How many times have you heard the phrase, “The Bible tells us not to judge”?
Usually this line comes up in a situation where one Christian points something out they thought was wrong – perhaps a news story, a YouTube video, or a quote from a Bible teacher. Another Christian finds this point of criticism totally offensive, divisive and judgmental. It was probably a video clip or a quote from a Bible teacher they admire. They are defensive. They don’t want to be challenged. They point their finger and say “You’re judging!” They accuse the critic of being “unloving” and “harsh.”
I wonder if people who use the “thou shalt not judge” line realize they are a walking contradiction? I doubt it. There is a prevailing lack of self-awareness among evangelicals. If only they knew how using the very line, “You shouldn’t judge!” involves the act of making their own judgment. How this realization would change things.
To tell a Christian not to judge is to tell them to stop thinking. Do not use your brain cells to process information and form a conclusion. A judgment is an ethical evaluation. To judge not is to think not. To judge not is to have no understanding, no moral values, no standard and no intelligence to apply those standards in the real world. Am I contradicting Jesus’ words?
Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” (Matt 7:1-3)
Notice Jesus did not say, "Don't ever take the speck out of your brother's eye." He said, first take the log out of your own eye so you can see clearly. He was speaking of hypocrisy. If I have a serious spending problem, I have no right to tell my my friend she should use coupons and be a more frugal wife. If we preach one standard and live another, we sin. This is what Jesus is referring to. He is not saying we shouldn't ever make judgments.God Says We Should Judge
While there are dozens of verses that rebuke judgment-making, there are also dozens of verses that say the exact opposite. Take a look at these:
“Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (1Cor 6:2)
“Open your mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.” (Prov 31:9)
“The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one.” (1 Cor 2:15)
“Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Co 6:3)
“Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge.” (1 Cor 14:29)
So what now? How can the Bible say two exact opposite things? Christians shouldn’t judge, and yet we will judge the angels? I believe the answer is this: the Bible uses the word “judge” in two different ways. One pertains to the act of sentencing someone to life or death based on the condition of their heart, and the other pertains to the act of discerning.
There is also a more literal form of judging – an official position or office – such as a court judge. But when the Bible speaks to Christians, it mostly refers to these other two types of judging. Only God can judge the heart. Only He can sentence someone to heaven or hell. However, God requires that Christians practice good and righteous judgement – that is – discernment. We don’t judge people’s hearts, but we can discern their words and actions. Christians who love the Lord and study His Word ought to be the wisest people on planet Earth. They should be able to see a wolf in sheep’s clothing from far away. They should have heresy radars. They should know and understand what is going on in the earth and be able to anticipate the enemy’s attacks. They should know false teaching the instant they hear it. They should speak out against it too.Love Hurts
What about the accusations discerning Christians get about being “unloving”? In my experience, people who say this are people who define love as a feeling. If it doesn’t feel good, it couldn't be love. If the critique didn’t give them a “positive experience” or make them feel a sense of well-being, peace, calm and tranquility, it couldn't be from God - because God is love.
First, love is not merely a feeling. If it were, then my marriage and my children are in trouble. Emotions are fickle. They are often distorted, twisted, manipulated, irrational and down-right false. Good thing God doesn’t base His love for us on a feeling. Sometimes God is angry with His people. The Bible says God disciplines those He loves. (Prov 3:12; Heb 12:6)) Discipline is painful. It hurts. At the time it doesn’t feel like a “positive experience,” and it certainly doesn’t feel peaceful or tranquil. We don’t like it! But we know that God only causes this discomfort and pain for those He calls sons.
Second, it is an act of hatred to keep truth hidden from other believers. If people are deceived about an aspect of God, salvation, or other essential Christian doctrines, it could be eternally fatal. If we know better and do not speak up, I believe God’s anger will rest on us who knew better, but did and said nothing.
Third, being a “peace maker” does not mean you avoid controversy and confrontation. It is quite the opposite. The word “shalom” in the Bible does not mean peace, as in – the absence of conflict. That is a Hindu interpretation. The Christian definition of peace isvictory in the presence of conflict. Dennis Peacock studied the word shalom a great deal and laughed about how Christians send Christmas cards every year declaring “Shalom to you and your family” – meanwhile, they have no idea that one of the derivatives of “shalom” means to have the foot on the throat of your enemy! As it turns out, Muslims have a more biblical definition of peace than most Christians do. That’s why they have no problem publicly stating they are a “peaceful” religion. Sure – they intend to have their feet on the throats of their enemies! To be a true peace-maker means to declare God’s truth! It’s not just getting along with people or getting rid of any bad feelings between two people. Forgiveness and mercy are part of practicing God’s peace and love. But we must not think that love means we do not judge or that peace means we do not confront.
If we love God, we proclaim His truth boldly. If we love people, we proclaim God’s truth boldly. Love does not always feel good. Judgement may not feel tranquil. Peace does not involve retreat or walking on eggshells. Christians need to stop being so over-sensitive and wimpy. Grace and compassion are not for the faint of heart. Only warriors who run into battles with their swords unsheathed are in any position to practice true grace, mercy, compassion, forgiveness and love.
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