Who Am I To Judge?

Caution: 

I’m going to talk about some difficult subjects in this post. I hope to do so respectfully and with love. I anticipate that some of you will disagree–perhaps vehemently–with my position. Maybe you think I’ve gone too far. Maybe you think I didn’t go nearly far enough. I want to know your thoughts, but I do hope you’ll share them with love and respect. 

And if you came by looking for sweet photos and a cute story about my grandchildren, try this post  instead of the one that appears below. 

wedding kiss photo

Rich and Me. September 2, 2007.

Is it Biblical? 

Judging, I mean. My husband and I discussed it the other day. “Of course we judge,” he said. “We can’t not judge. Besides, Jesus judged, and we’re supposed to be like Jesus. We’re not to condemn anyone for their behavior, but clearly it’s Christian to identify sins.”

“I’m not so sure,” I said. We agreed to disagree and opened our dinner menus.

A few days have passed and I’m more sure. Sure I shouldn’t pronounce judgment.  My husband is a smart guy and he has a point. Of course we judge. How would we ever select a job, or a mate, or a decent babysitter if we never judged? We assess options and make choices all the time.

You might call it discernment. 

But. But. Turn to pronouncing judgment, and the question grows murkier. So. Could you please look over my thoughts, and help me see where I may have gone astray?

I keep thinking that Jesus reserved his harshest words for the hypocrites who tried to present themselves as without sin, as perfect followers of the law.. When it came to the prostitutes and tax collectors, He sat down to eat with them. It’s true that He said to the adulteress, From now on sin no more

But Jesus was both fully man and fully GodWhat if His judgments stemmed from His divinity? What if He never meant for us to tell other people, That’s a sin? What if Matthew 7 really means, no pronouncing judgment?  What if vengeance is Mine means and not yours?

How might our world look–how might our Gospel look–if instead of pronouncing our judgment on other people’s sin, we chose to focus on extinguishing our own sinfulness? 

I would be a more effective witness for my God if I never raised my voice in anger, if I never made snide or snarky remarks, if I never lost my patience.

In other words, I would be a better witness if I truly lived Romans 12, and counted on good to overcome evil. Yes, I know that chapter tells us to abhor evil. And I do believe that sin is evil.

But I also believe that if I’m going to crusade against sin, my efforts should begin with my own sin and not move beyond that target until I’ve succeeded. 

This whole conversation started after I read a blog post  written in response to a post about the fight some Christians wage against gay marriage. The “anti” posts’s author based his argument on his assertion that marriage is essentially about sex and procreation, not companionship and affection.

I wonder what he makes of Genesis 2:18:  “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.'”

But I digress. I think God smiles when we struggle hard against our own sin. I’m less convinced He’s delighted when we go around pointing a finger and calling other people names. I could quote verse after verse after verse commanding us to love, reminding us to be gentle, encouraging us to share the Good News, but I can’t find one that tells me to rant about other people’s sin.

Paul described the very first Christians as living amid a crooked and perverse generation. In closing, I’d like you to look carefully at his advice to them on that point: He didn’t tell them to denounce the sin of others. No.

He encouraged them to struggle against their own sin. I think that’s good enough for me, too. 

2 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing; 15 so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Philippians 2:1-18

 

I’m sharing over at Jennifer Dukes Lee’s place today. You’ll come by, yes? She’s hosting a book giveaway. . .  Just sayin’.

Comments

  1. True story: In college, my husband and his roommates chose Genesis 2:18 as the verse for their unofficial fraternity–The Lonely Boys–all in hopes of getting a girlfriend. The goal was to get out of the club.

    As to why I know that marriage is about more than procreation, I have only to look to my parents in my mom’s last years. She was suffering so much with cancer, and my dad was so loving and such an attentive caregiver. They modeled love for 43 years. Believe me, not all of that was rumblin’ and tumblin’.

    • Funny! I love it.

      My widowed, heartbroken father remarried last summer. Not to give away a lady’s secrets, but his bride is roughly his age. I’m reasonably sure they’re not planning on having children.

  2. I definitely understand where you’re coming from, Sheila. I’ve come to an understanding that we really and truly live in a different realm than non-believers, that we’ve been transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the Kingdom of light. I believe that’s why some get ahead and seem to grow fat and wealthy by doing all kinds of bad things, but Christians compromise and get smacked down. We are in a different kingdom with different standards. That’s why I don’t think it makes sense for me to rale against sinners as the “god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving.” In the context of community and relationship, we can and should address sin and admonish one another. Yes, we are judging and discerning and we should be, but like you said, there’s a difference between that and pronouncing a judgment. People are not so moved when you point out their sin (unless maybe to anger); they are moved when you point them to the Savior and His love. That’s what our lives are all about, that we have been crucified with Christ, we no longer live but Christ lives in us. Thanks Sheila.

    • Thanks, Jason, for your comments.
      I long for a day when we’re quickest to address our own sin. What an irresistible model of the power of the Gospel we could make, if all who believed repented and fled their own sin (And I could lead that parade, I assure you.) It seems that when it comes to admonishing our brothers and sisters, we’re more zealous (as a worldwide Church) in admonishing some sins over others. I’d like to see that discrepancy evaporate.

  3. Judgment is tricky business. Your husband is right–we are always judging, at all times making judgments about this versus that. I believe Jesus’ admonition (John 7) is a hard one: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgments.”

    And how is anybody supposed to do that? I think the same way we do anything else as His followers–with a profound sense of our inability to judge rightly which leads to a deeper sense of our dependence on God and His wisdom. It requires humility, a teachable spirit, a willingness to look at my own sin, and a willingness to admit when I’ve gotten it wrong.

    God has revealed Himself in both written word and the Living Word. And His Son is the personification of wisdom. He tells us He has given us the mind of Christ. So, yes, we should be very careful in our judgments and eager to grow in knowledge, wisdom and understanding through the full counsel of God’s word.

    My two cents.

    • Thanks, Nancy. Well said.

      I believe that certain activities should not be broadcast or handled via the interwebs, even though that technology is there for us. Some conversations are best conducted face-to-face. It helps me remember that I’m talking with a living, breathing, feeling human being, who was created in God’s image as surely as I was.

  4. Bless my heart, that’s well said. 🙂

    I knew it was all about me. So I take the liberty to apply this fully to yours truly today.

    Thank you, for the expansive permission here, my friend.

    • I confess to my own ambivalences. But I’ve yet to regret falling back on kindness and grace. Especially in light of the Sequoia in my own eye, as Linda reminds us. Blessings, my friend.

  5. Whenever I find myself being critical or judgmental, I remember that I will be judged by the same measure I judge others. It is very humbling. I am reminded, too, that I need to remove the log from my eye before I start worrying about someone else’s splinter.
    I do, however, think that we must also use a measure of discernment. I wonder if we haven’t let tolerance become so all important that we are compromising what we know to be truth. There is a time when we must take a stand for what we believe. Having said that, I still believe as you do Sheila. I am not to go around slamming others because I believe what they are doing is wrong. I need wisdom to discern the truth and a love that draws others to One who is truth.
    Not sure I’ve said that quite right 🙂 Mostly I get “tongue-tied” when it comes to the big issues.

    • Linda, that’s the most eloquent summation of it I’ve read in a long, long time:

      I need wisdom to discern the truth and a love that draws others to One who is truth.

      If that’s what you produce when you’re tongue-tied, then I’d sure like to see what you come up with when you’re at ease!

  6. Julie Williams :

    Personally I have found that the less said the better about these issues. You did it quite well. The Holy Spirit is great at bringing conviction to a persons heart about their chosen sin. I say chosen because most sin is chosen whether it be lying,hatred,murder, adultery or homosexuality. We have all been guilty of at least one if not many in our walk with God. Bless you for your words of wisdom.

  7. Jody Lee Collins :

    Sheila-thank you for putting your brave on and speaking the truth here. Light-bringer, that’s what you are.
    I concur with your other readers’ sentiments–SO well put. Bravo!

  8. Bonnie and I both read this and LOVED IT. Like that other carpenter, you hit the nail on the head.

  9. Oh my…I had a post ready about this subject going live today before I read this. I link to this post in mine. I get this…and I agree with you.

    Mary
    http://www.marybonner.net/2013/08/sawdust-plank-boulderthey-all-blind.html

  10. I spend so much time these days judging myself, I don’t have many stones left to throw at others. Nor the strength. Nor the wisdom. I do confess to lobbing a few, though, when I should be pouring love. But then I’m reminded how when I point one finger, there are four directed at me. I’m so much more aware of what kinds of issues and heart hurts may hide behind one’s behavior. I just don’t know how to recognize or address sin well.

    But you addressed this topic all brave and beautiful.

  11. wait a moment, please
    let me get this plank out of my eye

    great words, wise words

    thank you Sheila

  12. I’m with you in believing our first responsibility is to clean up our own act and let God deal with the sin of others. It’s such a difficult distinction to make… judgment versus discernment. There are so many places in scripture that suggest we are not only to set an example and point others to the truth, but also to admonish, rebuke and correct (i.e., Titus 3:10-11, 1 Tim. 5:20, 2 Tim. 4:2). But it’s always meant to be done in love, not out of self-righteousness, and for the sake of the other person, not to express our opinions. Plus I think most of those verses refer to situations when (1.) someone specifically wrongs us and we are to confront them privately, or (2.) the church elders are discovering negative behaviour among the members. I don’t have the knowledge or wisdom to speak to others’ sins. I have enough trouble dealing with my own!

    • Carol, that’s such a wise distinction you make–to act not to express our own opinions but to help someone. And yes, I think those scriptures you cite refer to engaging an individual. And yes, privately.

      I am always befuddled by the “flavor of the month” nature of the outrage against others’ sinful behavior. I’m trying to screw up my courage to really deal with that one head on.

      I’m terrified. Which tells me I probably should.

  13. I used to be so quick to judge in the name of Christ. It’s easy to look down on others for not living up to a standard you think they should be living at. Especially within the church where the “church culture” can be so thick, in some they don’t leave much room for seekers. I’ve since realized that it isn’t my place to judge others, even if it’s for the sake of setting them free from their sin. I have to worry about myself and let God handle the rest. Great post, and lots of great wisdom found here.

  14. These kinds of posts aren’t easy to write, but they’re important, as we wrestle with how to live out own faith, and how we figure out what expectations or judgments we’re placing on those in our homes, neighborhoods, churches, news feeds, and the world as a whole. Thank you for digging in, Sheila. You’ve got an enlightening discussion going on here in the comments as well.

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