If you read yesterday’s post then you know that I think the Scriptures teach us that we’re responsible for our fellow Christians and that part of that responsibility is “judging,” that is discerning right from wrong in hopes that we can become all that God is calling us to be. I was also clear that this not include “judging” those outside the Body of Christ. That’s not our job and why should we expect anyone outside the Church to live by God’s standards.
So Paul says a certain kind of judgment among followers of Christ is kosher. What are some parameters for this judgment?
Let’s start with a warning from Jesus:
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 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? (Matthew 7:1-3)
Rule #1: Hypocrisy is out. Jesus says that we are not to judge as if we’re exempt from judgment ourselves. Don’t go around pointing out specks while acting as if you don’t have planks of your own. In other words, humility is a pre-requisite.
Rule #2: “So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty” (James 2:12). “The law of liberty” means that when we judge ourselves, or others, or a situation, we are to do so guided by the belief that Jesus brings freedom, not condemnation. Our guiding principle for disciplining and rebuking is not malice or jealousy or despair, but love and concern and hope. We judge not to tell people they are going to hell, but to remind them that Christ has brought heaven. It’s not to say, “This is where you’re going,” but to say, “There’s a better way.”
Rule #3: Be very careful. If more Christians practiced judgment of each other that was devoid of hypocrisy and according to liberty, we’d not only all be better off, we’d also have a better view of judgment altogether.
There’s a difference between judging and being judgmental. People have been burned too many times by judgmentalism, but the Church could use a whole lot more righteous judgment. What’s the difference? Judgment says, “This falls short of God’s standard and He calls us to a better way.” Judgmentalism says, “Everyone but me falls short of God’s standard, and thank goodness I’m here to constantly remind you that you are probably condemned.” One is a reflection of God’s holiness; the other is a reflection of man’s works. One is in respect of God; the other is in admiration of self.