Judgement is a concept often associated with religion. Christians and non-christians alike are offended by the idea of judgement. The thought that someone else could possibly call me to account is an anathema to our fiercely independent and often self-righteous world view.
People outside of the church will cry “Only God can judge me!” While those within the church will piously misquote scripture to each other saying, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” or “Judge not lest you be judged”.
Of course judgement does have a place in true Christianity. Certainly a faithful preacher will warn from scripture about the judgement of God. There is of course a coming judgement, and those who self righteously cry out “Only God can judge me” will in fact find out that He will.
All of us will face the judgement of God. Once in the matter of salvation, and once in the matter of our works and service while we are on this earth. Christians who are wise will prepare for both!
The fact that God will ultimately judge us all is without question, but what about the issue of judgement here on earth?
The world accuses the church of being critical and judgmental. Christians accuse each other of being critical and judgmental. So what does the Bible have to say to us?
After John 3:16 I think this of verse on judgement is the most quoted verse by Christians and non-Christians alike.
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
People familiar with the Bible will often use the illustration of the woman caught in adultery to make the point that we should not judge one another.
I think part of the problem is that we have confused judgement with accountability. The word that is translated “judge” in Matthew means to “pass judgement,” or “to condemn”. In that respect the world is partly correct. Only God has the authority to pass judgment or to condemn someone for their sin.
There is a difference between calling FOR judgement and calling someone OUT FROM judgement.
In the story of the woman caught in adultery the Pharisees were calling for her condemnation, they had passed their own judgement upon her and they were looking to call down Gods judgement too. Of course all of this was a ruse to try and trick Jesus.
Whereas in Matthew 18 and Galatians 6 we find the motive is to draw someone out from under judgement.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.”
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”
This to me is the key!
Is your motive accusation or compassion? Condemnation or conviction? To confirm someone’s bondage or to set them free?
If you check your heart and motive you will quickly discover if you are passing judgement, or if you are genuinely holding someone Biblically accountable.
This is not an exhaustive study on judgement. Perhaps in a future piece I will talk about how we have lumped good and necessary concepts like discretion, discernment, accountability, and provoking one another to good works, all under the banner of judgment. Of course we should also look at the concept of church discipline too, but in general it is sufficient to say that Christians ought not to be passing judgement on one another, but we most certainly ought to be challenging each other to walk worthy of our calling.