“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?” (Matthew 7:1-3)
As someone who routinely walks around with an entire lumber yard sticking out of my retinas, I appreciate this command by Jesus to look at our own issues before we look at those of others. Not being one to argue with Jesus, I would, however, like to offer a few, how shall I call them, uh, caveats to this issue of judging, particularly as they relate to travel. I’ll start with one here on judging others and conclude next time with one on judging ourselves.
Regarding judging others, sometimes, especially in a foreign place, that’s not such a bad thing. Not in the way Jesus talks about, but in the sense of evaluating them, making the call as to whether you can trust them or not.
These two guys at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, Turkey are having a much better conversation than we had with the taxi driver.
For example, I remember emerging with my wife and youngest son from the warren of alleys and corridors that make up the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. We find the line of taxis and head to the front. Unfortunately, the lead car looks a bit sketchy. Faded blue, dented and no markings other than a handwritten piece of cardboard on the dashboard reading “Taxi.”
The driver steps out and suddenly, he’s got a friend with him (where he came from, I have no idea). In broken English, they both ask where we want to go. We tell them and ask how much. The friend gives us a number that is three times what it cost to get here. We tell him so.
He explains this concept called rush hour. We inform him we’re aware of rush hour but that it was rush hour when we came here in the morning. Apples to apples.
It’s different traffic going the other direction. Harder. More cars and people. More expensive, he explains.
No thanks, we tell him and start to walk off.
Remarkably, the price halves.
My wife and I look at each other. Even with the lower price, something doesn’t feel quite right. But by now, the friend has started to usher us toward the car, one hand on my back gently moving me forward, the other extended toward the car as if he’s one of the models on The Price is Right pointing out the grand prize.
We hesitate. The driver opens the rear door. He looks at his friend. He looks at us. He spits (on the pavement, not on us). Then he smiles.
There are happy smiles. There are even sad smiles. There are genuine smiles and fake smiles. Laughing smiles and Mona Lisa smiles. But there are also creepy smiles. You can guess which one this is.
Now back to judging, I don’t want to imply that bad oral hygiene makes a person less than trustworthy. But combine this taxi driver’s few remaining yellowish/brownish teeth with what can only be described as a leer and you have an instant judgment: There’s no way we’re getting in that cab.
We tell them no thanks. They get angry (or mock angry). We move on and catch the streetcar across the intersection. We have a very nice ride on the street car and no one on the streetcar smiles at us in a creepy manner.
Sometimes judging pays off.
On trips, you have to make judgment calls in all sorts of situations. Is this the same thing Jesus meant? Usually not, but it is easy to let the one influence the other. We could have walked away from that experience in Istanbul assuming that all Turkish taxi drivers are rather, well, scummy. But that would have been the wrong kind of judging.
Ever made a judgment call on a trip and it paid off? Ever made the wrong call? Ever had an experience that shaped how you view everyone in a particular country?
It’s all a judgment call. The question is how you do it. I’ll let you be the judge of that.