What the world says:
"Christians have a narrow-minded and biased approach to fellow man that is encouraged by their belief
system. What Christians are saying is 'hate speech' propaganda."
"Christians are [whatever we disagree with]-phobic."
"Moses said, 'Eye for an eye, cheek for cheek,' but Jesus said, 'Turn the other cheek.' Aren't these contradictory? "
"You're not perfect. He who is without sin cast the first stone. Judge ye not!"
What is the truth?
Before really getting into the topic of judgment, I'd like to address some popular ideas of "phobia", tolerance, acceptance, and happiness. If someone disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle, he or she is called homophobic. This makes no sense. If one looks to the Bible and sees that the Bible concludes something is wrong and s/he agrees with what the Bible says, then that just means that s/he agrees with the Bible and disagrees with the issue in question. It doesn't mean s/he is scared of the issue. If one disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle, then refer to him or her as one who disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle, not as a homophobic, which is a misnomer. One who disagrees with the homosexual lifestyle is no more "homophobic" than s/he is "2+2=5 phobic." I do not fear 2+2=5. I disagree with it. (To look at the issue of homosexuality more specifically, please visit http://beacondeacon.com/issues/homosexuality.htm.)
Sometimes people tack on the buzzwords acceptance or tolerance when considering judgment. Tolerance is putting up with something, not necessarily agreeing with or accepting it. Did Jesus accept the Pharisees? If I had a friend who wanted to put his finger in a light socket, should I just "love" him and accept it or should I truly love him by telling him to stop and not accept it? Sometimes, love involves conflict and difficulty. Ask a parent who has to redirect or discipline a child. Thinking about my friend wanting to stick his finger in a light socket: If I hinder him, is that wrong? You would have to first hinder your friend and not accept what s/he was doing out of love, right?
Jesus is loving, but "with justice, He judges and makes war" (Revelation 19:11). Also, the Bible does talk of God's wrath. If Jesus is who He claimed to be (and He claimed to be God), then there is a wrath that comes with the package. He is merciful, but also holy. Teaching that Jesus is always soft and winks at sin as if to say, it's OK that you sin, is not Biblical. If Jesus was that soft, then there would have been no need for the Cross.
Sometimes love means we tolerate something, but not accept it. If I had a child who became a perverted stalker, I would love my child, but I wouldn't accept his or her actions. It's kind of like the phrase, "love the sinner, but hate the sin." Acceptance can be part of love, but isn't always part of love. If acceptance is always part of love, then does that mean I cannot love the oil company big wig because I can't accept the profit he is making off of the gas prices I don't accept (but have to tolerate)? I am called to love that big wig, but that doesn't mean I haven't written letters to government officials about gas/oil prices. Love that says, "anything goes" is not love at all. Love has boundaries. That means there are some things love will accept and some things love won't accept.
But wasn't America born of people from hundreds of countries, religions, ethics, beliefs and with the pursuit of happiness being of greatest importance? Doesn't that mean that we should accept everyone/everything? "Pursuit of Happiness" -- It's in the Declaration of Independence, but is there a higher standard? God's goal is not happiness, but holiness. Jesus said that in this world, we would have trouble (John 16:33). If the goal is happiness and that is most important, then that means I should aim highest for what makes me happy. That is nothing more than self-centeredness. That kind of selfishness is what ruins families. Just as the children of a man who left his wife because it was more important that he be happy. We are called to be content in all situations (Philippians 4:11), not happy. This is the difference between happiness and joy. This does not mean that happiness cannot occur, but it is very dangerous to make happiness the highest goal and standard.
Often, the story of the woman caught in adultery is used to tell people to tolerate, accept, make others happy, and more explicitly, not to judge. This is frequently coupled with Matthew 7:1: "Do not judge or you too will be judged." Yet, to judge is not necessarily to condemn. Further, Matthew 7:1 is in a context. Read verses 2-6. To summarize: We will be judged the same way we judge others. The implication is that we will judge, but hopefully we do so Biblically. The Bible outlines right and wrong. The Bible describes discernment. Matthew 7:5 mentions taking the plank out of your own eye (self-examination) so you can remove the speck from your brother's eye (which requires judgment). We are to judge, but not hypocritically. Matthew 7:6 uses the terms "dogs" and "pigs" in this context, referring to false prophets. Also note the following verses, which are a few of many verse showing when we are to judge:
- Philippians 3:2: "Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh."
- 1 John 4:1: "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world."
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21: "Test everything. Hold on to the good."
There is a place to judge, but we must do so Biblically to the glory of Christ. Our standard is Christ, not ourselves. To not judge is really to endorse ungodliness. By not speaking out, we speak indeed.
Consider these verses:
- Galatians 6:1 - gently restore someone in sin (but test your own actions first)
- 1 Corinthians 5 - expel the immoral brother
- Matthew 18:15-20 - steps for winning a wayward brother or sister
- Matthew 7:15-23 - beware of false prophets whom you will know by their fruit
- 1 John 4:1-3 - test the spirits
- 1 Thessalonians 5:21 - test all things and cling to that which is good
- 1 Corinthians 2:10-15 - The Holy Spirit reveals thoughts, words, and wisdom to us and the spiritual man judges all things
Let's look at judgment in more detail:
Exodus 21:23-25 states: "But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
So, why does Jesus do as He does in John 8:7-11? The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought an adulteress
to Jesus and said that the law says to stone her. They then asked what He had to say about it. "When they kept on
questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to
throw a stone at her.'" (verse 7). Eventually, they all dropped the stones and left. "Jesus straightened
up and asked her, 'Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?'
'No one, sir,' she said.
'Then neither do I condemn you,' Jesus declared. 'Go now and leave your life of sin.'"
Jesus showed that He can forgive. He can also condemn; He didn't leave. He chose mercy. He showed that all are sinners and showed sin to be sin whatever the sin. He showed that a person's heart change is more important than trying to please God with external rules that simply reveal to us that we are sinners. He showed that we cannot please God with our petty rules but only His forgiveness. Every life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound was taken by Jesus at the cross!
Most people would be satisfied here, but they pull this out of context to excuse sin and dismiss judgment.
Jesus doesn't condemn NOR does He condone. He made a judgment -- telling her to leave her life of sin.
In Luke 6:29, Jesus says, "If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic." Jesus fulfills the Law of Moses outlined in Exodus. He doesn't contradict it. Jesus' purpose was the cross. Every life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound was taken by Jesus at the cross! Every stone for the adulterer was taken at the cross! In Christ, she is forgiven. Jesus was the perfect penalty bearer and sacrifice. JUSTICE flows from Him. We are to enact justice in the Spirit of Christ. He does not nullify justice or the law, but carries out perfect justice and fulfills the law. The Lord says, "Vengeance is mine" (Deuteronomy 32:35). God will judge us on the basis of our relationship with Christ.
Speaking of Jesus, Lloyd J. Olgivie writes, "He was concerned about judgments of condemnation. Whenever our judgment depreciates another human being, it is wrong. This happens when we write off another person for what he has said or done. We judge him as useless" (God's Best for My Life, August 20 entry).
God is a God of justice and mercy, holiness and grace, wrath and love. With the woman caught in sin, Jesus showed mercy, but made a judgment in telling her to leave her life of sin. In the judgment of the cross, Jesus offers us mercy by enduring every eye that had to be taken for another.
We are to speak the truth (judge) in love (see Ephesians 4:15) and we are to rebuke (judge) gently so as to restore (see Galatians 6:1, 2 Timothy 4:2). Yet, how do we understand this in view of James 4:12? This verse says, "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?" Notice that God is both Lawgiver and Judge. We are not. Further, judgment may or may not include condemnation. The world often considers judgment as always meaning condemnation. Yet, judge can mean to form an opinion about; to criticize or censure; or as a noun, someone with the authority of cases. One must have authority to judge. Discernment is having good judgment.
Romans 2:1-11 offers sobering words about judgment. In this excerpt, at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself and an unrepentant heart stores up God's wrath. Ultimately, God will give to each person according to what he or she has done. Note the emphasis on repentance.
Consider these additional verses for thought and discussion:
- Proverbs 9:7-8 - look at the responses to correction
- 1 Samuel 16:7 - God looks at the heart
- Luke 12:11-12 - The Holy Spirit will give you the words
God alone condemns just as He is both Lawgiver and Judge. Remember your need and dependence instead of haughtily trying to play God and condemn others. Be humble. Judge righteously but do not condemn. Depend on God!
As you consider responses, consider the caution of some of the aforementioned verses as well as those in Romans 14:5-10, but also what Max Lucado writes in his book In the Grip of Grace (Although there are times to judge…cautiously, we are to be "fruit inspectors", not judges of the heart or those who condemn mere preferences not based on moral principles):
"We condemn a man for stumbling this morning, but we didn't see the blows he took yesterday. We judge a woman for the limp in her walk, but cannot see the tack in her shoe. We mock the fear in their eyes, but have no idea how many stones they have ducked or darts they have dodged.
Are they too loud? Perhaps they fear being neglected again. Are they too timid? Perhaps they fear failing again. Too slow? Perhaps they fell the last time they hurried. You don't know. Only one who has followed yesterday's steps can be the judge.
Not only are we ignorant about yesterday, we are ignorant about tomorrow. Dare we judge a book while chapters are yet unwritten? Should we pass a verdict on a painting while the artist still holds the brush? How can you dismiss a soul until God's work is complete?"
Also consider the words of 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 (NASB):
"For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. Remove the wicked man from among yourselves."
This does not mean we don't make statements in society or be a witness or live out the Christian life before the world. Just know that the world is not mindful of the things of God. And while we must have a good answer or response in season and out of season, we cannot argue anyone into Heaven. Only God changes the heart. So, we can "judge" by differing from the world, but really must reserve direct judgment for matters within the church.
In considering what's being said, truth and the Bible, how are we to respond to the world when the world says, "Christians are intolerant" or "Jesus teaches acceptance" or "What Christians say is judgmental hate speech that shows they are ________-phobic" or "It is wrong to judge" or "He who is without sin cast the first stone" (out of context) or "Judge ye not lest ye be judged" or "The Bible is contradictory with eye for an eye and turn the other cheek"?
How are tolerance and acceptance the same or different?
What is God's goal for people? (Is God's goal for you happiness? Or holiness?)
If someone is called ____phobic, does that mean that he or she truly has anxiety about ______?
If I disagree with you as to what the best movie is, does that make me phobic in regards to your movie?
If you had a friend who was going to do something self-destructive, would you accept that or try to deter it? Why?
What are some things that true love won't accept? tolerate?
Is judgment the same as condemnation? discernment?
If I say the sky is pink and you say it's blue, does that make my saying it is pink hate speech? Or would I be blue-phobic?
Are disagreement and hate synonymous?
Is it judging to refer to something as "hate speech?"
After Jesus said to accusers of the woman caught in sin, "He who is without sin cast the first stone," what did He say to the woman? Was He OK with her sin or did He say something about it? Did Jesus make a judgment?
Is there a right place and time to judge? If so, where and when?
If we don't speak out on an important issue, have we really made a judgement by not speaking?
What experience in your past cause you to conclude that Christians are ______-phobic or judgmental? Were you hurt by these experiences?
If you could find someone who would listen to your past or hurts due to being judged, what would you share?
Which response is the most engaging so that it may bring discourse and productive discussion, perhaps even to presenting the Gospel? What are some other possible responses that promote discourse?