That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life...
Philippians 2:15-16a

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

To Judge or Not to Judge? Part 4

Is it unloving to judge?  We hear a lot as Christians about being loving.  We are to love God (Mark 12:30), love our neighbour (Mark 12:31), love our enemies (Luke 6:27), love our spouses, (Eph 5:25), and love one another (I Peter 1:22).  If we do not love then the Bible says we do not know God.  I John 4:7-8 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.  He that loveth not knoweth not God: for God is love.  The following verses go on to explain how God showed His love to us.  God's love is not a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling.  God's love toward mankind is active, and it was demonstrated through the greatest act of sacrifice... giving up His own life (Romans 5:8).

Truly the defining character quality of a Christian is love, but what kind of love are we demonstrating?  Do we have a God-like love, or is our love based on a secular humanistic ideal?  Too many Christians get their definition of love from the world instead of from the Scriptures.  How many of us would be willing to die for someone else?  How much would we be willing to sacrifice in order to show our love?  Would we give up our jobs, our homes, our families, our friends, our leisure? Love must be shown!  The world mocks Christians because we say we are a people of love, and yet our lives do not reflect it.  Instead our lives show hypocrisy, inconsistency, selfishness, greed, self-gratification, unforgivingness, and judgmental attitudes.  

One of the questions I asked myself when I started my study about judging was: can love and judging co-exist, or does one necessitate giving up the other?  Already we have seen that God judges, and yet He is love.   A judgmental attitude cannot exist in a Christian who is truly displaying godly love (remember love is an action, so it must be displayed not merely felt).   Being critical of others is not godly.  I Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.  A busybody is someone who is critical, and in this verse they are put in the same category as murderers and thieves.
II Corinthains 10:12 For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.  Again comparing ourselves to others often leads to critical attitudes about others, and this verse says it is not wise.  

Love and judging must co-exist, and they must work together.  The key to judging is in found in John 7:24 where Jesus says, Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.  It's possible for love and judging to co-exist when the judging is done righteously.  How then does one judge righteously?  The same way God judges, but using the Word.  Many Christians say the Bible is their final authority in ALL matters of faith and practice, but they don't use it when making judgments.  They don't read it to learn what is righteous.  They don't study it to learn when it is proper to judge and when it isn't proper.  I cannot know how to judge righteous judgment unless I know what righteous judgment is.  When I read the 286 verses about judging I learned many things about how God judges, and was able to apply them to my life.
Psalm 96:13 Before the LORD: for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.
Proverbs 31:9 Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.

Taking a stand against sin is NOT judgmental.  Saying it's wrong to go to the bar is NOT judgmental.  Believing that a Christian must separate from worldly fashion, styles, and entertainment is NOT judgmental.  Not allowing your children to do certain things is NOT judgmental.  Not listening to certain music, watching certain tv shows, and going certain places is NOT judgmental.  Not smoking, drinking, dancing, or partying is NOT being judgmental.  And sharing this beliefs and convictions with others is NOT being judgmental.  Here's the thing.  If a fellow Christian gets upset with a standard that you have, could it be that perhaps they are feeling convicted about that area in their own life?  

Many times Matthew 7:1 is quoted to admonish the Christians not to be judgmental.  Judge not, that ye be not judged.  This is one verse where it is crucial to apply the right definition to the word.  Obviously this verse is not taking about righteous judgment because God does that, and Scripture says we need to judge with righteousness.  It also cannot be talking about discerning between good and bad because Christians are supposed to do that.  What then is it saying?  Properly interpreted this verse is telling us not to display a judgmental attitude, which simply and ONLY means being excessively critical.  When Scripture is compared with Scripture this is the definition of judge in this verse.  There are those who believe that saying anything negative is being excessively critical.  There are others who believe that if someone is offended by our words we are being excessively critical.  Again, what does the Bible say?  Perhaps Jesus' sermon to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 could serve as an example.  I'll let you read it and come to your own conclusion.  The Bible says that if we live for Christ the world will hate us (John 15:18-19).  Being a Christian means being AGAINST some things (sin).  People WILL be offended by Christians.  Don't let someone tell you that because someone is offended by your words, or that if you're negative you are being judgmental.  That is not biblical.  The following verses in Matthew 7 give an excellent illustration of what a judgmental spirit is.  The judgmental person is one who is hypocritical.  The judgmental person is the one going around and pointing out the wrong in everyone else.  The judgmental person does not give encouragement and offer help to those who struggle with sin, but instead criticizes them.  

Many Christians are judgmental, and they are found in ALL churches (not just fundamental ones).  Often those who have a judgmental attitude don't even realize what they are doing.  It's like Matthew 7 where the guy has a big beam sticking out of his eye, but all he can see is the tiny mote in his brother's eye.   The guy with the beam needs a stronger, more mature Christian to help him and encourage him to see his problem.  He needs people to pray for him and give him godly counsel.  He needs teaching from the Scripture.  He doesn't need another judgmental person to accuse him of being too judgmental.  Believe me that is not going to help at all.

I was very discouraged when I was labelled as a judgmental Christian.  Mostly because those who gave me that label were applying the word to the fact that I judge certain things, not because I was judgmental in the true sense of the word.  They perceived me as being judgmental because I took a stand against sin (alcohol, immodesty, going to arcades, listening to CCM, false doctrine in churches, etc.).  Honestly, I try not to be critical of others.  I realize that we are all at different places in our walk.  I know that I struggle with sins that I'm sure others see in me, and I haven't seen yet.  Not one of us are perfect.  However, I'm not going to let the fact that someone called me judgmental keep me from doing what I know is right.  Jesus said if we love Him to keep His commandments (John 14:15).  

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