Jesus and Judging

What does it mean to judge not? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It used to be the most quoted Bible verse of all time was John 3:16, so much so that we had the story of the guy in the rainbow wig who went to major sporting events and held up a sign that said John 3:16. That no longer is the case. The most quoted verse today is probably just part of one verse and that’s Matthew 7:1 and “Judge not.”

Many people think this is a blanket condemnation of all judging. He’s not. Jesus later tells us about not giving dogs what is sacred and throwing pearls to pigs. Apparently, we have to judge what is sacred and what are pearls and who are dogs and who are pigs. The latter two are quite personal judgments.

Years ago my former roommate before I got married went to be a live-in assistant to a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. This was in a fancy apartment complex. I went to visit him once and a nurse to the man was coming by and we talked a bit.

Somehow, it got to the topic of judging and she said she was a Christian but she was sure she wasn’t supposed to judge anyone. So I just asked a couple of simple questions. First, is her car in the parking garage? She said it was. I next asked if the doors were locked or not. That’s when the light turned on for her. If you lock your doors at night or to your car when you’re away, you are making a judgment.

We all do it and we all have to. Jesus tells us in John 7:24 to stop judging by mere appearances and make a right judgment. That tells us that Jesus is not condemning all judgment and the passage itself tells us about pigs and dogs, so what is Jesus condemning? He is condemning something.

Jesus is condemning how we judge people. He uses a joke to get this across. In the Jewish world of Jesus, hyperbole was the way of making a joke. He pictures a guy walking around with a big plank sticking out of his eye and trying to help other people get a speck of dust out of their eye. Such would have been a very humorous picture to His audience and would have got the point across.

This is also a danger to us as it is easy to spend so much time looking at the sins of our neighbor instead of examining ourselves. This is not to say you should not care about your neighbor’s sins and warn them when they are on the wrong path, but the only one you can do anything directly about is yourself. If you focus so much on how other people treat you instead of how you treat others, you’re going to be caught all in yourself.

Thus, before you go after your neighbor, do everything you can to be aware of your own sins in a situation. When you judge, don’t be a hypocrite with your judging. Be aware of your own sinfulness and actually, more aware. You too have to stand before God one day. You don’t have to give a defense of your neighbor. You give one of yourself.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Apostles’ Creed: To Judge

Is it proper to say that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Judging is a funny thing in America today. People constantly say “I’m not trying to judge” and every time I hear that I want to say “But that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s not necessarily wrong.” Of course, some judging is wrong, and this is the judging that is hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.

It’s a shame that John 3:16 used to be the most quoted Bible verse and today, it’s Matthew 7:1 and even then, just the first part. Jesus is not telling you to never judge. In fact, the very passage talks about throwing pearls to swine and giving what is sacred to dogs. Those actions involve making judgments.

When I lived in Charlotte shortly before the wedding, my best man who was my roommate knew he needed to find a new place to live shortly after Allie and I met. He got a job living in a luxury apartment with a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. (Yes. Luxury apartment all paid for. Just suffering for Jesus I suppose.)

Once in a trip over to visit him, a nurse was there to help out who was saying that we shouldn’t judge. I asked her if her car was parked in the garage downstairs. She said it was. I then asked “Did you lock the doors?” At that point, the light bulb clicked.

Judging is inevitable. You have to do it. If you lock your doors at all, you judge. If you’re cautious about who you choose to babysit your children, you judge. If there are places that you avoid while driving or walking, you judge. When you decide who it is that you are going to marry, you judge.

It’s strange also that judging is being seen as a negative when we have more and more shows of the American Idol variety that rely on the judgment of the man on the street more and more. Why is it that judging is seen as so problematic?

A large part of it is our pseudo-tolerance society. I say pseudo because we do not know what real tolerance is. Tolerance is not being accepting of what everyone does. Tolerance is thinking that what someone is doing is wrong but being able to accept the person regardless.

Let’s consider what has to be there for tolerance. First off, there has to be an area of disagreement for tolerance to exist. A husband for the most part will not tolerate it if his wife wants to make love to him in the evening. Of course not. He’ll openly celebrate it. That’s not something that a guy just puts up with. He wants that. A husband will tolerate it if his wife burns dinner one evening.

Tolerance also when seen as a virtue is normally about something someone has a serious disagreement with on someone. You could tolerate going to a fast food restaurant whose food you don’t particularly like because everyone else in the car is going there. If you make a big issue out of it, then that is more of a problem with you. You don’t call yourself a champion of tolerance just for putting up with food you don’t like.

Third, tolerance has it that what is being done is seen as wrong. Again, you don’t tolerate something that you approve of. Husbands don’t tolerate a wife who wants to make love. Parents don’t tolerate children who clean their rooms.

The obvious example today in America is the debate over homosexuality. For a Christian, if they show tolerance, that means they show love to someone in the homosexual lifestyle without approving of the lifestyle. You can love someone without approving of everything that they do. Case in point, we all do it to ourselves.

Someone can think that the Christian is wrong in not agreeing with the homosexual lifestyle. It does not follow that the Christian is however intolerant. Of course, they could be, and if we think of people with the mindset of Westboro Baptist, they indeed are. Some people do genuinely think homosexuality is wrong but have a great love of homosexuals as people and seek to share the love of Christ with them.

Putting a stigma on judging allows possible evils to go unchecked. It should be for any of us that if a viewpoint or practice we engage in is wrong, we would want to know about it. We would want to be open to evidence and correction that will show that. Too often we are not. Too often also, we blame everyone else for how our lives are turning out instead of taking responsibility.

In a situation like this, people are allowed to use their feelings to hold others in tyranny. Having your feelings hurt is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, in fact, it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes you need to be told a hard truth and the only way to do that is by stepping on those toes a little bit. Some people also are not genuinely interested in debate but only in tearing others down. A firm hand can be needed for those.

So what about God? Can God judge? After all, the creed says that He is coming to judge.

It amuses me when I see atheists who complain about the problem of evil. Then you point to a society filled with evil like the Canaanite culture of the past and the atheist complains when God judges that culture as well. No matter what, God is seen as guilty. If God lets evil keep going, then He is wrong. If God judges, then He is also wrong.

God is in fact the only one who can judge perfectly since He alone is wholly good and wholly just. In fact, He is goodness and justice. When God judges also, He will be a good and fair judge with the people who He judges.

“Well how can that be? Christians get a free pass!”

God’s standard is perfection. When God judges a Christian, He will see the Christian in covenant with Christ and will judge the Christian based on the work of Christ. What happens when He comes to the non-Christian? He’s a fair judge and He uses the same standard. The standard is perfection. If someone falls short, they don’t make it. God judges them by their works.

Kind of ironic isn’t it since so many people think God should do just that and judge us by if we did more good than bad in this life.

Now you might say your works are not that bad. You never do anything really really evil. You’ve never murdered anyone for instance.

The reason something like that is thought is because people don’t really know what sin is. Consider what happens when you do what the Bible refers to as sin. You are making these claims.

You are saying your way is better than God’s.
You are saying you know better than God.
You are saying you will not be judged by God so you can get away with it.
You are saying that you will be unholy while knowing that God is holy.
You are saying you are the ultimate authority of how this world should be and how you should live in it.

In essence, you are wanting to be on the throne of God yourself. You are in fact guilty of divine treason.

If that sounds extreme to you, it’s because you just don’t realize the gravity of the situation.

I would also contend that if you are sentenced to live apart from God forever, you will continue to live in rebellion. In other words, you will be building up a debt that you could never pay off.

Saying you are guilty of divine treason could make God sound like a harsh judge, but that’s only getting one side of the picture. That’s what makes forgiveness so beautiful. It’s God saying that He knows you wanted Him to not exist and you wanted to be God yourself, and yet He is going to drop all charges against you. He will not just wipe the slate clean. He will break the slate into a million pieces. You will be seen as innocent based on your trust in Christ.

Keep in mind God could have not sent Christ and been entirely in the right. He could judge us all right now and who could say He was wrong? From a Biblical position, we all deserve death and in fact, we all deserve it right now, so every moment we are allowed to live is in fact a gift of grace.

Also, if you find yourself getting offended at the thought that you deserve death right now for being in rebellion against God, then I can just easily say you are demonstrating pride. If God is the king of this universe, upon what grounds does He owe you anything? You are to bow to Him. He is not to bow to you.

God does have the right to judge and while our judging is imperfect, passages like John 7:24 tell us we need to make right judgments, especially as people of truth who should be constantly seeking out truth. If we live in fear of judging, then we will not be able to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord has given us, for that requires we tell a world that they are sinners in need of a savior and that the King is on the throne and they need to honor Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Cutting Off Our Branches

Does it become a problem when we undermine judging in the Christian community? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There is a facebook group with the following quotes on it I want to share with you.

“Folks, We have a Person Who Seems To Find It Amusing To Hate, First Off Stay OFF MY Page, You Have Been Reported to Facebook For You Continued Abuse, I Didn’t Appreciate You Trying to Advertise Your Hate the Other Night On MY Fan Page, STAY AWAY, TAKE YOUR HATE AWAY, This Page Is Supportive, and YES I BAN Anyone Who Is Critical Or Hateful Of Our Community, 2600 People Like What I am Doing, and You Have What 14? You Will Be Shut Down Soon, and DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT POST ON OUR PAGE!”

“Reminder For Our New Folks, This Page is For Support, and Education of The practice featured in (X). If you Want to Hate, Or Judge, This Isn’t The Place. I work Very Very Hard for this Page To Remain a Supportive Page, I’ve Had Some People From Dayton Ohio Recently Try to Start Their own Page in Criticism of Mine, and That’s Fine, Hater’s NOT WELCOME HERE!”

“The Name of The Person Who Decided to Start the Hate Page Is
(X) From Dayton Ohio, Please Folks Tell Her To Stay Away, and Keep Her Hate in Ohio.”

The bad grammar and such aside, when you see something like this, it recalls immediately an attitude we see elsewhere. Where is that? It’s in the homosexual community as people who are outside the group are labeled as “haters” and criticism is not allowed. Only those who are supportive of the community are allowed.

The only problem is, these posts do not come from the homosexual community.

These posts I found while researching the snake handling stories. They’re found on the Snake Salvation page. Don’t believe it? Look for yourself.

When I see the Christian community using terminology exactly the same as the homosexual community, that’s quite concerning. In fact, one such post has the name of someone who has dared to criticize. You might as well be saying “Please go and harass this person!”

Hate is a term that is being tossed around so carelessly, including in groups such as We Stop Hate. The problem is that people are not really thinking about what it means to hate something.

In fact, if you love anything, you will HAVE to hate something. It’s not optional. Since I love my wife, I am to hate everything that is harmful to her. Since I love Christ, I am to hate everything that is opposed to Him. Since I love the truth, I am to hate lies. Since I love the good, I am to hate evil.

Would you like it if you met someone who did not hate rape? What about someone who did not hate pedophilia or child abuse? Do you want to meet someone who doesn’t hate cancer or disease? What do you think of someone who doesn’t hate evil?

Instead, many of these groups run on a whole self-esteem idea with a goodness being based on yourself somehow, though it’s not really expressed how. If you want to find your goodness, you are to look within. Now of course, there’s nothing wrong necessarily with thinking good about yourself, though in Scripture we are told to think of ourselves as we ought. We should seek to see ourselves as we really are. Our goodness does not come from us, but it comes from Christ.

If my value relies entirely on me, that is putting a much greater burden on me in fact and pushing me to think I have to be much better. If I place my value in Christ, then I can see that I have worth as long as Christ loves me and since that is something that doesn’t change, my worth never changes. Of course I can grow in Christlikeness, but I have a constant foundation for my goodness.

It is when these ideas of our goodness being rooted in how we feel about ourselves takes hold that our feelings and experiences start to get a divine authority and in fact, everyone else is subject to them. Each one of us becomes a god unto himself. The worst crime you can do against someone becomes offending them.

Yet most of us know that it has been necessary to offend people in the past. We have to tell people cold hard truths a lot of time and they don’t like it. Most of us today really don’t like it, even though we are told in Scripture that to be rebuked by a wise man is a blessing.

But today, all you have to do is tell people that you are offended by something and immediately you become a rallying cry that other people will support. It is not asked “Could the reason for this offense be valid?” It is not even asked “Is this really offensive?” All that matters is that the person finds it offensive.

This has also led to our victimization culture. Consider the campaign against bullying today. Yeah. No one cares for bullies, but the bullying campaign has given them too much credit. Everyone in this world is going to face critics at times. Some will be people who honestly want to help build us up. Others will be people who want nothing more than to tear us down.

You want to limit bullying? The best way to do it is to help the people who are being targeted by teaching them the proper way to think about themselves, especially within the context of Biblical principles. Help them realize where their true worth comes from and that bullies like this are to be ignored. When we were growing up in school, many of us had the rule of “Ignore inappropriate behavior.” Bottom line is that if something someone tells you about yourself is not true, why should you worry about it? (And yes, I’m still learning this one as well) If it is true, then do something to fix it.

Instead, what we do is say that you just can’t judge anyone at all. People are labeled as haters. I have no doubt that soon if not already, groups like “We Stop Hate” will be just as tolerant as the homosexual lobby. By just as tolerant, I of course mean seeking to out everyone that disagrees with them and refusing to return the tolerance that they have been seeking.

Tolerance in these circles is a one-way street.

So what does this have to do with the Snake Salvation page?

When we have groups like this in Christianity saying that haters and such will not be allowed, we are taking the exact same stance as homosexual groups. Now if you want to have a closed group that is there for your mutual edification and such, then do that. That’s fine. However, as soon as you go public with your ideas, then it is only proper to allow them to be publicly criticized and questioned. If you cannot take it, then don’t get it out there.

Question for those of you wanting to promote the gospel. Are you ever going to have to criticize? The answer is yes. You are going to have to judge people. You are going to have to tell them they are on the wrong path. You are going to have to tell them that they are living in rebellion against Jesus Christ, the rightful king of this world.

If you make yourself be above criticism and reproach, how can you possibly be allowed to give someone the gospel? They can use the exact same line back at you. After all, the gospel can be seen as hate speech since it includes in it that people are sinners. It indicts them of crimes against God and tells them they’re worthy of eternal separation from Him.

So many Christians are wanting to say today that they shouldn’t judge and cringe at the thought that they have judged someone. They can’t avoid it really! If you are to call sin sin, you are to make a judgment.

Judging is not a dirty word.

“But didn’t Jesus say judge not”?

Yes. He is talking about hypocritical judging. He tells you in the same passage to not toss pearls to swine or give what is sacred to dogs. You have to know what each of those are to judge. He tells you to look out for false prophets, a judgment. He tells you to choose the narrow way over the wide, a judgment. He never even tells you to not take the speck out of your brother’s eye, but instead to first take the log out of your own.

Either Jesus is not opposed to all judging, or He was a fool who contradicted His own teaching immediately.

I’ll go with the first one. Jesus was no fool.

I cannot help but be concerned when I see the church using the exact same language as the homosexual community. The church must be open to criticism. (And I assure most critics that I have criticized the behavior of the church far more than they have) The church must be open to hearing where we’ve gone wrong. We all must be open to that in our own lives. We must be willing to examine both sides of debates and disagreements and see which one has the stronger case and whichever one does, we must be able to make a case for why it is rather than using intimidation alone to silence the opposition.

The position that should hold sway in the marketplace of ideas is the one that has the better arguments. If your position does not have that, then no amount of intimidation will make up for it. No amount of following the crowd or culture can compensate for a lack of argumentation. It all comes down to the question of “What is truth?”

Which is, again, a judgment.

If we’re sure we’re in the truth, let us be open to the judgment that we are not. If we are in fact, then no harm. We could be even stronger. If we’re not, then thanks to whoever got us out of it for they removed us from a lie.

Making ourselves immune to criticism will not help our stance one iota. We dare not follow the lead of the world. We are to walk in step with Christ instead.

In Christ,
Nick Peters