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My Superpower? Judgmental ‘Discernment’


I have amazing superpowers, and plenty of them. On the freeway, from inside my own car, I can spot idiots by the way they drive. (And believe me, there are loads of idiots!) On social media, I can discern the tone of voice in a Tweet or a Facebook post or in a text. If I’m watching a video, I can go beyond tone of voice and tell you the exact motivation of the person posting. While reading the New York Times I possess all the insight needed to instantly solve all the world’s problems (even though a reporter from the Times has never called me to ask my opinions). My judgmental abilities are a supernatural gift . . . or are they?

You get the idea: my superpowers are a dazzling combination of mindreading and deep analysis. I’m a mash-up of Megamind and Freud. Of course, the scripture doesn’t use the word superpower. In fact, it doesn’t look like Jesus is impressed by my powers at all:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5)

If you’re into being in control, being judgmental is a great idea. Think of a courtroom: judges do not repent, defendants do. The judge sits above the situation. In fact, the judge sits above everyone else in the room! Everyone else in the room wants to win the judge’s attention and approval. Ultimately, the judge gets to decide who gets to say what, and how much they get to say. Argue with the judge you will be met with a contempt of court citation—which you cannot challenge or contest. It is final.

Judgmental “Discernment”

The habitual practice of a judgmental spirit is an enemy of repentance, and every church planter needs to know how to repent–and do so regularly. As soon as I cast myself in the role of judge, I have excused myself of the need to repent, because after all, it’s all about me. Come to think of it, only three kinds of people wear flowing black robes: graduates (who think they know more than they do), judges (who hold all the cards, and wizards (who, admittedly, are pretty cool—but far less common than the first two).

It doesn’t take long to get used to wearing the robe, holding the gavel, and sitting high above other people. But I do so at my own peril: I quietly have given myself permission to be the lord of all I survey. Sure, Jesus may be “Lord of all,” but I am lord of my realm. I may never express it in these terms, but I become the god of my world—and every day is Judgment Day as I scrutinize the actions of others.