Please enjoy a guest post this week from my very first blog follower.
Judging is such an integral part of human nature that we are constantly confronted with it and yet rarely register it for what it is. Just this past week I have heard judgmental statements such as…
“They thought that with their man in the White House, their problems would be solved. As they saw their world slipping away, they acted in ignorant desperation.”
“I don’t have the motivation that most people have, so I struggle to be successful in competition with others who haven’t had the obstacles I’ve had.”
“The people responsible for these bad decisions are in some high-rise office building in Europe, and although they may deserve it, nothing I do is going to hurt them.”
OK, that last one was actually something I said. I don’t claim to be above all this or to have mastered it. But I do have a few thoughts to share that I hope might be helpful. Judging can backfire on us. But we don’t have to walk through life completely passive. We need to be engaged. So…how?
As Christians, we must let God be the Judge. He is the only one qualified to pass judgment. If we are going to make judgments against others, or ourselves, we can only judge what God reveals to us to judge.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)
So I will start with that somewhat vague premise and explore how it might apply to daily life. Here are five things to avoid.
Don’t Take the Law Into Your Own Hands
Any judgments we make on God’s behalf are going to be for redemptive purposes, not for punishment or condemnation. I shouldn’t starve myself because I judge that I am too fat, withhold affection from my spouse to show disapproval, name-call a public figure because of decisions I disagree with, or hold bitterness in my heart in hopes that it will hurt someone who hurt me.
I have been guilty–more than once–of angrily taking God’s law into my own hands when I thought He might let someone’s offense slip through the cracks unpunished. But as our premise verse James 4:12 clearly states, that is not my place. I can be at peace knowing that God is a righteous judge who sees all.
Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. (Romans 12:19)
Don’t Judge the Sinner, Just the Sin
This can seem like a game of semantics, but I do try to walk this fine line. I can judge some actions or circumstances as sinful, but not people. Isn’t it true that from a Christian perspective, all believers are declared righteous and all unbelievers are not, regardless of their actions? We can’t accurately judge another person’s motives. We can’t judge their heart. So for example, I can say fear is not part of God’s plan for Suzie, but I am out of bounds if I say Suzie is a hypocrite because she isn’t trusting God.
Don’t Go Rogue
Lord knows, this is an imperfect world where I must work to maintain a spiritual perspective while wrestling with my old nature. We often struggle to hear the Lord’s voice clearly amidst the clamor of life. Any one of us can be confused or uninformed, or misinterpret what God has revealed. I think that’s one reason that the Bible encourages us to rule together. References such as “bring it to the assembly,” “be united in the same mind and the same judgment,” and “decisions reached by the apostles and elders” point to this principle. God instructs us to confront people, lead assemblies, and minister to each other in groups. Don’t be a renegade.
Don’t Be a Know-It-All
I can judge some actions and circumstances as being outside of God’s design, but I will never know the full extenuating or mitigating circumstances. As finite humans we cannot fathom all of the factors that played into a situation. So we can never accurately assign blame or determine culpability.
The Bible clearly labels certain acts as sin, but for every one of those, I can name a dozen that aren’t mentioned in scripture at all. Adultery, murder, and lying are denounced many times. But nowhere will we find that God slams watching R-rated movies, changing jobs, or attending a school dance.
And it might help to keep in mind that we don’t know all the ways that God might use bad circumstances for His own good purposes.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)
Don’t Outrun the Long Arm of the Legal System
I watch a lot of crime documentaries on TV, and I’m fascinated with the amount of reverence shown to judges in our legal system. Who else in our society commands as much personal respect as a judge in his or her courtroom? Even our president isn’t referred to as “Your Honor.”
Our view of judges is a dim reflection of the ultimate respect and submission that we owe to the one true Heavenly Judge. Government was established by God for our own sake. When God’s people resisted personal contact with Him and asked for rules instead, He obliged. He gave them the Law and judges were appointed. For Christians and non-Christians alike, the legal system is valid for pronouncing judgments and sentences when society’s laws are broken.
Just remember that judgments which God reveals for us to make on His behalf as Christians will be in love, not anger. U.S. judges wear black robes reminiscent of doom and gloom. But our God is in the business of life and hope. Our Savior wears a robe dipped in blood, with His name written on it: King of Kings and Lord of Lords.