CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
Here Comes the Judge, Part 2
By Rebekah Largent
I've always found it fairly easy to chide myself and change the way I think when it comes to judging non-Christians. As I mentioned in "Here Comes the Judge, Part 1," non-believers don't have the Holy Spirit living in them to convict them and give them a supernatural love for others. So when I'm set to judge them, I can often rein myself in without too much trouble.
But judging other Christians—now that's a different matter. One of the most tricky and insidious issues in the church today is our individual and corporate judgment of those who hold the same faith we do. We blow up over what we deem to be "important" issues, or quietly whisper about smaller matters—citing our "Christian concern" as a defense of our judgment and gossip.
It does seem natural to judge other Christians. After all, they should know better! And the pride that's such a strong part of our sin nature gives us the urge to compare our level of Christianity with that of others. It feels good to know that we would never do something like what that other Christian did. We can be proud of our own church, saying it's the only truly biblically based congregation in town. And we're always relieved when we're not the single parents or alcohol addicts or workaholics.
I fall into the judgment trap more often than I'd like to admit. My ugly inner sneer can lurk just below the surface when it comes to other Christians. How dare they? Don't they know what the Bible says about that?!
But in spite of the feeling that we can, and even should, judge other Christians, it's still a sin. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians, God's Word says, "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought" (1 Corinthians 1:10). First Peter 1:14, 22 says, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance…now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." This isn't a request. It's a command for how we should live as God's children.
God's great enemy, Satan, would like nothing more than to rip apart the unity in the church. The idea that it's okay to judge each other comes from him—not God. This is not saying that we should allow blatant sin to go on. In fact, Jesus addressed that during His ministry: "If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses'" (Matthew 18:15–16). Note that, even though we are to address sin and the legitimate wrongs other people have done us, we're supposed to go directly to that person first. We're not to sit there judging them and becoming bitter for what he or she has done. And we're certainly not to start gossiping about them.
If I contribute in any way to the church, I want to contribute in a way that builds others up. If I'm harboring secret judgment about people, it will eventually come out—whether that's by my words, actions, or even in the amount of attention I give them. Even if I don't turn my judgment into gossip or unkindness, I'm still building up a case against someone in my heart. The only way through or past that is in prayer. It's so important to give over our judgment of other people to God, since only He can truly judge a person's heart (1 Samuel 16:7).
In everything we do, let it be in love. After all, love "covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
Image Credit: Rae Allen; "Themis"; Creative Commons
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Published on 5-3-13