|Katrina flooding in New Orleans–Win Henderson/FEMA|
People, all of us, are quick to make judgments—we do this even without realizing it. It's more obvious whenever a great tragedy or disaster occurs—assigning blame and responsibility is all the rage, literally. The larger the event, the more blame is slung around.
What concerns me most of all are the self-proclaimed prophets. Some foretell events that don't happen, while others are quick to claim it must be God's judgment. Depending on your own reactions, it's easy to fall into one camp or another of defending or blaming.
I remember someone claiming a cataclysmic earthquake would strike Los Angeles during the 1984 Olympics—as God's judgment for LA's evil. When it didn't hit he claimed it was because prayer and repentance had forestalled it. I was a pastor in Southern California at the time and was saddened once again by another false (and humiliating) prophecy. In Old Testament times false prophets were to be stoned to death. In our days it just heaps more scorn on the reputation of the Christian church.
Claiming that a disastrous event is God's judgment is much less risky (sort of) and harder to disprove. But this also tends to bring ridicule on God's church. I don't think God's too worried about His own reputation—He's a lot bigger than all that—but as in politics, slinging mud just doesn't win hearts. If it's truly a revelation from God, then by all means declare it. But if it isn't...there will be accountability both now and in eternity.
There needs to be a whole lot more genuine fear of God when it comes to speaking things in God's Name (imho).
Jesus spoke several times about this very tendency towards hasty judgments and wrong assumptions. Here's one I came across recently—
There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5)
Here, Jesus challenges the people's assumptions about two groups of people who died. He questions their judgment by asking, "Do you think...?" Twice the Lord warns them to repent.
Hasty judgments breed wrong assumptions. If left unchecked, these same judgments and assumptions come back to bite us.
Jesus follows this dialogue with a parable (Luke 13:6-9), the story of a man who planted a fig tree that wasn't bearing fruit, even after three years. The man wants to dig it out, but his head gardener asks for another year—if it bears, then good, if not, then "cut it down." In the context of the story, the fig tree speaks of Israel and the judgment they suffered for rejecting their Messiah when He came.
When events and situations are large and removed from our day-to-day life, it's easy to make quick judgments and rash assumptions. A couple recent events come to mind—the GSA spending scandal, the Trayvon Martin case, the Secret Service scandal, and so on. It's easy to form opinions about these, but (for most of us) they're far removed from our own life.
But what about the hasty judgments and wrong assumptions we make every day about people and events in our own lives?