Recently, I’ve been attacked yet again by other Christians on social media for making firm stands about issues in today’s culture. For instance, whenever I post on current issues, I’ll get some followers who tell me I shouldn’t be speaking up, or that Jesus loves everybody and criticism isn’t Christ-like. In fact, a few are more than happy to point out that I couldn’t possibly say those things and be a Christian.
The mistaken attitude that we have no business judging is so pervasive, that I think it’s time to re-consider what it really means. The scripture from Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge” has been so misunderstood, I think we need to re-examine it. Did Jesus really mean that we should never judge?
It’s interesting that when you examine the scriptures related to judgment, it’s not just the act of judging that Jesus is talking about as much as our attitude and motivation for doing it. After all, common sense tells us that making judgments is an important part of life and we’re required to do it on a daily basis. Who we let our children play with, what church to attend, where we work, who we associate with, how we spend our time and money, and how we vote, are all judgments, and if we didn’t make them, the quality of our lives would be poor indeed.
In a fallen and sinful world, people must be held accountable. Today the culture tries to convince us that tolerance is the highest virtue. Who are you to judge? is the rallying cry of deviant behavior, heretical teaching, and immoral living. There’s nothing the enemy would love more than if we as believers gave up calling sinners to repentance, and what would our society become if we stopped evaluating student performance, calling failed leaders into account, or arresting criminals? Without proper criticism and judgment, living in a real community would become impossible.
Not only do we have to judge, but we are called to judge, and in today’s society, we need to be more vigilant about judgment than ever. The question becomes, how do we judge as Jesus would, and how can we be sure that love, repentance, and restoration are the principles that we use in making our decisions?
First, anyone can have an opinion, but true judgment happens after serious examination, reflection, and consultation with the scripture. We can’t be frivolous, especially when dealing with an alleged sin of a pastor or Christian leader, but if we follow scripture and investigate properly, we can arrive at a proper decision. Paul’s writings to Timothy and to the church in Corinth are virtual manuals about judgment and correction within the context of the Church.
Second, lose the beam. When Jesus taught in Matthew 7:3-5, he was speaking in the context of a hypocritical religious system that said one thing and did another. The Pharisees couldn’t see clearly because of their own sin and yet felt perfectly free to judge and condemn others. Nowhere in the Bible does it say we have to be absolutely perfect in word and deed before we can practice discernment, but if we point the finger at someone else, as much as possible, we need to be living right before God and have a clean conscience.
Third, judging actions and judging people are dramatically different issues. There’s never a place for gossip or personal attacks in the Church, but serious discernment on issues of doctrine, performance, quality, professionalism, stewardship, moral choices, and skill are absolutely necessary. We can love a pastor or ministry leader, but when their lifestyle becomes abusive or their teaching aberrant, it’s critical for the life of the Church that they be held accountable. Likewise, when Christian employees do a poor job at work, they need to be disciplined. It’s not about them personally, it’s about their performance and the impact it’s having on others.
If we can’t have adult conversations about today’s issues such as the LGBTQ movement, the push to mutilate minors in the name of “gender-affirming care,” abortion, the public school system, politics, or other issues, then our future will be a long slide into oblivion.
It never hurts to keep in mind that our ability to judge is always limited, and one day, we’ll all stand on level ground before the ultimate Judge. But until that time, I hope we will stop being afraid, and continue graciously calling each other to task for our many failures and shortcomings, so that we can, as Paul said, “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Photo by Mikhail Nilov