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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Judge not . . .

"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? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye' when there is a log in your own eye? 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." Matthew 7:1-5

Matthew 7:1 is perhaps one of the best known and oft used (and misused) Bible verses to end a conversation about spiritual things and objective truth (by both Christian and non-Christian alike). It's particularly popular in situations where morality is the topic. However, one of my favorite podcasters, Gregory Koukl, deals with this passage at length in his latest book, Tactics.

A closer look at the facts of the context shows that Jesus did not condemn all judgements, only hypocritical ones—arrogant condemnations characterized by disdain and condescension . . . In fact, even in this passage Jesus actually encourages a different sort of judgment once the hypocrisy has been dealt with . . . There are two other kinds of judging that are commanded in Scripture. Judgments that are judicial in nature are good when done by the proper authorities. Judges judge. They pass sentence. That's their job. Church discipline is of this sort . . . Judgments that are assessments—appraisals of right or wrong, wise or foolish, accurate or inaccurate, rational or irrational—are also commanded . . . A judicial action, a factual assessment, a hypocritical arrogance—all are judgments. Only the third is disqualified by Jesus. The first two are actually virtues in their proper settings and therefore commanded by Scripture.

This very topic came up recently in my community group, and on our drive home my wife and I discussed how a Christian should handle such situations surrounding morality. The following is my formula that grew out of that conversation. Note: I am using the word "judgment", but just as Greg did, you could substitute "assessment" or "appraisal" if the j-word makes you uncomfortable. And please reserve your protests and push-back until you read the last step.

Make a judgment on the sin. Is this a blatant sin according to the Bible? Or is this a gray area that you may be wrongly imposing on others? Was it a public sin? Who was affected by it? Who was involved in it?

Make a judgment on the person. Is this person a Christian? This is perhaps the most important question we can ask before we respond in any situation. 1 Corinthians tells us we are not called to judge the world. Are they old enough to understand what they're doing? Are they a member of a church?

Make a judgment on the situation. What is your relationship to this person? Spouse? Parent? Friend? Co-worker? Stranger? Your response must be different given your relationship. Are they a member of your church? If not, what is the climate of their spiritual community (church or other)?

Respond in love. I considered making this final step "Love them." but I think too many people are already inclined to not do anything. I believe love requires action (and more often than not, words) when sin is involved. Most people understand this when it comes to our children; we instruct and correct. However, I believe love would dictate doing or saying something in most relationships when confronted with a damaging sin (and really, is there any other kind?). Granted we do not have the same authority that we do in a parent-child relationship, but if your relationship is close enough, you have "earned" some authority to speak love and correction into their lives.
I know there are other questions I did not think of that may be applicable, and I know some of you may have some push-back. So I would love some responses to this, and this will be a working post.


W. Mark Felt said...

Not really sure what kind of input or responses your looking for so here is a shot out of a cannon. To properly "Respond In Love" I would first like to explore the psyche of the sinner. I think the character Atticus Finch from the book "To Kill A Mockingbird" said it best when he said to Scout that "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." I would like to share an experience from my past when I was 16 years old. As a misguided youth I became addicted to shoplifting but not just sticking something in your pocket and walking out of the store. No. I had graduated from that and began going back to the sporting goods section picking out the most expensive baseball glove I could find brazenly walking it up to the customer service desk and asking for my money back all with a straight face. Did I do this because I needed the money? No. Did I do it because I was hungry? No. My Father was a prominent member of society and I didn't want for nothing. I did it because I was addicted to the adrenaline rush of the act of shoplifting. The thrill of the ride not unlike what motivates bungee jumpers I suppose(unfortunately I'm afraid of heights). Where I'm going with this is as a "secular society" or a "church community" that is casting judgement on a sinner, should we be weilding judgement on the sin itself or on the underlying factors that motivated the sinner in the first place? I'll end here to allow for interjection and or retort.

Jared said...

Mark, thanks. That's exactly the sort of responses I am looking for. And I think you're on to something.

I couldn't gather from your account whether you were a professing Christian at the time, but I think that makes all the difference in the world. If, in fact, you were a sinner and part of the "secular society", then I don't think judgment from the church or a Christian is biblically called for (though turning you in to the cops may have been).

I mentioned 1 Corinthians in my post because it is one of the strongest instructions on who (and how) we judge. We don't judge outsiders like we do insiders. We don't pronounce judgment on outsiders at all. But, for a professing Christian in a biblically obedient community, the Bible is pretty clear about how they are dealt with.

But you're right, when it comes to dealing with a sinner, I don't pronounce moral judgment as I should toward a Christian. Instead, I love them and do everything I can to treat the underlying factor, their separation from Christ.

W. Mark Felt said...

I was probably unclear before when I mentioned "secular society" and "church community" specifically in my first post, because as believers, living in any given "society" there are usually a clear set of "physical laws" and or "spiritual laws" that govern the society at large, we either abide by those laws or we do not. I was advocating neither. That being said they often work in tandem. Also, I was thinking in more detail about your "Respond In Love" bullet point from the original post and I came to the conclusion that perhaps we might be using the wrong terminology/verbage or maybe we have the wrong mindset and are approaching this notion in entirely the wrong fashion? Operating under the auspices of "responding in love" maybe we should replace the word "judge" with a more appropriate word like "heal" or "helping someone heal"? In other words as peers, brothers, and sisters aren't we duty bound to at least try coaxing the misguided into flying right? I'm taking baby steps here and am kind of feeling my way in the dark so I'll stop for now.

Jared said...

I am aware that a lot of people would prefer different verbage in my steps. I'm fine with that. If you remember, I agreed with Greg in that "assessment" or "appraisal" could be substituted for "judgment". I chose the verbage that I did for my steps because I wanted to use the sort of language the Bible does.

Therefore when I chose "love" instead of "healing", in my mind, healing is a large part of love. Galatians says "restore those caught in a transgression in a spirit of gentleness".

I believe, whether it is a Christian or non-, judgment and a loving response are ultimately for one purpose. So let me conclude this way: Our response should be that that will encourage and ensure that the offender finds and knows the grace and forgiveness that only God can offer. We are intended to draw all men to the Great Physician for healing, branches to the vine for life, lost and straying sheep back to the shepherd, dead men to the life-giver, sick men to the healer--as Jesus said of himself "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the good news preached to them. Blessed is the one who is not offended by me."

Healing is a part of love, but healing must be more than just correcting and teaching someone how to live a right life. As you said, true healing only comes from correcting "the underlying factors": separation from the Great Physician, the vine, the Shepherd. All responses should aim to remove that separation.

W. Mark Felt said...

Sorry I was unclear in my previous post. When I recommended using different verbage I was referring to the word "Judge". I dislike that word strongly. For some reason it stirs up negative connotations for me. Probably because of my sordid past. I like the "Respond In Love" title that you're working with. I think it's dead on and definately worth exploring further.

Anonymous said...

Okay, let me take a different direction. Am I to judge (appraise, make assessment) of myself?
I am a Christian. Christ lives in my heart, but I am still a little afraid of Him.
I watch how God prunes His children in the scriptures for His glory and I am afraid of the same pruning.
Can I avoid the pruning or appraisal of God and of the church by doing it myself?

Thanks, "Unsure of Self"

Jared said...


I can identify with your fear. As to your first question, the answer is yes, we should be constantly in a process of appraisal and assessment of our salvation. Or as Peter phrases it in 2 Peter 1:10 "be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure".

Peter sees the definite connection between God's call and election and our salvation, and he exhorts his readers to make certain they have not deceived themselves by simply being religious.

However, even as you are in a process of "making your election sure", this does not mean that we will avoid all seasons of testing and discipline. Hebrews 12 goes into detail about the fact that "God disciplines those He loves". It's a cruel fact of life that, even as regenerate believers, we will always have rough edges and remainders of sin that cling to us and must be worn off by the discipline of God.

Below is a link to an article John Piper wrote that I have found extremely helpful. Feel free to e-mail or continue this thread if you would like to pursue deeper!

Anonymous said...

I have just gotten around to checking your blog again. Your answer to my fear of pruning by God has really helped. I have rough edges of sin that still need to be removed. It encourages me that this is a universal problem and not just my own.
I plan to get to the Piper article after I hang up here. Thanks

"Unsure of self"