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Saturday, April 30, 2011

Judging Others

Judgments are not easy to make. This is especially true when those judgments involve people. Judgments carry the weight of a moral decision. Judgments reflect our understanding of what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral. People make right judgments and wrong judgments. Some people choose to refrain from making judgments but the situations and circumstances of life demand that we make judgments whether these involve, as an example, the destructive impact of greed on the environment or the destructive impact of sexual fornication on the marriage in the family home. A correct, moral judgment may come from the lips of an individual with a flawed moral character but that does not invalidate the judgment itself. There’s an important distinction to be made between understanding and conviction as concerns judgments.

Giving an account

Judgments can be made with the solid understanding of the source of authority. The source of that authority to make a judgment may come, for example, from civil law or the scriptures. A judgment with a firm conviction can be morally correct and right. However, without understanding the one making the judgment will find it difficult to give an account of the reasons for his judgment. Yet, it is not invalidated because of lack of conviction. This discomforting position of making judgments is common not only with atheists, (do not mistake this as a judgment atheists are not moral) but with those who profess their morality as being from God. This discomfort, in the absence of any authority or standard, may account for the response of ridicule and mockery from atheists and fear from Christians to situations which demand judgment verdicts.

Just as discomforting and troublesome for some people as to make judgments is to hear other people making a judgment. This is especially true when the person making the judgment is a Christian. The great discomfort in hearing a Christian make a judgment is based on an even greater misunderstanding (see Matthew 7:1,2) Jesus commanded Christians not to judge.

What Jesus commands

Did Jesus command his disciples not to make judgments? A look at his command to his disciples suggests his disciples were to be careful about when and how they make judgments. Disciples are not to make judgments hastily or rashly. Jesus did say he did not judge anyone. Jesus did say He did not come to judge the world. So, did Jesus Himself ever judge anyone?

The gospel according to John in chapter eight relates the account of a woman caught in the immoral act of adultery. It is clear those who brought the woman before Jesus had no interest in making or carrying out a judgment. They did not bring the man caught in adultery with the woman. Invariably, the question whether Jesus judged the woman draws a quick no followed by the clarification Jesus just loved her and did not condemn the woman. However, there’s an implied judgment in his words when He says to her, Go, and sin no more.
This instance involving a woman who had fallen in adultery modeled for the disciples of Jesus when and how we are to make judgments. Jesus modeled the marks of a spiritual: 1) the wisdom to discern, 2) the confidence to judge, and 3) the authority to speak. This characteristic of Jesus to make judgments is a mark of a spiritual. It is vital to judge with understanding and conviction when restoring one who has fallen in sin. (Galatians 6:1,2) The judgment of the woman which Jesus modeled was to save and restore, not to condemn her.

The apostle Paul makes a judgment

The apostle Paul, a disciple of Jesus, modeled what Jesus taught His disciples about making judgments. When Paul learned of the immoral conduct of a so-called brother in the church at Corinth (see I Corinthians 5) Paul judged him. Paul judged the man even though the apostle was not present at Corinth. Paul was neither hasty nor rash in his judgment of the immoral individual. The intent and desired purpose of Paul’s judgment was not to condemn the man, but that the man might repent and be restored. Furthermore, Paul urged the Christians in Corinth to judge the immoral individual themselves. After-all Jesus stated the work of the Holy Spirit was He would convict the world about sin because they don't believe in me. The unbelief which had crept into Corinth was not limited to a single immoral, but it had come to to contaminate and defile the whole body of Christ, that is, the royal priesthood of believers in Corinth.

The church in Corinth did as Paul instructed and judged the immoral individual. The man repented of his immoral behavior. The church did not back down from making the hard but necessary judgment on the immoral. The disciples did not shrug off or dismiss their responsibility in uncertainty and fear saying, no one of us is perfect. The apostle John wrote perfect (meaning, complete) love (I John 4:17-19) in the believer casts out fear. Paul wrote in his second letter to the church for them to welcome the brother back into fellowship now that he was forgiven and restored.

We can avoid the need to make judgments. We can call what is defined as sin by some other term. We can, as previously stated, exempt ourselves claiming we are not perfect. We can claim it's a personal choice, a personal opinion. We can claim a particular behavior is not something we would do, but we're alright if someone else chooses to do act and live that way. In the end our unwillingness and inability to make a judgment speaks more of our selfishness and fear which hide our lack of understanding and conviction. Yet, love desires to bear its fruit in and through each one of us.

Judge a brother, save a brother

Jesus taught and modeled for his disciples how and when to make judgments. He did so in order that those who trust and believe on Him should do so with understanding and conviction. The apostle Paul demonstrated the judgment of the immoral individual at Corinth in the same manner as did Jesus. Furthermore, Paul urged the Christians at Corinth to judge the individual in order that he might repent and be restored to the fellowship of believers in Christ. Once the brother was restored Paul urged the church to, reaffirm your love for him.

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