I am a believer in God and a Christian, so these words reflect my own faith in God. I use the Bible in this article to demonstrate my beliefs. In recent days we have heard the word “judge” thrown around quite a bit. To frustration or elation with Supreme Court judges, to accusations of people saying we are judging, to affirmations that we are not to judge others, I think it is about time we talk about judgment.
There are many kinds of judgment, both active and passive. There are two types of passive judgment. When a million people do something wrong, and one person stands up against that wrong, his actions by default judges the million. In Matthew 12:41 Jesus talks of how the men of Nineveh would judge the evil generation of his own day. This type of passive judgment is based upon actions and lifestyle.
A second kind of passive judgment is based simply upon a decision. When people decide to reject something good or beneficial, they by their very decision judge themselves to be unworthy of those benefits. In Acts 13:46, Paul uses judgment in this passive way: “It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.” People who do not respond to the message of Jesus Christ judge themselves.
The next two types of judgment are active, and speak to the current debate over the redefinition of marriage. God is the only one who truly knows each human being inside and out to form an accurate judgment of their life. God is the only one whose judgment will matter in the eternal long run. Only God can weigh the righteousness of humans to rightly accept or reject people in the end.
We as Christians are never to judge anyone in such a way as God. We do not hold the gavel. We cannot dispense salvation. We don’t know the facts. When we Christians talk of not judging the gay community, this is the sense in which we (should) talk about judging.
However, there is another type of active judgment. We are called to evaluate truth and behavior and differentiate between ethical and sinful actions. We are responsible to understand what sin is and is not. The problem (being highlighted in this recent controversy) comes when a person tells me that I am not to judge them, meaning that I am not to use my mental faculties to determine if their actions violate moral standards. Granted, one’s standard may be different than another’s, and a person with the secular mindset of the world would not judge certain actions to be wrong by their standard. But when my standard is the revealed will of God as I understand it in the Bible, it certainly will affect how I feel about behavior, no matter who is doing the behaving.
Of course we are not to judge in a sense like we have the inside track on how God feels about a situation. We are not to judge as if we have the power to determine someone else’s eternal fate. But when it comes to judging ethical behavior, we certainly must be judges. Even people who claim that Christians should not judge the LGBT community still acknowledge that they believe in the reality of sexual immorality and recognize it as sin.
Jesus himself in John 7:24 affirms that we should not judge by appearances, but “judge with a right judgment.” Jesus came to take away our sins, not our brains. Paul reminds the church in First Corinthians 5:12, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Christians must use their God given, Spirit empowered tools of discernment to make correct “judgments” about which human behaviors are ethical, and even here, we are not to get embroiled in arguments with people of a worldly culture who could care less about the ethics of the Bible. It looks so foolish to see citizens of God’s Kingdom arguing with non-Christians about ethical issues. But when these issues are present within the community of faith, we are certainly called to “judge” which actions must be addressed.
So when the world screams at us Christians for “judging” them, don’t buy the argument wholesale. Yes, leave judgment in the hands of God. The world may try to say Christians need to get over our prejudice and accept their behavior. We may never understand how people of the world can see their actions as being acceptable, but then, the world will never understand why we feel that way we do about ethics until they surrender their lives to the God who is the author of true holiness.