Sunday, May 27, 2018

Should Christians Judge Or Not?

            How many times have we been shot down by someone saying, “Don’t judge…”? An article in Answers in Genesis elaborates on this point, “The claim that Christians are not to judge is often made when dealing with issues such as abortion, adultery, homosexual behavior, and same-sex marriage. When a Christian says, for example, that homosexual behavior is a sin and that same-sex marriage is wrong, he or she is often met with objections like the following:

· “Who are you to judge two people who love each other?”
· “Who do you think you are, telling someone who they can and cannot love? You’re a sinner, too!”
· “Someone’s private life is none of your business. Don’t judge them.”

            Some people will even quote Matthew 7:1, where Christ said during the Sermon on the Mount, “Judge not, that you be not judged.””1 These days, the phrase, “don’t judge,” is so popular that it is used in many informal arguments [by the guilty party] as a means to shut down the accuser.

            So should we judge [our neighbor] or not?

            There are a few components to the process of judging:

                      (1) Being aware of the right and wrong.

                      (2) Declaring the verdict to the accuser &/or the accused or the prosecutor and the defense etc.

                      (3) Convicting the offender/sinner, and at times – in formal situations, declaring due punishment.

            Problems with judging often arise if the first step is awry. If we do not know what is right and wrong, we may accuse the innocent and acquit the guilty.  

            So a righteous judgment is always predicated on the judge’s impeccable knowledge of the right and the wrong. (A righteous judgment will either forgive the accused - depending on situations - or award the righteous punishment to the guilty.)

            All of us deliver judgments. Passing judgments is a part and parcel of our life. There is no life without judgments.

            Passing judgments is not limited to the judiciary or the religion. It happens in friendships, in business; in formal and informal situations. It happens between teachers and students, parents and children, doctors and patients; it happens in almost every situation involving two or more people.

            Those who say, “Don’t judge me” are, in fact, judging their accuser, for they think that they know more than the other and that the other person is wrong, whereas they are right. Saying “do not judge me” is practically the same as saying, “You do not have the knowledge/authority/jurisdiction/competence to judge me.”     

            Tolerance is also a form of judgment. Tolerance is always predicated on judgment. To tolerate something is to acquit (release) the disputed behavior or person from any form of guilt.

            Does Christianity prohibit judgment? Those who strive to cease a Christian from judging will invoke Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (NIV) or Romans 14:10, “You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (NIV).  

            Are Matthew 7:1 and Romans 14:10 absolute commands? They would be absolute if the context says so, and if the same Bible, in its other parts, does not mandate Christians to judge. However, if the same Bible advises Christians to judge, then Matthew 7:1 cannot be termed as an absolute mandate to prohibit Christians from judging.

            Consider these verses that mandate Christians to judge:

            “…but instead judge correctly” (John 7:24, NIV).

            “…The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not   subject to merely human judgments…” (1 Corinthians 2:15, NIV).

            So it’s sufficiently evident that the Bible does not prohibit Christians from judging. In fact, neither Matthew 7:1 nor Romans 14:10 or any other verse in the Bible is absolute in commanding Christians to not judge, “There are significant logical problems with the claim that believers should not make judgments. The first becomes evident when we read the context of Matthew 7:1…

            Here, Christ is warning believers against making judgments in a hypocritical or condemning manner. That type of judging is a characteristic often associated with the Pharisees during the ministry of Jesus. Many people who quote “judge not” from Matthew 7:1 fail to notice the command to judge in Matthew 7:5, when it says, “Then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” The point Jesus emphasizes here is to judge yourself first before you make judgments about others. (Also, notice the discernment and judgment required in Matthew 7:15–16, 20.) In the broader context, Jesus is telling believers to be discerning when it comes to false teaching and false prophets because they “look” Christian, but their goal is to lead the flock astray (Matthew 7:15–20; Luke 6:43–45).”2

            These are the words of the late Christian theologian, Lewis Smedes, from an article in Christianity Today entitled Who Are We to Judge?:3

In three words, blunt and absolute, Jesus commanded us, "Do not judge" (Matt. 7:1). But did he really mean that we should never judge others? He goes on to suggest that it's not the act of judging but the attitude with which we do it that God is most concerned about—"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged" (7:2).
There are other Scriptures that either cloud or shed light on the issue. Paul told the Christians in Rome not to judge one another (Rom. 14:13) but taught the Corinthians that they were to judge sinful believers and leave people outside the church to God (1 Cor. 5:12-13). James said he who judges his brother speaks against the law (4:11) but also implied that our judgments of others must be done with mercy (2:12-13).
Common sense suggests that if no one ever judged other people, there would be no real human community. In a sinful world, no community can exist for long where nobody is ever held accountable: no teacher would grade a student's performance; no citizen would sit on a jury or call a failed leader to account. And, when you come to think of it, nobody would ever forgive anyone for wrongs he had done; we only forgive people for what we blame them, and we blame them only after we have judged them.
I would suggest that, in our day and age, we need more—not less—judgment…

            So how should Christians judge?

            Judge righteously and in humility, love, grace, and kindness, “The key is making righteous judgments so that we can point people to the gospel. God’s Word gives us a clear standard to abide by, and the Holy Spirit guides us in what is right, wrong, true, and false. In order to make judgments righteously, we should be striving to live righteously and allowing the Word of God to be our foundation in every area of our thinking…

            Those people who call for tolerance and quote “judge not” out of context are not using sound thinking. Their call for tolerance is impossible because as Christians, we are called to judge righteously, and judging between right and wrong is something we do every day—and it should be a part of biblical discernment in every believer’s thinking. But it is God’s Word that makes the judgment on morality and truth, not our own opinions or theories.

            What’s the purpose of judging error in a biblical manner? The church is to be built on the foundation of Christ and the authority of His Word (Ephesians 2:20)—and that means believers should examine their own lives regularly and also lovingly challenge Christian brothers and sisters who are in error or commit sin. To do this, believers must be bold for Christ, but they also have to be humble, loving, and kind.”4

            Also, as Lewis Smedes says, let us judge, knowing well that we will, one day, be judged with the same severity of our judgments and being aware that we, as sinners, are not morally superior to anyone else:5

…making judgments is the hard work of responsible and compassionate people… Jesus may have been moved to speak as he did by the haughty way the Pharisees had of judging people. In Matthew 5:20 through 7:6, Jesus warns his disciples against following the traditions and practices of the Pharisees, who judged others as if they themselves were beyond judgment. What's more, they judged people by the letter, not the spirit, of the law.
So, most likely, Jesus meant, "Do not judge at all if you judge others the way the Pharisees do. If you do judge people this way, you will be judged with the same severity." Jesus' intent comes out in his metaphor of motes and beams (Matt. 7:3-5). We all have beams in our eyes, so to speak; to judge people for the little motes stuck in their eyes while we have big beams in our own is devilish arrogance as well as folly.
Nobody with a beam in his eye can see things clearly. He is dangerously low on discernment. And, since we all have this distorted perspective, we need either to be very humble or else leave judging to God alone. We have a moral responsibility to judge the moral behavior of others—but only if we are humbly aware that we will sometimes be dead wrong and never totally right. We must remember that our ability to judge is limited and especially that we are sinful people who will ourselves, one day, come under judgment.         

Endnotes:

1https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/does-the-bible-tell-christians-to-judge-not/

2Ibid.

3https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/october1/29.70.html

4https://answersingenesis.org/bible-questions/does-the-bible-tell-christians-to-judge-not/

5https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/october1/29.70.html


Websites last accessed on 27th May 2018.

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