06 September 2009

Judge one another?

Over the past several weeks, I have struggled with understanding Christian judgment or perhaps more accurately, loving correction. There are reasonably clear admonitions against judging one another, most memorably (to me anyway) in Matthew 7:4 "Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?" and Luke 6:37 "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned." I understand this admonition. What I have trouble figuring out is when, and how, are Christians to lovingly correct one another. Here are some things to keep in mind:

God is our Judge. He loves His people, but make no mistake, He will pass judgment on all. Ecclesiastes 12:14 tells us that "For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil." In fact, in reading through the Old Testament, we frequently see evidence of God's judgment. It is only through Jesus' sacrifice that we are washed of our sins. So God the father is a righteous judge, but what about Jesus?

Considering that the Father and the Son are one, Jesus clearly has a role in judgment, which is evident in Revelation. During His earthly ministry, though, He stated that His role was not to judge, but to save. John 12:47-48 "If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day." With that said, He did not encourage people to sin freely. Consider the woman at the well. After all of her accusers left, "Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, 'Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more'" (John 8:10-11). He acts with incredible mercy, but does not let her off the hook to continue in a sinful lifestyle.

But what about us? Admittedly, that whole plank-eye thing is pretty convicting, yet we are also called to sharpen, confront, even rebuke, one another (e.g., Proverbs 27:17, James 5:16, Titus 1:13). Jesus instructed His followers "Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment" (John 7:24). So we are called to "judge", but how do we do that? I think Jared Wilson provides two worthwhile recommendations (p. 134):
  • We're responsible for our brothers in Christ, to bring discipline and conviction to each other in the hopes of making the body of Christ holy as God is holy.
  • We have no business judging people who are not Christians.
So how do we "bring discipline and conviction to each other"? I shared my difficulty processing this balance with one of our pastors who said to me, "well you know Micah 6:8 right?" Ummm....no. It turns out that Micah 6:8 tells us to "act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." I read this to mean that, if we feel the need to confront a Christian brother or sister, we should examine ourselves and our motivations, humbly and prayerfully seek God's guidance, and only then mercifully correct, recognizing fully that we too are sinners completely dependent upon the grace of Christ.

(I liberally consulted the chapter "Jesus the Judge" from Jared Wilson's Your Jesus is Too Safe in writing this post. I would highly commend the book).


Tracy said...

I appreciate this post since I too struggle with this whole thing - don't judge but do speak truth into the lives of those I care about. I certainly do not claim to have THE answer regarding this issue. But I can share how I work it: I pray and ask God to make it clear if I should speak. Ask God to help me see my real motives. If my motives are askew, I remain quiet. But sometimes I really just care about the person. So then I'll try to keep it as simple as possible and just speak the truth. I've found that as long as the relationship is there and the person knows I love them and that I'm real about who I am, it works fine.

mavambo said...

Hey, thanks for your post, I also struggle with judging, mainly because I used to go to a very legalistic church and became very critical as a result. Your blog post was insightful

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Hey Jason, thanks for commenting on my SCL post! It's always great to meet new people and read new blogs. Feel free to join the conversation at my blog any time!

Matt @ The Church of No People said...

Oh, and you're dealing with an issue that has plagued me off and on for a long time, so my prayers are with you for total discernment.