Saturday, August 10, 2013

We Should Judge Our Own Decisions, Not the Guilt of Others

God gives us responsibilities, and to carry out those responsibilities we have to make decisions and choices. God requires that we make choices in this life, not only choices about right and wrong, but choices in how we carry out the business of living. Often we have to make judgments about other people to make those choices and decisions. We may have to hire an employee. Two applicants apply for the job, but we can only hire one. Which one do we hire? We choose who we will marry. We choose what Church of God fellowship to attend or support. Someone invites us someplace, and we have to say yes or no. We may have a job offer from two companies - which one do we accept? We may be accepted at two colleges, which one will we choose? A pastor must choose who in his congregation will give sermonettes, who will lead songs, who will serve in various capacities, and if someone is asked to serve, he must choose to say yes or no. He must balance his responsibilities to serve with his responsibilities to care for his family.

Many choices have nothing to do with judging other people and their qualifications and character, but many choices do, and we may have to judge others before we make a decision. So in choosing a wife or a husband, a person has to judge their compatibility. In judging whether to hire someone, an employer must judge his or her qualifications as well as character. And so on.

Sometimes, in judging others before making a decision, we have to know something about their character to be able to estimate the results of our decision. If I know something about a prospective employee's past performance, I can estimate what his future performance will be if I hire him, for example. If you are dating someone and you see that person's behavior in a wide variety of situations over a long period of time, you will be better able to judge what their behavior is likely to be if you marry that person.

It is not wrong to form judgments about a person's character when you are making a decision that requires that you know his or her character to make a wise decision. It is not wrong to notice that some people seem to be easily angered. We have to know that in order to apply Proverbs 22:24-25: "Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul." We are instructed not to be friends with people given to anger, but to obey this we have to judge and discern who is given to anger.

It is not wrong to avoid the company of those who would harm us. It is not wrong to judge others to know if being in their presence can harm us, spiritually or physically. It is not wrong to avoid dangerous situations. "A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3).

We should, with the wisdom and foresight God has given us and continues to give us, anticipate the results of our choices, to discern the best we can the consequences that are likely to result from various courses of action, so that we may chose a course of action that leads to good results.

What loving and wise parent does not teach his or her teenage children to avoid making the wrong kinds of friends, to avoid the company of those who have a bad influence on those around them? Likewise, God teaches us to avoid those that will draw us away from Him and His way of life or may do long-term physical, emotional, or spiritual harm to us. But to do this we have to judge other people. We have to judge what kind of people they are, what their character is like, what their habits of thinking, speaking, and acting are.

We also have a responsibility to judge ourselves, not in the sense of rendering any kind of final verdict on our character, which is God's prerogative alone, but to see where we fall short and what our faults are so we can work on them (1 Corinthians 11:31, 2 Timothy 4:1, John 5:22, 2 Corinthians 13:5).

Yet, Christ teaches, "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" (Matthew 7:1-2).

We are not to judge the guilt of others, whether they are worthy of punishment or reward, in God's sight. That is God's prerogative alone. Nor should we judge what is not our business, things that go beyond the responsibilities for decision making that God has given us. "Then one from the crowd said to Him, 'Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.' But He said to him, 'Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?' " (Luke 12:13-14). If Christ did not judge matters beyond the responsibilities that the Father had given Him at the time, neither should we.

"Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven" (Luke 6:37).

We should not be in the habit of dwelling on the faults of others, judging them as unworthy of our help or favor or love. This is a common habit of mankind, a character trait of human nature, and because it is part of human nature it is a temptation for us in the Church. People tend to dwell on the faults they think they see in others as a way of magnifying themselves in their own mind, whether they realize it or not. It is an expression of vanity. People like to think they are better than others. The Pharisees had that problem (Luke 18:9-14). But we are to avoid that kind of judging. We should strive to esteem others better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3).

Each of us has a full-time job of searching for, finding, and correcting our own faults. We do not have time to look for the faults in others, to compare ourselves with them, to think we are better than they are (2 Corinthians 10:12).

We should judge those things we have to judge to make the decisions God gives us the responsibility for making. But judging if our neighbor is worthy of our love or his degree of guilt or innocence before God is not our right. Let us make the judgments we have a responsibility to make, and above all let us examine ourselves and correct our thinking and behavior where it is wrong.

If someone, because of his or her faults, is a danger to us or a bad influence on us, we can judge that we should avoid that person, as God instructs us (Proverbs 22:24-25, Proverbs 22:3), but we should still love the person in the sense that we want the long-term best for him or her and we should pray for that person, that God shows mercy in judgment as we want Him to show mercy to us.

Above all, we should not hold grudges, desiring that God punish a person and bring suffering on him or her because that person offended us, unless God punishes to correct the person for his or her good in the long run. We must have an attitude of forgiveness, even if it must be, for our physical or spiritual safety, from a distance from an abusive person for now. We can express that attitude of love and forgiveness by doing good for a person, even the good of praying for him or her.

"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matthew 6:14-15).

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matthew 5:44-45).

Here are links to related chapters or sections in Preaching the Gospel:

When and How to Judge, Chapter 5

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


To supplement what you have written, if people of God's Church, by the power of God's indwelling Spirit, would deeply understand the following two verses relative to themselves, then they will accomplish what your title has stated:

Ephesians 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

1 John 2:12 I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.

That's an amazing thing for God the Father to do for those of His Church for Christ's sake: "...your sins ARE FORGIVEN..."!

God is not a respecter of persons we are told elsewhere.

If God can take care of those of His Church, as Paul and John said in the above two verses, then what about "the rest" of those who exist (the world)?

A reconciling needs to take place for everyone, including those of God's Church. God inspired the apostle Paul to tell all of us this:

"To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, NOT imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation." 2 Corinthians 5:19

If God can take care of those of His Church (Romans 8:29-30), then can He also take care of "the rest?"

When the resurrections have been fulfilled we will all finally see the "end of the matter," and whether God did actually accomplish that reconciliation of the world that Paul was inspired to write about.

We have so much to be thankful for. If we judge ourselves, we know that even if we have God's spirit dwelling within, sin still occurs in our lives...we still cannot choose to cease from sin and make it stick in our lives.

God knows the value of forgiveness in our lives. He knows the necessity for that forgiveness.

When we appreciate that need for forgiveness in our lives, then we begin to appreciate what God will do in the lives of others.

We should not be judging, or condemning, others nor hang that guilt on others. What if God, instead of forgiving, actually did that to us: judged us and hung guilt over our heads?

I venture to say that God the Father and His Son would be two very lonely Beings...even with all of the good angels existing with those other beings/beasts around His throne.

And God basically advised Moses that human beings without His Spirit are under a huge handicap:

"Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day." Deuteronomy 29:4

God has to give that gift to perceive, to hear and to see! It works no other way. That is how God is able to direct our steps: by His Spirit.

"O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Jeremiah 10:23

We live in a world largely controlled by another spirit being, who has no problem directing our steps.

I personally look forward to the day that God allows His Spirit to be poured out on the entire world to overwhelm, and overcome, that evil spirit that has been allowed to leaven this world so much into sin.

In conclusion, why do humans have such a problem with sin? Here is part of the reason from the mind of a Christian:

"Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth IN me." Romans 7:17

It was so important in Paul's mind that he was inspired to tell us again:

"Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth IN me." Romans 7:20

Who will say that that sin isn't there? Can anyone deny this?

Why is that sin there? John told us:

"He that committeth sin is of the devil..." I John 3:8

That is why God knows the importance of His Spirit in the lives of all human beings...before all is said and done.

And if God does not provide that forgiveness, then who will?

Again, we all have so much to be so thankful for. And in the meantime, we'll continue to strive to do the best we can with what we have...