Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Should We Judge or Not Judge? [Part One]


Note: This article is divided into two parts. It would be helpful to the readers to study this material in its entirety in order to get proper understanding of the message.

One of the issues about which many of us are confused is in regard to judging others. Some cry, “Do not judge others” or “Do not judge me.” And some others, “We have to judge others.”

Should we judge or not judge?

May we know that the foundation for Christian belief and function is not the worldly culture but the Holy Scripture. To answer this controversial issue on judging, we need to turn to the Scripture. But it is not just enough to turn to the Scripture. Most of the confusion and heresies arise not due to not turning to the Scripture, but turning to the Scripture and clinging to isolated texts.

Therefore, to get a right and balanced view, we need to approach the Scripture to get its holistic understanding about the issues with which we wrestle. Let us go ahead and address the question “Should we judge or not judge?” with a holistic Scriptural approach.

1. Meaning of “Judge”

It is necessary that we first define what “judge” or “judging” is. The commonly accepted definition of “judge” is “to come to conclusion about something.” More specifically, it is to decide about someone’s belief or conduct as morally wrong or right. 

Let us know that the term “judge” is morally neutral. It is the way we judge that makes it either right or wrong. When Simon, the Pharisee, answered to the question the Lord Jesus asked, He said, “You have judged rightly” (Lu. 7:38, ESV). To the obstinate Jews, the Lord Jesus said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (Jn. 7:24, ESV). 

The above Scriptures make it plain that the term “judge” is not absolutely wrong. It the way we judge others which shows its rightness or wrongness. 

2. We Should Not Judge

1) The Lord Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 7:1-2, ESV). 

This is a Scripture which is generally used by many to defend not to judge others. In fact, this Scripture is used to rebuke others not to judge their 'self'. They say, “We must simply mind our own business. We have no right to judge others. God alone is the judge. To judge others is a sign of arrogance and fanaticism.”

What they fail to understand is—in what context did the Lord Jesus say not to judge others? He said, “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 the log in your own eye” (7:3-4, ESV). 

The point the Lord Jesus makes here is—judging others is wrong when we don’t judge ourself and live blinded of our own defects. It is human nature to clearly look at the evils in others by being unaware of our own evils in heart. 

So, the Lord concludes, “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” (7:5, ESV). This is what the Lord is saying—“If you examine the evil in your own heart and rectify yourself, you will be better able to see the evil in others and help them.” It is hypocrisy to judge others’ sin when we harbor much worse sins in our own heart. 

The Lord Jesus, therefore, is not teaching about not to judge others at any situation. He wants us to be quick to judge ourself than others. He desires that we be a good example. He warns us not to live with catch-others-mistakes attitude.  

Truly, we should not judge others when we ourselves are not good examples in the areas we judge in them. 

2) James wrote to his readers, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” (4:12, ESV). Elsewhere, Paul wrote, “Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Cor. 5:12, ESV)

Are these two Scriptures contradicting each other? Certainly not! 

What we need to know is the context. In what context did James rebuke the people not to judge others? The believers here were into malicious speech against one another, so he had to exhort them, “Do not speak evil against one another, brothers” (4:11, ESV). There was bitterness, jealousy, slander, and selfish ambition among them (3:14). With the same tongue they were praising God and cursing people (3:9-10, ESV).

When there is bitterness, jealousy and pride within, and if we judge others with this attitude, will not the Scripture rebuke us not to judge? How could our judgment be right with these evils within? Will there be love and compassion in such judgment? 

Truly, we should not judge others out of bitter and arrogant attitude. 

3) Paul said to the Corinthians, “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God” (4:5, ESV).

In light of the above Scripture, it is interesting to observe what Paul says in the immediate next chapter, “For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing” (5:3, ESV). He not only pronounced judgment, he also encourages the Corinthians, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (5:12, ESV)

So, what did Paul mean when he said in the previous chapter, “Do not pronounce judgment”? There were people in the Corinthian church who undermined the spiritual effectiveness of Paul. They questioned his speaking ability, even his apostolic call. The false apostles were more appealing to them than the apostles of Christ. 

Hence, Paul (who in fact planted the church in Corinth but were deceived by false apostles) had to explain to his people, “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” (4:1, ESV). After presenting convincing proofs, Paul goes on to say that it does not matter to him what the Corinthians think about him, and writes to them to wait for the coming of the Lord, who is the right Judge to pronounce the right judgment about him.

Truly, we should not judge the ministers based on their physical performance and abilities, which is a worldly approach. We need to know who they actually are in Christ Jesus.  

4) Paul wrote to the Roman Christians, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.” (Rom. 14:10, ESV)

Again, it is helpful to know the context. In the church at Rome, “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables” (14:2, ESV). Also, “One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike” (14:5, ESV).

These preferences and differences in regard to food and days bred quarrels among the believers. They become judgmental over petty issues. They despised each other and accused one another as being wrong. So, Paul writes to these believers not to despise each other, for God has welcomed them both and they are all accountable to Him (14:2-12, ESV).

Truly, we should not pass judgment on others over personal opinions and preferences that are not clearly counted as sinful or holy in God’s word. [Click here to go to Part 2 of this article...]

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