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. Who RU2 Judge?

7. WHO RU2 JUDGE?

http://thestream.us/~thestrea/cms-assets/images/928077.whojudge.jpgIn February 2012 I did a series of 8 sermons on this topic. The reason I did it was because I believe that this is one of the most wicked sins in the life of the church alongside the sin of slander, that is too often permitted and even encouraged by the behaviour of their leaders. Even churches that claim to be Biblically driven, overlook these sins, and the leaders set themselves up as the standard for believers to follow and judge those that do not meet there own unbiblical requirements, based on preferences, legalism, tradition and culture. These four areas are presented as Biblical, and verses in the Bible are forced out of context to imply what they want it to imply. Many times the clever manipulation of the text based on prejudice and presumptions are hailed as great Biblical teaching, and those who do not come up to the standard are judged and more than often slandered.

There is a feeling amongst many theologians that this issue of judgment and what the Bible says about it is “the mother of all Biblical misrepresentations”.

As we work through this series on misquoted verses I am once again reminded of the age old statement that we “must not twist scripture lest we be like the devil.” Remember that it was Satan who first in the garden twisted the words of God and that has never stopped.

So for this study we are drawn to one of the most frequently misused verse in the Bible which is without question, Matthew 7:1. Often misstated as “Judge Not.” or “Jesus said don’t judge, or who are you to judge?”

Now, more than often based on this verse Christians are told that they are not allowed to judge and this verse is thrown into their face. The most humorous aspect of the misuse of this verse is that it invariable occurs in such a way that the person misusing the verse, in referencing it, actually declares a judgment on the person they feel is being judgmental. Hypocrisy much? Someone will say, “You’re being judgmental. Jesus said don’t judge.” And in their pronouncing a person as judgmental, they too have judged. Additionally, if you’re perceptive enough you will notice as well that Jesus Himself is passing judgment here on those who improperly judge. Clearly this interpretation of this verse doesn’t make sense.

The verse actually reads: Matthew 7:1 (ESV) 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged.”

Now reading those few words alone seems to destroying any right for any believer to judge anything which actually is in conflict with the teachings of the rest of the New Testament. But, you cannot read those words alone. Its immediate context is seen in Matthew 7:1-5 (ESV) 1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Now, there are two ways in which we can approach the context of this verse. Firstly we can obviously look at it in its immediate grammatical environment. Secondly, because we are dealing with Jesus Christ here, we can look at it in the context of the rest of what Christ says. The question we can ask with sincerity is: “does Jesus contradict Himself.”

Does Christ imply that we are not allowed to correct our brothers? Well, let’s look at a few verses that will help us.

John 7:24 (ESV)24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.”

Matthew 7:16 (ESV) 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” You are basically judging them by their fruit.

Luke 17:3 (ESV) 3 Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him,” This requires judgment.

Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV) 15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” So, you are allowed to show your brother his fault.

So, clearly for Christ the issues is not judging, but the issue is the behaviour, the life, the example, the attitude and the heart of the one expressing judgment on a particular issue. This will then fit in context with what Jesus says in Matthew 7:5 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

Christ’s problem in context was with self-righteous judgmental people namely the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees who would judge everybody while their own lives were a religious mess.

Now, as mentioned before, I did a whole series of 8 sermons on this subject which you can study on our website. It has been released in book form as well and can be obtained from us. The website address is:

http://www.logoscc.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=68&Itemid=113

Judging the behaviour of my neighbour has for ever been and will for ever be, and you have the right to do that. Christ is simply cranking up the standard by which we do that. He is dealing with the heart of the person judging more than the heart of the person being judged. It does not help you judge others in self-righteousness while your own life is a mess. If things were to be left at that, guess what, you as the judge will be sorting out everybody else’s life, while your own is in chaos. But judging is as old as the hills. Leviticus 19:15 (ESV) 15 “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour.” It is that righteousness that the Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees missed in what Jesus said. His damnation is upon their self-righteousness by which they judged others. Matthew 7:2-5 (ESV) sorts that out: “2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

The problem was not their right to judge or not, the problem was the log in their eyes. If they had God’s righteousness then they will be able to, and are allowed to take the speck out of their brother’s eyes. And let me add immediately that we are not talking about sinless perfection. John is clear on this in 1 John 1:8 (ESV) 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” So, if only those who are sinless can judge, then we must conclude that nobody can.

The false doctrine of sinless perfectionism teaches that there is some point following conversion when the believer’s sin nature is eradicated. But according to 1 John 1:8 as well as the Apostle Paul’s treatment of the subject in Philippians 3:12–16, perfection in this life is only a goal, not an achievement. We must pursue it, but we’ll never attain it while on earth. Paul denied perfectionism by calling us to pursue a prize that can be fully obtained only in heaven. He confessed that he himself had not reached perfection—and he wrote to the Philippians nearly thirty years after his conversion! He was perhaps the most committed Christian who ever lived. If after thirty years he wasn’t perfect, certainly none of us should claim to be. True righteousness is a lifelong process that we will never achieve, but we are not deterred by that fact and we always chase after it.

So, again, and I think you get the point now. The intention behind the words of Christ is simply this. Matthew 7:1 is not a warning against the judging of any action or behaviour. It is a warning against self-deception, self-righteousness, and hypocrisy, and then judging your brother for his sins, while your own life is in a mess.  If you are going to correct someone then you must expect to be held to the same standard, and you will be judged with the same standard. Now, here is an interesting thing with which theologians struggle. But I believe they struggle with it, because like so many they are reading their own preconceived ideas into the text. Matthew 7:2 (ESV) 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”

Commonly people simply imply that this is talking about the Great White Throne Judgment or the Judgment of God. I don’t believe that we can read the text this way. This is not a futuristic threat, because what will God’s judgment me? It will be, enter into my rest or stay out, plain and simple. God is surely not going to sit on the throne and say, now let me see, Nicki judged somebody unrighteously and it cost that person their job or money or joy or whatever, so now, Nicki must lose his job, money or joy or whatever. Think of the implications of such a belief. Heaven will become an eternal nightmare instead on an eternal joy. I believe that the reference here is easier read as an immediate reaction. If you judge or treat people with harshness, you can expect to be judged harshly.  If you judge with gentleness and good intent, your brothers and sisters are more likely to return the kindness. In a sense, what you sow you will reap.

Paul addresses the how in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV) 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.”

And then one of my favourite verses is seen in Galatians 6:1 (ESV) 1 Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” This verse in essence summarises the words of Christ. “Keep watch over yourself”, can mean – “take the beam out of your own eye”, then restore your brother gently, because the same judgment with which you judge others you will be judged.

I believe that deals with the text in context. It is easy, but it is so easily misquoted and abused by those who do not want to stand under correction. Those who tell you that you are not allowed to judge at all will often quote the words of Jesus alongside the other favourite statement. “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

So, Christ does not say that you cannot judge, He simply says that you must keep on sorting out your own life, so that you can see clearly and judge fairly, otherwise, if you were to judge with unrighteous judgement, you can expect the same to come your way.

Let me now share some general thoughts on the topic of judgement and these are the notes of an article I wrote preceding the sermon series “Who RU2 Judge?”

GENERAL THOUGHTS ON JUDGMENT

Since the fall in Genesis, our sinful nature manifests itself as an urge to know better than God, and in fact, an urge to replace God with ourselves. This is the root cause of all self-righteousness that Jesus unveiled and deconstructed so effectively in His ministry. In Romans 14:1-12, self-righteousness takes on the form of judging others. The warning is clear: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” (14:4); “You then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.” (14:10).

This passage points out how quickly we want to take God’s place as judge when differences of opinion occur between us. We are all too eager to justify and rationalise our own perspectives with an argument that puts God on our side, and then judge others who think different from us that they have not seen the light the way we do. The bottom line is that we are not God, and that “each of us will give an account of himself to God” (14:12) who is the One who will ultimately make the judgment. Do you carry any judgment of others in your heart? Can you embrace difference rather than slander about it?

If there is one issue in life that saps our energies and hinders our service to the Lord it is legalism and judgment of others.

Could it be, maybe, that we’re all too quick to put people into boxes based on the limited knowledge we have of their motives, actions, values, and situations? We’re so prone to judge people on so little evidence: on the basis of one bad day or a few careless words, a poor choice made in a weak moment, a disagreement or a personality idiosyncrasy. We shove them in our mental boxes and bolt down the lids: liar, thief, cheater, sexually immoral, heretic, selfish, failure and sinner.

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged,” Jesus once cautioned. The reason he gives, emphasises what a double-standard it is when we pigeonhole people a little too efficiently and expeditiously: “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” None of us want to be placed in a box based on a few of our worst actions. We all prefer to be evaluated, if at all, on our entire body of work. Jesus just reminds us to extend that same courtesy to those with whom we share life. What Jesus reminds us of, is that we don’t see people as just the sum total of their bad decisions and less-than-greatest moments? Even as we hold people accountable for their actions, we can recognise that they’re more than the sum of their actions. And even when we come into contact – as we will – with people who have elevated wrongdoing to an art form, He reminds us that it’s too much like the world and too little like Him to slap a label on that person and dismiss him or her as irredeemably and irretrievably broken.

James reminds us in no uncertain terms that there’s only one who’s qualified to be accuser, judge and jury, only one who can be trusted to truthfully evaluate hearts and minds. He will save and destroy.Who are you to judge your neighbour? he asks. That’s a reasonable question, isn’t it? Who, exactly, am I to sit in judgment on anyone?

As I write this article, I realise that I’m a person who’s made my share of bad decisions. I have done things that I’ve regretted and confessed of, and probably a few things I should have regretted and didn’t. I’m aware enough of my own failures that I feel pretty sure that, given less-ideal circumstances than the ones I enjoy, I might very well have made even worse choices. Given all that, I need to be very cautious about treating anyone else in way that keeps them perpetually on the hook for every sin they’ve ever committed. I don’t want to spend my life in someone’s convenient box for my sins, and I’m certainly grateful God hasn’t treated me that way. I’m grateful that he sees value in me in spite of the sinful things I’ve done and the good things I haven’t. How else can I show that gratitude but by giving others the grace I’ve received. I know that I have not only borne the brunt of inappropriate and sinful judging, but that I have dished it out on many occasions through my life. But whether you give or receive, the glory of God is tarnished and the work of the Kingdom is frustrated.

In spite of whom and what I am, God has shown me grace, because that’s what it is not to pass judgment: grace. To say to someone, in words and actions, “In spite of what you’ve done I see and celebrate the image of God in you” – that’s a great gift to give. That’s not to say we celebrate or wink at sin or embrace the sinner with a shoulder hug that says, ‘it is okay what you are doing, because you are my brother. You are in my party, and in our party we do not judge each other, no we reserve it for the others’. It’s not to say we don’t mourn the way the image of God in a person can be so warped and obscured by sin. In the end, we choose not to pass judgment because in doing so we human beings almost always overlook the potential for good that exists in all of God’s children, and we forget the potential we all have to sin, even in ways far worse. And that’s an affront to our Creator.

Maybe there’s someone you need to let off the hook. You need to open the box you’ve placed them in and let them out. Maybe just in your heart, to start with – but rest assured that choice will affect the way you treat that person, talk about them, and think about them. You’ll start to see how much they matter to God, and you’ll start to imagine what God can do with them and in them.

The call on us is very simple – do not pass judgement before the time, and do not go beyond what is written.

Trust Him to judge. He will judge rightly, and at the right time.

And you won’t want to change a thing. Rather, learning to identify and avoid these problems will help us promote peace and joy in the body of Christ, and is that not what we want?

CHRISTIAN, THERE IS A HIGHER THRONE, AND WE ARE NOT ON IT.

It will not be Buddah, or Allah, or your boss at work, or any one of us, but our Lord himself who is on the throne and before Him we bow as the eternal judge.

For the rest on this topic, again refer to my series of 8 sermons:

http://www.logoscc.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&id=68&Itemid=113