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Adam at Rowe Family Camp holding his little cousin Meredith (who couldn’t quite decide what she thought of his new ‘do)

So you know that famous passage that says judge not lest ye be judged, so- on- and- so- forth?

I’ve been thinkin’ about that.

Years ago, in response to a challenge from one of his junior high students, our oldest son, Adam, dyed his blonde hair red, shaved it into a mohawk, and slicked it into spikes five inches high.

It was scary.

That was not the object, but it certainly was the effect. The moment Adam got off the plane from California to visit us, my eyes became as round as Chicago pan pizza. With nearly a half-foot of flaming red quills added to his nearly six-foot frame, our son was fearsome. When we took him out for dinner at a Wheaton restaurant that night, my peripheral vision caught parents sneaking sideways peeks at Adam, pulling their own kids close and shaking their heads emphatically.

If they only knew, I thought, who our son really is – a culturally conservative, crazy-about-Jesus youth pastor who embodies everything we ever prayed for in a son.

Next week the ‘hawk was gone and so was Adam, but the lesson remained. How often do I mentally judge others based on appearance alone?

Our youngest son, Jordan, sports a permanent adornment on his right arm: a crown of thorns encircling a red drop of blood. He created the design in college and had it tattooed on his arm in memory of the one whose life it represents.

But it came with a risk. A risk of being stigmatized, judged or even rejected because of his tattoo.

Truth be told, I’m no fan of tattoos or the needles used to incise them. I shudder at the idea of indelible markings on the tender flesh of my young adult children when I would have thrown myself under a bus to keep them unblemished as babies. Yet they have come of age in a generation that does not regard tattoo parlors or the people who frequent them with the same suspicion mine did.

And what am I supposed to tell them? That Holy Scripture prohibits body art? My current theological studies have reminded me that interpretation would be taking Leviticus 19:28 (“Do not cut your bodies for the dead, and do not mark your skin with tattoos. I am the Lord”) out of its historical-cultural context. The ancient Israelites were warned against marking their skin with tattoos because in that culture it signified a pagan mourning ritual for the dead. “Do not be like them!” God warned the Israelites.

When I recall the disapproving glances that came our way when we were out with our mohawk-haired, tattooed-armed sons, I shudder again.

But this time it’s at the memory of the times when I, too, have slid my eyes sideways across a room and instantly judged someone else by how she dressed, accessorized or styled her hair.

So are we never, ever to “judge” another? The caution in Matthew 7:1 to “judge not” is not a prohibition against having an opinion or registering a legitimate concern. It’s a warning against the danger of hypocrisy. We will be judged by the same standards with which we judge others.

I’ll take the ‘hawk over the hypocrite any day.