pointing fingerThere is an increasingly large movement in our country today that might best be described as non-judgmentalism. This movement is defined by a way of thinking that states that we have no right to judge the actions of anyone else, no matter how immoral or sinful we believe them to be. Those who ascribe to non-judgmentalism feel very open, forgiving, and loving by holding this position. Those who do see fit to condemn the actions of others and believe that they should be called into account for their actions are said to be unloving, harsh, and judgmental.

I recently entered a discussion with a friend regarding whether or not we have a right to judge others regarding their moral behavior, particularly sexually. My friend suggested that we shouldn’t judge others, whereas I insisted that we not only should, but we have no choice in the matter. My friend sent me a series of verses dealing with judgment calculated to get me to reverse my position. I went through each verse and offered my commentary on them. I hope this discussion may help you in seeing the Biblical basis for condemning sin. Let us examine the first verse.

-Proverbs 29:26 — Many seek the ruler’s favor, but every man’s judgment cometh from the Lord.

Thus we are immediately confronted by the question, “What is judgment?” Most people have an idea in their heads of what this word means, but is this really what the Bible means when It uses the word?

What does this passage mean when it says that every man’s judgment cometh from the Lord? I believe this with all my heart, and I know that it is true. However, just this verse alone is not enough to establish what the word “judgment” means.

-Hebrews 12:23 — To God, the judge of all…

God is the Judge of All. Compared to him all judges of men, such as those mentioned in the book of Judges in the Bible, are just shadows. But what is a judge? We have people we call judges in our governments today, but are they the same thing as the judges mentioned in the book of the Bible? An examination of that book, I think, would reveal to us that they most certainly are not.

-Acts 17:31– He shall judge the world with righteousness…

This presents to us the truth that the One Who is the Judge of all will one day use His authority as the Judge of All to judge the entire world with righteousness. Again, though, we cannot know exactly what this means until we establish what it means to judge.

-Romans 14:13 — Let us not judge one another…

We must be careful with this verse, and note its context. If we will look at what Paul is talking about here, we will see that it is ceremonial laws, like eating meat (verse 2) or keeping holy days (verse 6.) We are not to judge our fellow believers in things like these. However, we must be very careful that we do not take this farther than we should. For the Holy Spirit speaks by this same author, Paul, and says in I Corinthians 5:9-11: “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is…” Then he goes on to list the classes of people, and finishes with, “—not even to eat with such a person.” At that time, eating with a person indicated friendship with that person and a kinship of spirit. Therefore, this verse tells us that we are not to let anyone think that we are friends with someone who is perceived as a brother (that is, a fellow believer,) and yet who does certain things. These are (verse 11,) a fornicator (that is one who has sex outside of marriage,) or covetous (that is one who desires things that rightfully belong to others and not to himself,) or an idolater (that is one who worships anything other than God,) or a reviler (that is an abusive person,) or a drunkard (that is one who allows himself to enter a state of stupor through the use of either alcohol or other drugs,) or an extortioner (that is one who forces money or other things from another person for his own personal gain.) Anyone who is called a fellow-believer but does these things we should utterly reject as friends, and be most careful not to be associated with them. This is by the commandment of Scripture! Would this be judging them, I ask?

-Hebrews 10:30 — For we all know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompense, saith the Lord. And again The Lord shall judge his people.

I agree that believers should not try to take vengeance on others.

-Matthew 7:1 — Judge not, that ye be not judged!

Some people take this verse to mean that we are not allowed to make any sort of moral decision judging the rightness or wrongness of other peoples’ actions. If they hesitate to put it quite that boldly, then they will say that we should not publicly make such decisions. Yet, let me say that if this means that we should not condemn others when they do wrong or else others will condemn us when we do wrong, then I would say that I feel perfectly free then to condemn others when they do wrong because it is my earnest desire that others will likewise condemn me when I do wrong!

If I were to fall into sin, forgetting what I know of God and His desire for me, and were to start living with someone outside of marriage, would it be my desire that people would ignore that? Would I really wish that others would say, “Oh, I can’t judge him. I’ve sinned as well, so I just don’t want to say anything.” Would it be my desire that all my friends would act like it was okay? Not at all! I would hope that all of my friends would be bitterly disappointed in me. I would hope that they would openly declare to each other that what I had done was wrong. I would hope that they would come to me and lovingly but firmly remind me that what I was doing was wrong, and suggest that I turn from my sin and repent and return to God and what I know is right.

But I would hope for even more than that. You know, I love the head of my Sunday school department. He is a great guy, and I respect him a lot and I know he respects me as well. But if I were to commit this sinful act, I would hope and pray that he would come to me and gently but firmly inform me that I would no longer be allowed to teach my Sunday school class. Why? Because the act I had committed was an affront against God, and I should not be allowed to stand up as an example to these children when I am living in open rebellion against the God I’m claiming to serve. I also love and respect our church music director. But, if I were to commit this sin, it is my earnest desire that she would come to me and tell me that I was no longer welcome in our church band. Why? Because the sin that I had openly entered into would exclude me from performing even such a small service as a representative of our church.

But even greater would be my expectations of my parents. I would hope that they would come to me and express to me their deep sorrow and disappointment at my actions. I would hope that they would absolutely forbid me to ever sleep with my girlfriend under their roof until I married her. I would expect in such a case that they would strongly urge me to stop my sinful actions and to do what was right and end this sinful and destructive behavior.

But I would not only expect this of those who would talk to me about it in person. If any child should ask his parents about what I had done, I would hope that his parents would tell him that what I did was wrong, that it was a sin that God forbids, and that I needed to turn away from my sin and ask God for forgiveness and start doing what was right again. I would hope that other people in discussing my actions would all agree that what I had done was wrong, that I had known better and that I had sinned against God, and that they would agree that I needed to return to God in repentance and ask His forgiveness and then do my best to live up to the responsibilities that my guilty actions had incurred upon me. I am not against being judged by people in such a manner. If I had truly done such a thing, then I would be most disappointed if all these people did not react and treat me in this way!

So if this sort of action is what I will receive if I make the same sort of determination about others who do things like this, then I say that I am open and ready for anyone to condemn me if I were to act in such a manner. I would not want to avoid it. If everyone I knew had a deep enough appreciation for what is right and what is wrong to rightfully condemn me if I were to do such a thing, then I would praise God and say that it would be a very good thing! Yet I do not think that that is what that passage is talking about. God does not want us to refuse to recognize sin as sin. He Himself urged His prophets to warn those who had fallen into sin to repent! And I think that we would be doing rightly if we were to do the same thing. How disappointed I would be in my parents if they did not even love me enough to grieve if I did such a thing! If they did not even love me enough to come to me in bitterness and disappointment and urge me to stop what I was doing and return to what is right! How disappointed I would be if none of my friends saw fit to condemn me and urge me to repent! If none of the leaders of my church cared enough about me to remove me from my positions of leadership and demand of me a return to what is right and good before I could ever participate in such things again! If this is truly the case, that no one would treat me like this, then I would have to say that I do not have true friends, and that I am indeed a most lonely individual. But I do think that there are people who care about me, and I do think that there are plenty of people who care about me enough that they would warn me and condemn me were I to do such things.

So is this what that verse is really saying? That we have no right to ever decide that what someone else is doing is wrong? No, I do not believe that for an instant. That is not what is meant by “judge” in that verse. “Judge” in the Bible does not mean to make a personal determination as to the rightness or wrongness of someone else’s actions. It does not mean that I am not allowed to decide if someone is a fornicator, an idolater, a covetous person, a reviler, a drunkard, or an extortioner. I can most certainly make a determination about such things, particularly if I see them with my own eyes! And once I have determined that a person, at least a believer, is one of these types of sinners, then it is my duty before God to refuse friendship with such a person. So if we are not to judge, then this must not be judging, for we are specifically told to do it!

If you desire to find out the truth about judging, I would suggest sitting down with a Bible concordance and looking up the words “judgment” and “judge.” I do not think you will have to look up many occurrences before you will start to get an idea of what God means when He uses the words “judgment” and “judge.” But I do not believe that He means to decide in your heart whether what someone is doing is right or wrong, or to declare publicly your beliefs on whether or not what someone is doing is right or wrong. I think a study of the occurrences of this word in Scripture will bear me out.

You cannot ascribe a meaning to a verse that is contrary to other passages of Scripture! If Matthew 7:1 means we should never make decisions about whether or not someone’s actions are right or wrong, then how can I Corinthians 5:11 say that we are to avoid people who act in certain sinful ways? That would have us refusing to befriend people who do certain wrong things that we haven’t actually decided are wrong since we’ve refused to judge them! But that makes no sense, and is, in fact, impossible. This leaves us with two possibilities:

1. We are interpreting one or the other passage incorrectly, either not understanding the context or the words used.
2. There was a change in dispensation and the earlier statement is no longer true. I am a firm believer in the concept of progressive revelation. That is, I believe that God reveals more and more truths in the Bible as time goes on that He had not revealed earlier. Sometimes, the new truth will cancel out the old truth. For example, the commandments to keep the holy days are canceled out by the statement that we are not to judge each other regarding any holy day. So, if this were the case, then Christ’s statement in Matthew was made several decades before that made in I Corinthians, so we would have to conclude that the statement of Christ is out of date and that the statement in I Corinthians is the truth for today. I am not saying I believe this, but only that this is a possibility.

That concludes my correspondence with my friend on this issue. Let me close by saying that I don’t for a minute believe that my friend doesn’t make determinations about the rightness or wrongness of other people’s actions every day. Everyone must do this. We are constantly judging the motivations of others even as we are talking with them. Surely no one would urge a child to be non-judgmental if a stranger pulls up to the curb and offers him candy if he will climb in the car! Surely no one would urge his daughter to be non-judgmental if she was asked to go on a date by a serial rapist! And can we really say that we do not judge others? No one can truly say that! This argument of non-judgmentalism is not for the purpose of being kind and loving. It is made for the purpose of excusing sin! That is the primary reason for this current argument. But sin is not to be excused by us, as it can only be truly forgiven by God. If we truly believe that what God says is wrong is wrong, then we should not bury our heads in the sand and pretend that someone is not sinning when he commits that wrong action. No, God tells us what is right and wrong so that we can make this determination correctly whenever we need to. But the Bible calls this discernment, not judgment. We would do well if we would call it by the same term.

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