Thursday, January 24, 2013
HERE COMES THE JUDGE
"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?" (Matt. 7:1-3)
You'd think that this verse would be clear enough at face value. But, it's not. Christians still want to wiggle out of this one. Lately I've heard some creative excuses to skirt around this clear command from Jesus.
To quickly recap:
Jesus contrasts Love and Judgment as two opposite actions. (see Luke 6)
This means that we can't do one if we're busy doing the other.
If our mandate from Jesus is to love like God does, then we can’t waste our time judging the hearts of others.
Simply put, we can't love and judge at the same time.
Paul says that when we judge others we're actually passing judgment on ourselves. (see Romans 2:1)
Paul even draws a distinction between correcting sinful behavior of those within the Church (1 Cor 5:12) with the right to judge those outside the church.
James chapter 4 tells us that when we judge others we're putting ourselves in God’s place.
So, according to the New Testament, followers of Jesus have no business trying to condemn those around us. In fact, by judging them we're ignoring the much larger sin in our own hearts.
The responses? Well, I’ve had people try to explain to me that we all judge every day because we have to “judge” whether or not to eat at a certain restaurant or not, and we have to “judge” whether or not our kids are lying about who broke the lamp, etc.
I’ve also had Christians try to make the case that calling something sinful that God has already identified as sinful isn’t the same as “judging” others, and when we vote in the polls we are making a “judgment”.
So, see, Jesus was just kidding about that “do not judge” stuff. Ok?
Well, no. It’s not ok.
What do you think Jesus means by saying we should love others and not judge them? Do you think it's possible to condemn people with the truth rather than love them and point them to the Truth?
Simply put, the other examples of “judging” are not even close to what Jesus was referring to. The examples above are about making a decision about where to eat, or what to believe, or about casting a vote on an issue. None of those things, in and of themselves, are about turning to another person and calling them “evil”.
What Jesus was forbidding us to do was to treat people differently – negatively – because of a determination we had made ourselves (in our own hearts) about the “goodness” or “badness” of that person. This is the very specific kind of judgment that Jesus forbids us to do.
But, didn’t Jesus also say, “By their fruits you shall know them”? Yes, he did. But when he said that he was warning his disciples not to be like the Pharisees – who, by the way, were quite judgmental of others.
So, again, Jesus has commanded us not to judge and not to emulate the judgmental behavior of religious leaders among us who behave in this way.
But, how else will people know that they are sinners? Well, I try to think of how I came to know Jesus. Your experience might be different, but I know that as a 9 year old boy I was mainly overwhelmed with my need for God. I couldn't have told you the first thing about sin or repentance or any of that. I just knew I needed Jesus desperately. Now, the Holy Spirit told me about my sin, and I responded to that and I repented. But it wasn’t a person who helped me to see my sin, it was God.
A friend of mine once told me that before he came to Jesus he already knew he was a sinner. No one needed to point that out to him. He got that. What he didn't know was what to do about it.
But, how else will we share the Gospel if we don’t hold up the “sinner” mirror to everyone? Personally, I think our evangelism should be more about loving people first (and that can only be done in relationship), sharing our own testimony (i.e. “I’m a sinner. I’m desperate for Jesus.” ), and inviting people to know and trust Jesus, too.
I think God will convict people of their sins just fine without us. Because that's what He said He would do (and the Holy Spirit would do), and He specifically told us that it is not our place to convict people of their sins.
Another example I can share is a couple we met at the motel several years ago. They were like sheep without a shepherd. We continued to serve them and love them in practical ways as they had need. They eventually started reading through the Gospel of John with us and suddenly they both began to realize that they were sinners. They suddenly started to tell us that they needed to make some changes in their life. That was the Holy Spirit, not us. Today they are continuing to read the Word of God and to allow Him to change their hearts. We never once had to say anything to them about their sin. We just loved them and let God do the rest.
But: "Isn’t voting a judgment of what is right or wrong, good or bad, better or worse, etc.? So, if I vote for same-sex marriage to be illegal, I'm judging same-sex marriage to be wrong. Right?"
I'd suggest that by voting against same-sex marriage you are not necessarily judging any persons. [And this is really where Jesus wants us to be careful]. As a Christian, if you vote against adultery or fornication, etc. then you are simply in agreement with God's judgment about those behaviors. HOWEVER: There is a difference between judging an action sinful and judging a person sinful. Even if you're right, you've stepped into a place reserved only for God - judging the hearts of other people.
My point is this: If we love people we make room for the grace of God to touch their hearts. (The kindness of God leads to repentance). But if we judge people, our condemnation becomes a barrier to them and they cannot see the love of Jesus in us - and where else are they supposed to see it?
Jesus commanded us not to judge others. He did command us to love others. We can't do them both at the same time.
Do the math. Then do what Jesus told you.