When I ask, What is judgment? I’m not referring to the Final Judgment or our judicial system, but rather one person judging another. Today Christians use the notion of one judging another as a club to buffet the Intolerant One into submission. After all, we’re told over and over, we’re not supposed to judge each other.
Or are we?
Often the “no judging” position is supported with what Jesus said in Matthew 7, concluding with verse 5:
“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.”
In a radio sermon some time ago, one pastor pointed out that the conclusion of this process is still one Christian taking the speck from his brother’s eye.
Just ten verses later, Jesus had this to say:
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” (Mat 7:15-16a)
So apparently the “no judging” rule has conditions. Otherwise how would we ever arrive at the understanding that a false prophet is false?
That idea of conditional judgment seems consistent with the Apostle Paul’s confrontation of Peter when he changed how he treated Gentile Christians, and with his confrontation of the church in Corinth for accepting into their fellowship a man living in immorality. Not only did Paul confront the church but he expected them to do the same with the sinful man.
Earlier, in I Corinthians he makes the statement that he has already judged the immoral man. Then this:
I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES. (I Cor. 5:9-13; emphasis in the original)
From this process, groups like the Amish and the Catholics practiced shunning and excommunication. Perhaps because of abuses and/or subjective interpretation, those conventions have been discredited. Church discipline seemed to decline.
In its place, we have tolerance. No judging.
But what happened to knowing false teachers by their fruits? What happened to going to a brother who has offended you, as Jesus commanded in Matthew 18? How can we ever forgive if we don’t acknowledge offense?
On an ever increasing level, it seems the love we talk about is a brand that actually nullifies justice. But God is a God of love and justice.
His Word teaches correction and reproof along side love and forgiveness.
So maybe we Christians have gone overboard, tolerantly stepping around each other in an effort to avoid boat rocking. Instead, perhaps we should hold onto the sides of the boat and confront sins head on.
It’s not comfortable. It requires soul searching (or log-in-the-eye searching. Search me, oh God, try me, and see if there is any wicked way in me.) It requires confession. It requires letting go of my right to be right, to defend myself, to prove my point. It requires confronting and forgiving. But how true is the latter without the former?
This post originally appeared here in April 2010.