Every time I stand to speak on a Sunday morning I realize I’m being judged on the things I say, my actions, and possibly the very clothes I wear. Mothers dress their little girls up and place them in pageants in order to be judged. Contestants compete on American Idol, The X Factor, and other reality shows with the expectation of being judged. Employers are constantly evaluating and judging their employees. American citizens’ stand before judges and juries in the judicial system of our country every day in order to have their behaviors judged by the laws and standards established by our society.
So as Christians we aren't judged by our behaviors and actions as well as the world around us in accordance with the standards outlined in the Scriptures? How ridiculous! The words of Christ in His Sermon on the Mount regarding the act of judging are often regurgitated almost as a secondary reflex in order to quiet any critic who is considered to be judging another. What I find so amazing is that the words of Christ are often taken out of context in order to justify one’s actions. Note for a moment the following passage:
Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV) “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, 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.
First let’s keep in mind that the Sermon on the Mount covers chapters 5 – 7 and is a specific discourse in regards to Kingdom living. Secondly, Christ Jesus is addressing in particular Pharisaic attitudes and their judgments against Him; for they have rejected or are in the process of rejecting the Kingdom that He is offering and their judging is hypocritical. Third, the words of Christ in verse 5 do not explicitly prohibit the judging of another, as a matter of fact the indication is we are to address the sin of our brother but only after we've first addressed our own sin. The word “judge” in the Koine Greek is krinō and means “to distinguish or decide.” Note the following definition from AMG's Complete Word Study Dictionaries:
To separate, distinguish, discriminate between good and evil, select, choose out the good. In the NT, it means to judge, to form or give an opinion after separating and considering the particulars of a case.
If we take the definition of the original word “judge” into consideration particularly with the last clause of the sentence, and couple it with other Scripture passages using the same word we began to get a different picture of what it means to judge. Note these words from the Apostle Paul:
1 Corinthians 5:3-5 (ESV) For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. 4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
In the Corinthian Church a young man had entered into a sexual relationship with his stepmother and the leaders in Corinth had apparently refused to address this known sin. The Apostle Paul is clearly disturbed and angered not only by the sin but also the lack of action of these Church leaders. Notice the words again he uses in verse 3, “I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing.” The word “judgment” is the same word we find in Matthew 7:1 – 5 used by Christ Jesus. The Apostle apparently had no issue with judging inappropriate behaviors particularly in the Church. What some might find more appalling is that the Apostle Paul is instructing the Church to turn these two individuals over to Satan. This means to excommunicate them from the Church, and to pray for some form of physical punished in order that they would repent of their sin and for fellowship to be restored. And secular society thinks Christians are harsh today when we simply call sexual immorality a sin?
Let’s go back to Matthew 7 again and read just a little more. In verses 15 – 20 Christ Jesus makes another interesting statement in His teaching. Let’s keep in mind the context of the message He’s giving which is Kingdom focused and in regards to the acts of the Pharisees.
Matthew 7:15-20 (ESV) “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Christ is warning His listeners that many of their teachers and religious leaders are not what they seem. Even though they may be highly respected in their communities for their instructions and their religious acts these things do not necessarily convey they’re truthful or are from God. If their message isn’t congruent with the Word of God and the teachings of Christ then their fruit is bad or evil. On the other hand if their message is in harmony with God’s Word and with Christ Jesus then their fruit can be considered good. Here’s the point, clearly Christ Jesus has judge the teachers and leaders of His day, and His directives to His followers would indicate they too are to judge others based upon the standards He has given.
So do the Scriptures contradict themselves? Absolutely not! We must study the Scriptures in their proper context and meaning in order to rightly divide the Word.
The reason I’m writing on judging this week is because of another article I read recently that was put out in a national publication and is written specifically for those in ministry. The writer of this article which can be found here (What's Better than JUDGING Non-Christians?) argues that we are not to judge non-Christians because they are simply doing what is in their nature. To some degree I agree with him in that these individuals are doing what comes naturally, but he makes several statements about his non-Christian friends that I find disturbing. Here’s one quote; “I have a friend who continually drops f-bombs in my presence. As much as it bothers me, I never correct him (he’s not a kid, he’s my peer). But I do pray for him every day and we talk about my faith. I pray I see the day when he’s baptized.”
If I have a friend who continuously drops “f–bombs” I’m going to let them know how I feel because they’re my friend, and I care about them and the way their living their life. If they can’t handle me being honest with them and their behaviors that are offensive not only to me but primarily to God then we don’t have much of a friendship. I would expect them to be honest with me also if I offend them. I agree that we need to love people to Christ, but the way in which we love people to Christ is to also openly and boldly share truth with them. Here’s something else the apostle Paul said:
Romans 10:14 (NASB) How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?
It often takes more than living our faith out in order to win people to Christ. We must actually open our mouths and share the truth of the Bible which usually offends those who do not believe. The word of God convicts and without that conviction no person is ever saved. We are not helping the lost in our lives by ignoring their “lostness” or refusing to address the whole issue of sin. Lost people today are judged by the same standard that saved people are and that standard is faith in Jesus the Christ. There is no gray area here you either know Christ as Savior or you don’t.
There are many other passages on judging in the Scriptures but I would simply encourage you to take them as a whole, and maintain a proper interpretation based upon the context in which they are given. I have to remind myself on a daily basis in my studies to rightly handle the Word of God; before I can speak to the issues of others I must address my own issues first by taking them to the Lord. Don’t let the fear of someone judging you stop you from judging between right and wrong based upon the standards established by God in His Word.