WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE?: A TREATISE TO BOTH SIDES
To the Non-Christian,
There is an adage that says when you point a finger at a person, three fingers point back at you. Human beings by nature have a tendency to criticize in others the very same unflattering traits they are blind to within themselves. So for instance, a proud person would more often than not be unable to stand proud people (usually because they do not submit to or respect to his very own pride), a complainer would be unable to stand a person complaining and this is what Jesus was addressing in Matthew 7:3–5 when He said,
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
This is the very context of the famous, “Do not Judge…” verse which a lot of non-Christians love to quote whenever Christians criticize certain values of culture which are at variance with Biblical principles. What they usually do not realise is that by quoting such a verse, they are indeed passing judgment on such Christians. In order words, they have judged that a Christian is in the wrong for judging and the question can then be flipped to the non-Christian, “who are you to judge?”
Problem with the way most non-Christians use this verse is that it is very selective and hypocritically so. For instance, most non-Christians would agree that murder and rape are wrong. They would agree that molesting an innocent child is an atrocious thing to do, but based on their very logic, who are they to judge those who do such things? Who are they to judge that criminals should be put in jail? Didn’t Jesus say don’t judge?
In fact take it a step further, no professional judge can be a Christian then. Every member of the judiciary is in perpetual rebellion to the commands of Jesus Christ and is thus heading for eternal damnation. But Jesus did recognise the place of judges, He said,
“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.” (Matthew 5:25)
Surely that cannot be the case especially as the Judges were a crucial part of the Jew’s history.
Even Jesus Himself said,
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” (John 7:24)
So the same Jesus who said, “Judge not” lays down a criteria for judging, to wit; righteousness. Nothing prevents a Christian from judging as long as such judgment has a righteous foundation and the Bible, which Christians hold to be the word of God is a righteous basis for judgment.
The prophet Isaiah says,
“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil…” (Isaiah 5:20)
Christians cannot call good what the Bible calls evil, contrary to not judging, that would be rendering unrighteous judgment.
Paul passed judgment on ills within the churches he lead,
“For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed.” (1 Corinthians 5:3)
Again, a hallmark of mature Christianity is being able to discern between good and evil,
“But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” (Hebrews 5:14)
So there is definitely an element of judgment involved in this.
Finally, judgment, scripturally speaking, is not a bad thing, on the contrary Paul writes,
“..For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” (1 Corinthians 11:31)
In context, Paul was warning the Corinthians about their attitude to Holy Communion but there is a lesson here for non-Christians nonetheless, and that is, if we do come to realisation that things we are doing are wrong, we can save ourselves from God’s judgment. Just like Jonah’s preaching of God’s judgment led Nineveh to judge itself evil and repent thus averting judgment and benefiting from God’s grace, who knows whether it is the Christian’s condemnation of evil that might lead some to judge their actions evil and benefit from God’s grace in Christ. After all, the bedrock of the gospel is the sinner judging himself evil and judging God righteous.
Finally dear non-Christian, the standard of not judging at all is unliveable. We live in a world where we make choices and judgment calls every day. We choose who to work with, who to form relationships and alliances with, what ideologies to support but a choice to will more often that not be inversely proportional to a choice not to, and in choosing not to, a judgment would have been made. It takes judgment for you to tell a Christian not to judge, question though is, do you have a righteous basis for doing so?
To the Christian,
The context of Jesus saying “Do not judge” was hypocrisy, which to an extent all of us are. We try not to be, but we do fall short from time to time because we are human. Paul sort of echoed the same sentiment as Jesus when He said,
“ Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things…You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?” (Romans 2:1–3,21–23)
In passing righteous judgment and condemning evil, we should always have one eye on ourselves and how we fall short of God’s standards as well.
The Prophet Isaiah for the first 5 chapters went around condemning and raining down woes on those committing various evil acts in Israel but when He saw the glory of Christ in chapter 6, he said,
“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
We as Christians must realise we are no different from the world. Although some sins are worse than others, all sin equally cuts us off from God, our saving grace is that sacrifice of Christ on the cross which we have taken as our own. We, like the world, are still working through our issues only difference is we, unlike the world, are willing to recognise these as issues.
So in standing for Biblical principles, we are not saying we are better than anyone. We are, as Charles Spurgeon put it, “dying men crying out to dying men”. We are simply saying the truth is bigger than both we who are proclaiming it and those it is being proclaimed to.
Remember ultimately that we as Christians would be judged by Christ as well, the same Christ who said,
“And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:47–48)
This is a sobering thought.
That said, the ultimate point of all condemnation of evil is to point people to Christ. To show that God’s grace is available in the midst of all of man’s sin. Just as Mary (A variant of Miriam, meaning rebellion) gave birth to Jesus (Yehoshua, “Jehovah is Salvation”), salvation could emanate from rebellion, as it is written,
“…but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification” (Romans 5:16)
Christians ought to remember that God loves this world, and if God loves it, so must we. Truth, must therefore be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15). Truth is spoken because sometimes sin is its own punishment and if we love men, we do not want them to suffer as a result of it. Furthermore, we do know that judgment on sin and rebellion is coming and we, out of love, do not want them to be partakers of it, as Paul writes,
“Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…” (2 Corinthians 5:11)
Finally, Christians must recognise we do not have the full picture. As Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes, “ No one knows love or hate by all that is before him”, we do not have all the facts, we do not know why people do what they do, we do not know what people have been through and the thinking process/psyche that leads them to do some dark things. While the actions themselves could be inexcusable, we as human beings have capacity for great evil if all the attendant circumstances are just right and as such there should be sympathy for individuals who commit these acts. They must be seen through the lenses of God (those lenses by which the sinner is separate from the sin)
In conclusion, while scriptures are not against Christians passing judgment on a righteous basis, this must be driven by love, done with due regard to ourselves and with great care given we most likely do not have all the facts.