My church has been spending a lot of time in Luke 6 lately, specifically 6:37:
"Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon and you will be pardoned"
The key difficulty I have seen here is what, exactly, it means to judge. When answering that question, the first, vitally important point that you have to get is that stating a fact is NOT judging. Common sense should tell you this (although you do have to be careful with common sense, as God often doesn't use it, but that's a whole different blog post) - that is, if I was to say that I am a male member of the human race, and I am married to Rebecca, a female member of the human race, no sane person would for a second think I am judging. Because I'm not - I'm simply stating a fact.
Continuing on this train of thought, it is also vitally important to realize that what is and is not fact has absolutely nothing to do with what people believe. For years, EVERYONE believed that the sun revolved around the earth, and the earth was flat. Anyone who dared to question these beliefs was treated as a heretic. Of course, as we all know today, that didn't in any way mean the earth WAS flat, or that the people who claimed the earth revolved around the sun were wrong. Furthermore, if we were to consider what people believed when deciding what is, and is not fact, where do you draw the line? 10%? 50%? 75%? you're almost never going to get 100%, and even when you do such as with flat earth at one time, it has been proven that that is unreliable, so that's out, and obviously drawing a line anywhere else is unfeasible.
And finally, perhaps the most important stop on this line of thought, although perhaps also the most controversial: God (specifically, the God of the Bible) IS. Totally apart from what I, or anyone else believes, God is. and if God is, then God's word, as written in the Bible, is true. As such, speaking the word of God, as written in the Bible, is speaking truth. More to the point, if the word of God says that xyz is a sin, then xyz IS a sin, and saying that someone who is doing xyz is sinning is simply stating a fact.
So, to summarize the above:
- Stating a fact is NOT judging
- What is, or is not, a fact has NOTHING to do with what people believe.
- What God's word says as fact IS in fact, fact
- as such, stating Gods word, such as "if you are doing xyz then you are sinning" IS NOT judging.
In fact, there are passages that indicate we should do just that. For example, Ephesians 5:11:
Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them
Ok, so we have learned that speaking a fact is not judging, and that as such exposing a sin as a sin is not only not judging, but is actually something that we are instructed to do. So what then IS judging? Well, for the simplest example of that, I would say look at our judicial system. Flawed as it may be in any number of ways (not going there), it does define judging fairly well. For our purposes, there are three segments. The first is the law - in our analogy the Bible/words of God - which defines what is, and is not, wrong. Secondly there is the jury who decides if the accused did or did not do the thing in question. And then, finally there is the judge, who (obviously) judges. The important things to note here is that neither the law, nor the jury, judges. That is, stating that something is wrong (the law) is not judging, nor is stating that someone has done something that the law says is wrong (the jury). In fact, it is only what the judge does that is judging. So what does the judge do? He passes sentence.
And that, I believe, is the answer - judging is passing sentence on someone. Whether it is "you are a dirty rotten sinner, and as such I will have nothing to do with you" or simply "you are going to have to put up with me berating you every time I see you", if you take the sin the person is doing and use it as an excuse to pass some sort of sentence on them, then you are judging. Simply calling someone out on their sin, however is not judging - that is simply stating a fact. Of course, though, it is also vitally important to remember that any calling out of sin needs to be done with love - otherwise, that statement of fact can easily turn into a condemnation, which is of course just as bad as judgement (in fact, it is stated in the same sentence). Condemnation, however, is all about HOW something is stated, so that shouldn't cause a problem.
One objection I have heard to the above is "how are we to know what is fact? What if we are wrong? What if, in the other persons belief system, it is NOT wrong? Who are we to say it is?" To which I respond, if you will pardon the crudity, GROW A PAIR! In the end,when you have two conflicting viewpoints, one (or perhaps both) of them is wrong. Ok, so there often is shades of grey as well - both viewpoints are partly right - but trying to figure out all the nuances can drive you crazy. Ultimately, you have to decide for yourself what is right, and then stick to it. I choose the word of God. If I am wrong, that's between me and God, and he will deal with me on it, or, hopefully, someone else will have the guts to point out that I am wrong, and why (since that is not judging). As usual, the Bible says it best:
…I wish that you were cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. (Rev 4:15b-16)
Believing that something is wrong for you, but may not be wrong for someone else simply because they have a different belief system, or because you MIGHT be wrong, is to my mind the very definition of being lukewarm.Take a stand! Sure, you might fall on occasion, and sin, but that's what forgiveness is for! Repent, apologize to the person you sinned against, and move on!
Another objection I have heard goes along the lines of "the world already thinks we are very judgmental, so we need to be very careful about that". Um….NO. To go back to luke 6 that started this whole thing:
Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat false prophets in the same way. (Luke 6:26)
Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. (Luke 6:22-23a)
So the world thinks I am judgmental because I stand up for right and wrong, because I declare the word of God? I will be glad and leap for joy! What the world thinks of us is NOT a concern of ours. Our only concern should be following the word of God. If we do that, then there is a VERY good chance the world WILL think poorly of us. See Matthew 10:22, Luke 21:17, John 15:18, 1 Pet 4:14-16, 1 Thess 3:4, and 2 Tim 3:12, just to name a few (thank you Toni :-) ). It's when the world STOPS thinking we are judgmental, evil, a thing to be reviled, THAT is when we need to start worrying that we are doing something wrong.
Of course, one thing that can't be forgot in any of this is love. Everything we do needs to be done with love - you don't just go out and start beating people over the head with the word of God. But as long as we are speaking the truth, in love, we are not judging - even if the world says otherwise.
In closing, I would like to leave you with these two quotes from the Carman song "Radically saved"
Wimpy saints won't survive in spiritual warfare
Choose you this day, tell me who will you serve?
Now's the time to stand up. Gotta let your voice be heard.
You gotta come out from among the rest.
You gotta tell the gospel tale.
You tell 'em:
black is black & white is white;
& hell is hot & sin ain't right;
God is holy; Christ is coming & righteousness will prevail!