Are We Too Judgmental?

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.” Jesus spoke those words in His major Sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5-7.  He expanded that initial dictum with: “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged, and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

The lesson that Christ taught the assembled multitudes has been cited by many to criticize anyone who renders a judgment about moral issues. But for Bible-believing people, it is imperative to judge what is wrong and plainly forbidden in Scripture as sin, i.e., drunkenness, hatred, lying, stealing, adultery, wrath, and many other spiritual transgressions in word, thought, and deed that are plainly forbidden.

There are times, to be sure, that we are instructed in God’s Word to not only render a judgment about spiritual matters but to act by administering church discipline. Paul deals with this in I Corinthians 5, where he excoriates a carnal church for tolerating, without rendering any judgment, one of the members of the church who was living in immorality—that is, committing fornication with his father’s wife. Paul attributes the toleration of the church to their being “puffed up” rather than mournful. The apostle went on to say that he, though he was absent from them, had already rendered a judgment, and he spelled it out that they should deal with the erring member in loving discipline by delivering him “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (I Cor. 5:4,5)

So, there is a Biblical principle and precedent for rendering spiritual judgment. Again, in I Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul addressed the matter of members of the church taking other members to court in civil matters. Paul said that the church was “utterly at fault” because they were going to law one against another, “and that before unbelievers.” He minced no words when he said, “I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren?” He queried, “Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life?”

But then, Paul was compelled when writing to the church at Rome to set things straight about rendering judgment about matters where there is no clear scripture principle, or where “weaker” brethren have not grown enough to grasp matters of grace in things about which there are genuine doubts or differences between believers. About keeping certain special days or eating certain foods, for example, Paul said: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth?” (Rom.14:4) He concluded with: “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” (Rom.14:10)

It should be noted that the case dealt with in I Cor. 5 was clear-cut immorality, fornication. Then, when Paul spoke to Christians going before law against Christians, he used logic (we will judge angels, so should we not be able to render judgment in civil matters, one Christian in disputation against another?). His logic was buttressed by scripture: “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters?” (I Cor.6:2) Finally, in the Romans 14 passage, Paul was answering questions not about clear-cut moral issues but about things concerning which there were no scriptural injunctions nor black-and-white differences. This was in large part because, at that time, a newly converted Jewish population in the infant church, coming with their Jewish ceremonialism, was being melded with a Gentile population that was not used to certain dietary, dress, or day restrictions, thus giving place to differences and varying convictions resulting in confusion and contention. Paul’s solution was simple: Let every person be persuaded in his own mind concerning these issues where there is no definite pattern yet established in this new-born church of which we are all members.

Back to my original question: Are we too judgmental? The “we” would be Bible-believers who are convicted that some things need to be labeled as sin. We could mention, as does scripture in several passages, some of the sins that an unbelieving world thinks we should not be judgmental about. (Romans 1:29-31; I Cor.6:9,10) Any honest person, sincerely wanting to understand why Christians appear judgmental about such things as abortion, transgender, sexual promiscuity, etc., need only read Paul’s epistles to learn that there are quite a few behavioral lifestyles that are non-negotiable for the devoted followers of Jesus Christ.  We are not attempting to “run people’s lives.” It is not because we do not love the homosexual that we judge that lifestyle to be abhorrent. We love the sinner while at the same time we reject the sin.

In any case, Jesus—who said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,”—also said: “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” (John 7:24). There is a time when righteous judgment must be rendered.  Juries are called upon to do so, as are other elected and appointed civil servants.  So are Christians who strive to please Jesus Christ in daily living. We are faced almost daily with the questions: “Is it right or wrong?” and “What does God say about this?” In truth, almost daily, we fail to make the right call.  We run through lights that are more red than yellow. We lose our cool in discussion with a family member or friend who cannot or will not agree with us, as we raise our voice while our face reddens, and we admit that we “lost it.” There are too many such incidents along life’s way; it is not difficult to remember a recent violation. We do not always render righteous judgment. But that does not alter the fact that, at times, we must. The key is to do so in the spirit of Christ; not complacent about sin or “puffed up” in tolerance of it, but also remembering to be gracious and patient with believers whose conscience is not identical to ours about things that can be labeled “doubtful” in the minds of other sincere believers.

Above all, ask God—in every matter requiring a decision concerning right or wrong—for wisdom that is from above, which is “first pure, then peaceable, gentle, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” (James 4:17)

One thought on “Are We Too Judgmental?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: