Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Judge Me!

Is it ever OK to judge someone else?
In today's "tolerant" society, people are quick to quote "don't judge lest you be judged."  You're not allowed to say "what you are doing is wrong" or "what you believe is wrong."  That level of cruel intolerance is, um, not tolerated.

Well, if you believe that you're wrong!

The passage (mis)quoted is from Matthew 7:1-5, quoted here in context:
Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite... (NASB)
Well, there you have it.  Case closed.  We have to be tolerant...  But wait, they leave off the rest of verse 5:
...first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
What Jesus was warning against was hypocritical judgement - where you are doing the very thing you accuse your brother of and pretending that you're some holier-than-thou goodie-two-shoes. In contrast, we are commanded to judge rightly:
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. (John 7:24)
But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves. (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)
There are things clearly called out in Scripture as sin:  lying, cheating, stealing, murder, anger, idolatry, angry outbursts, homosexuality, adultery, lust, revenge, etc.  People outside the Church have not signed up to follow Christ's commandments, but those inside the Church have.  So what does this righteous judgement look like?
Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)
Judging another believer is not some mean-spirited, finger-pointing "gotcha" kind of activity.  It is supposed to be done in love and gentleness, with the sure knowledge that we are all struggle with sin.  The purpose is restoration and mutual support.  We need to work together, helping each other to live holy lives.  As it was once said, "Christianity is just one beggar telling another where to find bread."  "You who are spiritual" refers to those who are mature and growing in their faith.  Maturity is marked by the humility, gentleness and self-awareness that Christ was talking about.

Jesus taught that if someone sins against you, you first go to them privately, then if they don't respond, take a brother with you, and then if they still don't repent, take it to the church (Matthew 18:15-17)  He didn't intend for us to go through life with unresolved sin destroying people and relationships and poisoning the witness of the Church.  Sometimes people are honestly struggling and need help.  Sometimes they don't know that what they are doing is wrong and need to be taught. Sometimes they are stubborn and rebellious and need to be disciplined with the hope that they will repent and be restored.  Sin always kills (Rom 6:23) and has to be confronted and removed lest the poison spread.  Jesus died so that we could be free from it, and instituted righteous judgement in His Church to help us deal with it.

There is one other issue to consider.  In the context of Romans 14, Paul is talking about believers who have found freedom from the Old Testament Law, and telling the believers not to judge each other over the matter. Some things are clearly sin: adultery, lust, murder, lying, outbursts of anger, drunkenness, etc. Other things are a matter of conscience: Sabbath keeping, eating only kosher food or avoiding food offered to idols, drinking alcohol, playing cards, etc.  We are told that we are NOT to judge one another on these issues, which was the topic of a previous post (Don't Judge Me!).  This also applies to judging what people believe, differentiating between essential, required beliefs (the Trinity, the Deity of Christ, the sinfulness of mankind, Jesus' death and resurrection, etc.) and those areas where believers can disagree (predestination vs. free will, sign gifts, drums in the sanctuary, etc.).

So, there are times when believers are to judge one another, not hypocritically, not self-righteously, but with humility and gentleness and the goal of repentance and restoration.  If you are doing it Biblically, please, judge me!

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