Man, I hope I don’t turn into a grumpy, old man!
I can see it. Me, standing on my proverbial porch, shaking a cane at the next generation of Christians. I can almost hear the yells.
“Stop judging me, Old Man. Get over it!”
God knows I don’t want to be that guy. And yet, lately, I get so frustrated with how we toss around biblical phrases. I’ve already written about the most overused word in our society. Now, let’s talk a little about one of the most overused, under-understood, phrases floating about in the winds of conversations. You may even say it yourself!
“Don’t judge me!”
Ah. The crime of the age. The crime de jour. Judging.
It’s amazing how well we know the scriptures that protect us from conviction and feelings of guilt. Sure, we know what sin is, and we know that “no one is perfect “And yes, we all know Jesus said “not to judge.” Swirl all that together and you often end up the idea that your sin disqualifies you from telling me about my sin. And before we know it, that all-powerful “h” word gets tossed around like a ping pong ball at a championship ping pong tourney.
<Sigh.> Oh how I despise the misplaced tossing of a “hypocrite” grenade in otherwise helpful conversations.
But we live in a “don’t judge me” society, in an Age Of Entitleds, a “want it my way” generation who has its own versions of right and wrong. Americans, hate critique, but love criticizing. Myself included. On my blog site I’m critical, often. But the question is: Is critiquing the same as judging, or does the Bible mean something different when it references judging?
“Don’t Judge Me!”
Right in the middle of Jesus’ Sermon On The Mount, in Matthew 7:1-5, are the magic words. (as you can see, I love the KJV version)
“Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
Paul says it similarly in Romans 14:10-13
“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.”
There you have it, the biblical justification for the morally sensitive chap of our day. Interpret these verses at face value and you’ll come away with a false teaching that only the clean can point out the dirty, that only the perfect can mention the sins of the imperfect.
But what about the other verses. Verses like the one immediately following the passage in Matthew 7 (verse 6), where Jesus says,
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
Wait, what? Who is Jesus calling dogs and swine? And how will we know them if we don’t performs some judgment? Are these the same dogs Paul mentions in Philippians 3:2 where he says:
“Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.”
Evil workers? Wouldn’t we have to judge people by some sort of criteria to know whether they are, as the Bible calls them, swine and dogs? So is Jesus contradictory? It might seem so.
What Does It All Mean, Basil?
If you know who Basil is, kudos for you!
The answer is no. I don’t think the message is contradictory. Throughout the Bible, “judging” holds several meanings. For brevity, we won’t talk about them all.
But it’s worth considering what “judging” meant to the people Jesus and Paul spoke to. In Matthew 5-7, Jesus’ sermon on the mount was largely to Pharisees and other followers of the Law. These Pharisees classified people in three categories. You were either a hopeless sinner destined for Hell, a yet-to-be-convert, or well, one of them – the righteous. And by righteous, I mean just that. Righteous. Clean. By holding to the law, Pharisees literally considered themselves without fault, “more holy than thou.”
The irony, from Jesus’ perspective, lay in the inability of this group of “religious” people to see God’s real work of Truth through His Son. The “beam,” then, is the blinding misconception of what God desired from them and their ignorance of God’s plan of salvation for all. So when Jesus mentioned “judging” in Matthew, He was attacking the idea that a Pharisee (or anyone) could determine who was “hellbound” based on the Works Model of the Law. The Pharisees were oblivious to the law of Grace Jesus’ death later introduced. Who are they (we) to judge by works if God ultimately will judge by grace?
More simply said, Jesus cautioned them (and us) not to “judge” the destiny of anyone’s soul, whether Hell or Heaven. That’s interesting considering how quickly we send earthly menaces like Hitler, Osama, and the like to Hell, while sending Ghandi, Mother Theresa and others to heaven. Most people would agree with these judgments, and yet these are the very sort Jesus warned against. Jesus is saying we, like the Pharisees, have no idea what we’re doing when we pronounce who goes where.
Further, He is not telling us to ignore the sins of those around us. Quite the opposite. Sin is sin because of its destructive nature. The true heart of a Christian hates sin because of path to disease, disaster, and death it carves. To stand by and do/say noting while someone hurt themselves through their sin in the name of “not judging” is not loving our neighbor as ourselves, or edifying/equipping the saints.
Some of the main functions of the church community is to accept people despite their sin,to make room for the revealing of that sin, and to accommodate accountability for the removal of that sin as we grow more into Christ’s likeness. The latter cannot be done if we’re afraid to admit and repent (change direction) from sin, or are afraid to help urge our brothers and sisters in Christ to repent due to embarrassment or fear.
Jesus has not given us a license to do whatever we want. His statement does not relieve us from “feeling bad” or “looking bad” due to the sin we commit. His point was simple to leave eternal placement to God, but to also (judge) encourage our neighbors toward Christ, and our brothers and sisters in Christ toward holiness. That’s what’s really going on.
Anything else is probably some form of selfish face-saving.
Image credit: Lisamarie Babik, used under Creative Commons license
How would you define “judging?” Do you think Christians should judge?!
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