Monday, April 20, 2015

Don't Judge Me!!!

The world is split along so many lines of thought these days; religious, racial, political, scientific, sexual, etc... Whenever a Christian is involved in a debate along these lines it is almost a default answer for the non-believer to tell the Christian something to the tune of, "Jesus said 'Do not judge!', so you can't judge me or what I do." It is an interesting thing to observe that when a non-believer gets offended by a Christian they suddenly become Biblical experts. However, the claim bears looking at because Jesus did indeed say, "Do not judge....". He also said much more on the topic though that needs to be addressed to bring that quote into context. The whole matter really falls into the categories of Judgment and Condemnation. The Bible, when taken as a whole, as opposed to cherrypicking certain verses, brings much clarity to the matter.

Let's look at the first of these - Judgment. A judgment can be made on a behavior as to whether it is right or wrong. A judgment can also be passed on a person as a decision of whether or not they are behaving in a good or bad manner. Without even getting into the scriptures, logic would tell us that human beings do, and must, make judgments every day just to survive. If we didn't, we would all be putting our hands on hot stoves, walking into heavy traffic, and hiring child molesters as babysitters. We all make 'common sense' decisions every day in order to survive. However, many of these are learned by experience or simple observation. Where many people differ are with behaviors that deal with differences in moral or religious standards. In short, they look to different sources for their ideas of right and wrong, or they translate the same source differently. So, how do we judge behaviors of these sorts? Let's tale a look at what Jesus did say about judging.

The verse most commonly quoted about not judging is found first in Matthew 7:1-5, although it is repeated in the other Gospels. It is part of what Christians refer to as 'The Sermon on the Mount.' He was speaking primarily to His disciples, teaching them, although undoubtedly others heard it as well as the scriptures mention a great crowd being assembled before Jesus climbed a hilltop with His disciples. It should be pointed out that Jesus' disciples were not always the sharpest knives in the drawer at times and there was occasional backbiting, and, as was the example set by the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees, there was often much finger pointing concerning 'religious correctness', just as we have 'political correctness' today. Jesus said this: "Pass no judgment, and you will not be judged. For as you judge others, so you will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt back to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye, with never a though for the great plank in your own? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye', when all the time there is that plank in your own? You hypocrite! First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's." Jesus never says not to remove the speck of sawdust from your brother's eye but only warns of making sure you do not have a plank in your own when you attempt to address him about it. This is a clear warning to avoid being a hypocrite and a lesson that Christians should learn well! There are far too many out there warning people about sexual immorality and the sin of homosexuality, for example, when they themselves are caught up in adultery and pornography. In modern terms, Jesus might be saying the Biblical equivalent of, "Check yourself before you wreck yourself!" You have no business addressing another person about their behavior if your own hands are not clean on the matter.

Many people get hung up and offended at being judged or a judgement being made against their behavior because they confuse the word 'judge' with the word 'condemn.' A judgement is nothing more than a decision a person makes as to how they will view a behavior. It happens to everyone all the time. When you go for a job, you are judged on your previous personal and work behavior. When you go into a restaurant or a shop, you are judged by your behavior and treated accordingly. People decide to befriend you...or not, all depending on their judgement of your actions and words. So if somebody says to you, "Don't judge me!", what they are in essence asking for is that you pay no attention to, or that you condone, their behavior. I don't think that is fair to ask of anyone, for without making judgments, or decisions, on the people and things around us, we will never know what the right course in life to take is, what friends are good for us and which are detrimental, what things will get me in trouble and which will bring me progress and most importantly, is my neighbor or loved one in trouble and need help. Judging has to do with behavior, and that is crucial to remember! You can judge a person and say, "I believe such and such a behavior that they are doing is wrong, therefore I will not hire them, be close friends with them, let them watch my children, or whatever....but once you say, "I think that person is an evil person or a bad person and I will punish them," you have just crossed the line from judging to condemning. Condemning is what most people think is happening to them when they are judged for their behaviors. However, condemnation is different because it includes a punishment that is the result of a judgement. Remember that a judgment is nothing more than a decision or view of a behavior. Condemnation is imposing a punishment based on a judgement. While the Bible encourages believers to judge for themselves what is right in many places, it speaks very differently of condemnation.

First of all, and the best news of all is that the Bible says, in Romans 8:1-2, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.…". For true believers, they will not receive the punishment they deserve. They will not be judged and condemned for their behaviors because Jesus himself has taken those bad behaviors upon Himself.  When Jesus stepped in and kept a woman from being stoned to death, He did not ask her, "Has nobody judged you?" He asked her, "Has nobody condemned you?" The woman's behavior had already been judged by those in the crowd as being deserving of death according to the law. Thank God we no longer live according to the law only but have the opportunity to be saved from it by God's grace and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross! However, in order for her to receive that punishment, she would have to be condemned according to that judgment. Thankfully, for her, Jesus taught an amazingly important lesson about forgiveness and repentance that day when He told the crowd, "Let Him among you who is without sin cast the first stone." Jesus also told the woman, "Go, and sin no more." He did not disagree with the judgement of her behavior, He was making not only the point that we all sin and deserve forgiveness, but also about the nature of condemnation and who has the authority to condemn or punish people for their sins. James 4:12 tells us, "There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy;", referring to God Himself. As God has made the law, while we are able to judge for ourselves what is right and wrong according to it, God is also the only one who has any right to condemn a person according to that law. The judgment of a behavior is plain for anyone to see according to God's law, but it is only God himself who has any right to punish, or condemn, anyone for their violation of His law.  This point, however, is where some Christians cross the line when they seek to publicly shame and distance sinners, thereby placing a punishment upon them for their actions. Some wrong actions will bring their own negative consequences, but those consequences should not come at the hands of believers in Jesus. Instead, they should be heeding other specific words of Jesus when he says in Matthew 7:12, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." and in Mark 12:31, "Love your neighbor as yourself."  Christians are called to gently correct fellow believers if possible when they stray and to go and make disciples of unbelievers. Nothing more and certainly nothing less. So, in order to love your neighbor and do unto him as you would have him do unto you, it seems only fitting to be loving, yet loving enough to warn a person if you believe they are heading in a dangerous direction in life. After that, the decision is solely theirs and the consequences are left to nature and nature's God.

In closing I would only say two things: If you feel like your actions are being judged, get used to it. You yourself judge all sorts of things and people just to get by in the world every day. People will judge you every day of your life by your words and actions so as to decide for themselves exactly what sort of person you are. Unless someone is actively punishing you for your actions, quit your whining and don't be using the Bible to try and shut people up. If you are one of those Christians who makes a bad habit of obsessing over other people's sins, especially if those other people are not believers...stop it! Remember this: Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13, "For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges." In other words, look after your own behavior and those of others who belong to the church. Why should you expect people to follow the laws of God and the teachings of Jesus if they don't believe in or follow God to begin with?! Certainly, preach the gospel to them, but what happens to them in the end is between them and God.

God bless and play nice y'all!!!

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