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Monday, August 07, 2006

On Judgment

Recently there has been a recurring theme around me that I cannot seem to escape, namely that of judgment. Conversations, sermons, posts, conviction… you name it and it’s been there. The same verses keep popping in my head to follow it too, from Matthew 7 “1Do not judge so that you will not be judged. 2For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” The more I ponder these verses though, I find myself in a quandary. I do not think the purpose of these verses is overly clear, certainly as clear as one might think or is beguiled into believing based on their seemingly clear language. Jesus also said that he did not come to abolish the law, but rather to fulfill it. That being the case, his statement is not a blanket condemnation of human judgment. To condemn judgment would be to invalidate the entire Law of Moses, clearly not the intent. Reading his words I find myself not thinking, “Judge not lest you be judged,” but rather, “How can we not judge?!” It is a basic human trait to see something and make a classification of that object. If I see a steaming plate of spaghetti, rest assured, I have already judged that plate to be one of the most beautiful things on the planet, just as I am repulsed when I see two gay men holding hands demanding recognition by the state. If Jesus' words are to mean that we are to abandon our mental faculties of good reason and critical thinking, then the necessary result is the abolition of accountability and the renunciation of God’s punishment through established authority, be it a parent, pastor or the state. I fear the mantra of “Judge not lest you be judged,” has been hijacked by secularists to justify immorality, and repeated so often that Christians have come to believe it as it is in its perverted state. Christians are no longer pillars by which one can measure a standard because they fear to stand up for what is right lest they be labeled intolerant, the battle cry of the liberal establishment. The pillar of Christian authority has been toppled and replaced with reluctant acceptance of the sin around us, both in and out of the church, to our shame!

So, if Jesus was not issuing a blanket statement of “judge not,” which I feel it is clear he is not, then what did he mean? Jesus states shortly after, “Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' and behold, the log is in your own eye?” Jesus is NOT saying, as we have been fooled into believing, that we are not to acknowledge the sin in the lives of our brothers, ignoring it because it is not our place to speak. Look at what he says. “Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye.'” He makes no argument to such ends. Instead it is clearly seen that there is a speck is in the eye of your brother. There is no question about its existence, it is plain for all to see. This is not the judgment we are warned against. Jesus is warning against hypocritical judgment that comes from self-righteous indignation, condemnation from a false sense of superiority. This is where I think we have the most trouble. Seeing sin in our brothers and condemning them because WE are not in that sin, and it makes us feel better perhaps, the proverbial yard measuring against the foot, and in this case coming up long.

Jesus speaks as to how we are to confront our brother, and we ARE to confront them. We must not be overwhelmed by that same sin. We are to be free from that sin, not of our own will, which is wholly corrupt, but by the grace that comes from God. We are to approach him in love, and with care (Matthew 18). James instructs us to hold each other accountable in prayer (5:16). Clearly these things do not exist in isolation from judgment, from clear thinking, from critical reasoning. I believe the heart of the message is judgment is not only fine, but expected (1 Corinthians 5:12), but not as a means to exalt yourself, to condemn others because it is easier than dealing with the sin in your own life. Paul’s constant message was faith through grace, and this from God! “Where then is boasting?”, he asks. "It is excluded!" Instead we boast in Christ, in his saving work. So yes, we are to judge, but to edify, not to tear down. Sometimes what appears to be such a clear message (Matthew 7:1) is not so clear after all!

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