:17)
All of this implies having a heart of empathy and compassion. It’s a great challenge for us to think of treating everyone equally, and to look in our hearts for any biases we may have.
It was like God tested me after I started to think about this. Yesterday, at Zoom Church, there was a woman who joined the service whose hair was in curlers. I confess that I wanted to think worse of her, because of this. She kept peering into camera, her face close up. She began to eat, and we saw a close up of her spoon moving from the dish to her mouth.
And I realized that I’ve been reaching out to other visitors to our Zoom services, but it didn’t occur to me to reach out to her. This isn’t the first time she’s joined us. But I was blind to my biases. I didn’t treat her the same as I treated others. Plus, it was so hypocritical of me to look at her appearance and make a judgment. I keep telling people I love to see them no matter what they look like, and to not turn their camera off!
So after church, I began to text others, to see if I could find out who had invited this woman. I haven’t heard back from anyone yet, but I will continue to try, and if I do find out, I’ll see if she might be interested in studying the Bible. I am repenting.
Then, later in the afternoon, I was in a phone study with someone’s mother. We weren’t at her physical location, and she couldn’t find the scripture in the Bible, and we coudn’t help her. She spoke in a thick accent, and it was hard to understand her. I am ashamed to confess that I was tempted to think of her as less, somehow. I’m so glad I had just read these passages. Instead of giving in to my unfair assessment, embraced her fully.
“Stop judging by outward appearances, and start judging justly.” This is a huge challenge to us! Let’s strive to see our blind spots and biases, and repent as we see them. Let’s not have different standards of how we deal with different people. Let’s love others as we are loved by God. Let’s treat others as we would want be treated.
We will be much closer to the heart of Jesus when we do so.