Last week's newsletter was part 1 of a series on Judging. (If you missed it, please click here
.) Today we continue to survey the different types of judging in the New Testament.
VII. JUDGING HEARTS AND MOTIVES (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)
This is highly problematic. Yes, out of the mouth comes the overflow of the heart, so there may be some clues to what is going on in someone's heart or mind, and yet Proverbs says that only a person of understanding can draw out the innermost intent (20:5). Paul adds that he does not even judge himself. Let's not get tied in knots trying to analyse everybody—including ourselves!
VIII. DISCIPLINARY JUDGING (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)
Church discipline requires that action be taken when serious sin is affecting the congregation. This may include expelling the unrepentant.
IX. JUDGING DISPUTES (1 Corinthians 6:2)
This requires judgment (discernment). The apostle assumes that Christians have the collective wisdom to settle their own disputes—without going public.
X. CRITICAL JUDGING (James 4:11-12)
Grumbling—for example, rich Christians complaining against poor Christians, or vice versa—is wrong. We are not to judge others in a critical, destructive manner (Ephesians 4:29). Before I correct someone else, I need to examine my heart (as far as that is possible), to know whether I am trying to guide, help, or educate in love, or whether my intention is to defeat, tear down, and humiliate (in pride and arrogance).
XI. INTERPRETING THE SCRIPTURES (1 Corinthians 10:15, 11:13)
We are all encouraged to correctly study and interpret God's word. This entails exercising judgment.
XII. DOCTRINAL NIT-PICKING (Colossians 2:16)
Some people deny that others are saved on the basis of inconsequential or outmoded doctrines—in this case, observance of the Sabbath or rules about kosher foods. The central teachings of Scripture indicate the core doctrines; not all biblical teachings are equally important, or essential for salvation. This is not to say that we should refuse to 'draw the line' when it comes to such key doctrines as the one body, spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, and God mentioned in Ephesians 4:3-6. The Bible is too long, the lost are too many, and life is too short for us to get bogged down in non-issues.
John 3:16 was too short a snippet to lead most people to repentance, granted. But at least it said something. Matthew 7:1, in the hands of most who wield it nowadays, says nothing at all. Apathy masquerades as tolerance. Or, as someone put it, “The fellow who boasts about his open mind may only have a vacant one.”
How should we handle when someone (often a non-believer) corrects us and tells us not to judge? Here are some suggestions. Ask them, “Do you know what Jesus was teaching by saying that?” They may not know. You explain, “Jesus did not want us to be hypocrites. He wanted us to look at our own life and clean it up in order to be able to help others compassionately.” Then ask, “Are you aware that Jesus used that very statement to teach us how to render a clear judgment and to help others change best?” They will most likely not be aware of this, and this should take the discussion to a more productive level.
In our modern era, taking a stand for anything (conclusively) is ungracious! Yet we have seen that the common plea, "Judge not!" is a gross oversimplification! We all must make many judgments every day. Let's be sure we are doing it in the right spirit. Judge Not!
* Forbidden forms of judgment include hypocritical judging, superficial judging, condemning in opinion matters, final judgment, judging motives, critical judging, and doctrinal nit-picking.
* Acceptable forms of judgment include discerning who is receptive to the gospel, making a "right" judgment, making a general assessment, disciplinary judgment, judging disputes, and interpreting the Scriptures correctly.
“Judge not!” is this often a simplistic (and evasive) move to exonerate oneself. Christians are called to judge wisely, beginning with ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5).
Next week: We'll turn out attention to the related topic of "tolerance."