It seems that everyone in America today knows that Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged.” But how many people know that Jesus called us to make righteous judgments and that Paul called us to judge fellow believers?
One year ago, I wrote an article devoted to answering the question, “To Judge or Not to Judge?” It seems like now would be a perfect time to revisit the question, putting the emphasis on the importance of making righteous judgements.
I have to chuckle, though, when the “Don’t judge” crowd is often guilty of the most ugly judgmentalism and name-calling, completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of it all.
To give one example, a colleague forwarded a link to me where some folks were not happy with my recent dialogue with Andy Stanley. One of them labelled me: “Christianity’s foremost obnoxious blowhard. He’s surpassed his usefulness and has become a self-serving, attention whore. You can be right and be so totally obnoxious doing it that you lose your opportunity to have your voice heard.”
So, it’s judgmental and wrong for me to respectfully call on Pastor Stanley to make a clear statement about homosexual practice and have a fruitful dialogue with him about the subject, but it’s fine for this individual to blast me in the most carnally judgmental terms.
Isn’t that how it works these days?
We politely say, “We’ve believe it’s best for a child to have a mother and father,” or “We don’t believe God designed men to be with men or women to be with women,” and we’re maligned in the most crude, profane and hateful ways. And then we’re accused of being judgmental!
When it comes to the biblical calling not to judge, Jesus, Paul and Jacob (James) said in the strongest terms that we were not to judge hypocritically or superficially or falsely and we were not to condemn (Matt. 7:1-5); that we were not to pass judgment on one another on disputable matters, nor judge God’s will for another believer (Rom. 14:1-13); and that we were not to speak evil of one another (Jacob [James] 4:11-12).
At the same time, the entire Bible calls us to make moral judgments, without which the world could not function.
That’s why the prophets often called on their people to “judge” righteously, meaning, to adjudicate on someone’s behalf, to take up their righteous cause, to expose the wicked and rule against them. And that’s why the Hebrew verb “judge” is used frequently in calls for social justice, as in Isaiah 1:17, “bring justice to the fatherless.” In contrast, the wicked “do not bring justice to the fatherless (Is. 1:23; the Hebrew is literally, “they do not judge the fatherless”).
That’s why Israel’s ancient leaders were called “judges,” as in the book of Judges, because they were called to govern the nation righteously. To this day, in our courts, we expect judges to make righteous judgments, otherwise society would completely collapse.
Where did we get this idea that all moral judgments were wrong?
Immediately before Jacob (James) urged his readers not to speak evil of each other or judge each other, he called them adulterers and told them that their friendship with the world made them haters of God (Jacob [James] 4:4).
Was he being judgmental?
Throughout Paul’s letters, he had words of correction and rebuke for his readers, sometimes in the strongest terms, to the point of calling the Galatians “foolish” and saying they had been “bewitched” (Gal. 3:1).
Was he being judgmental?