Saturday, January 18, 2014

Rethinking Judging: Stop NOT Judging

Just stop it already, stop NOT judging! 

 I have grown so weary of the way so many twist Jesus teachings, especially, as it relates to this “judging” thing that so many are so afraid to be accused of today. Go ahead and call me “judgmental,” if you like. I really don’t have a problem with that since “not judging” is not what Jesus actually taught. 

Our culture today wants permission for and acceptance of their sins. Postmoderns say, “Don’t judge me” because they want their life to be totally self-governed, with no accountability to anything or anyone, except themselves. They are their own judge, so they get to decide what is right and what is wrong. 

I get that, I really do. Who wants to be judged, if you are doing your thing, according to your own way, with no serious thought to what is good or true. As long as there are multiple truths, then who is anyone to say what is right and wrong, good or bad. Live and let live, right? 

But if there is truth, and there is, there logically must be, it needs to be known or we end up in chaos. Sadly, that is where our nation finds itself today. Too many are their own god, so who are we to judge their god? 

This postmodern thinking has also infiltrated the Church. Christians in some numbers are calling for the end of “judging” the world. It’s in vogue right now. It’s high time we stop judging others for their personal favorite sin and just love them, is the argument. Any position on any matter then becomes deemed as judgmental, and who wants to be considered such a backward thinking Neanderthal anyway. This is the 21st Century, for Pete’s sake! 

The problem for Christians who demand an end to judging is their own judgment of what is right and wrong. Just the other day, I was called out on Facebook for “judging,” of all people, Sylvester Stallone. Yep, I was judging Rocky because apparently he went from a seemingly rock-solid Christian in a 700Club video in 2006 to distancing himself from the faith he said he had in a 2010 GQ article.

My comment was that the “soil” of Rocky’s heart was apparently “shallow,” a reference to Jesus parable of the Sower in Matthew 13. The available evidence was that Stallone’s faith had sprung up quickly and faded just as fast, such was my observation. But how could I make such a judgment? One FB poster retorted, “I think judging him though is pretty shallow indeed Brian.” The problem for the “Not judging” advocates, like this FB poster, is that they need to makes judgments against not judging, based on their perception of what judging is. What a mental quagmire. 

Here’s the important thing though, Jesus never said “Don’t Judge!” period, as is commonly understood in our postmodern culture today. That is a call to hold no opinion on anything, which is humanly impossible, if there is any cognitive function. The fact is you can’t love God with your whole mind without “judging” properly. 

The common misconception of the “Not Judging” crowd is that this is really a better way for everyone to get along. “Do your own thing and let me do mine” however is the most unhealthy way for a community to flourish together.  Rather it serves only individualism and don’t we already have enough of that? It leads only to confusion like Jonah encountered in the Ninevites, not knowing their right hand from their left. That, tragically, is where our culture is today. 

Let’s examine closer what Jesus actually did say: 

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1)

Okay, Jesus actually did say “do not judge” however that big word “or” makes this not a command but rather a proposition – a simple statement of fact regarding an action and reaction – “or you also be judged.” In other words, don’t take the action if you don’t want the natural reaction, since people typically respond in kind.

What Jesus was saying is, if you don’t want to be judged, don’t judge others. He was saying that by the same degree, in the same way you judge, others will judge you. If we don’t want to be judged by how we live, then we have no place for judging others.

 If on the other hand, we are fine with having others judge our life, by God’s standard, then we can rightly judge the world. Our problem however is that we have all sinned and fallen short of God standard, so there is no room for self-righteousness judgment. We must factor that into how we interact with the world. 

Jesus also says: 

“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” (John 12:47)

Jesus came to save the world, to set things right, so that we can make right judgments about life, knowing that people are tragically lost and without hope without him. Knowing this, we do not judge others on the basis of what they do, but on whom they are to God and how very precious they are to him that he sent his Son to die for them. 

The fact is, I do see way too much self-righteous judgmentalism among Christians today, in my judgment, especially given the anonymous nature of social media. The damage this does to the corporate witness of the Church is disturbing. The mean-spiritedness expressed by many today is exactly what Jesus was talking about and the reason he tells us “not judge, or you will be judged” in the same way – before the living God. 

Paul renders the same judgment when he says: “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same thing. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:1-3). 

Paul point is also the manner in which judgment is rendered, by the world’s standard – not God’s. Paul was pointing to hypocrisy, not calling for the end of right judging.

Then there must be a right way to judge the world, right? Yes. Love others (Romans 13:8) and speak the truth in love (Ephesian 4:15). If love is our standard, it still may cause offense as we encounter the world, but at least then we can accept God’s judgment of how we judge. 

How then are we do judge rightly?

Judge the world the way Jesus did - by demonstrating God’s love for the lost and hurting. 

Judge the world the way Jesus did - through the beauty of his grace that accepts others for whom God created them to be, not for what sin has done to them. 

Judge the world the way Jesus did - by incarnational living that meets people where they are and loves them in spite of themselves, even when they don’t return that love. 

But by all means, judge the world! Just do it the way Jesus did!

The Apostle Paul also wrote to a messed up church in Corinth: “Or do you not know that the Lord’s people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” (1 Cor 6:2-3, emphasis mine)

Several chapters later, Paul shows us the "most excellent" way to do it (1 Corinthians 12:31 ff). 

That is the way of Living Sent Today.

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