It’s been a couple of years since we journeyed through the first Friend Requests series. This is the beginning of our second quest through your topic requests. Like always, I wait for suggestions to come in through my Facebook and Twitter accounts, and our very first topic in this second volume of Friend Requests is kind of judgy.
In fact, it’s about judgment. Specifically, what is the difference between good judging and bad judging. Let me clarify, we’ll be addressing judging the moral choices of others, not their daily choice of sock color. To be honest, this feels like a well worn subject for me because it actually comes up quite often in the groups that I lead. I also have a teenage daughter and a preteen daughter who deal with their teen and preteen friends and being judgmental is often the topic du jour.
So let’s just cut to the chase: no one likes being judged. No one likes having their motives scrutinized. No one likes having their decisions second guessed. Tupac Shakur immortalized the phrase, “Only God can judge me,” and since his lyrics uttered those five words, entire generations have used it as a defense for their behavior.
Let’s examine those words. Only God can judge me. If you’ve said that, do you really understand the implications of what it means for God to judge you? First of all, God’s judgment is eternal. When you stand before him in judgment, there won’t be any lawyers raising objections, it’s just you and God, our Judge. And once he gives his verdict, there won’t be any chance for probation, parole, or pardon. His judgment will be final. Read these.
“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” Matthew 7:22
“The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 13:41-42
“Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Matthew 25:41-43
Second, God’s judgment is righteous. He doesn’t judge by your standard of justice. He doesn’t think they way that you think. He judges by his own standards. And his standards are equal to his holiness. He is holy. The Scripture teaches that he lives in unapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16). What does that mean? It means that he is perfect in every way: emotionally, ethically, morally, physically, spiritually – there is no shade of darkness in him.
“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)
So his standard of judgment is himself. If God, himself, is perfect, what standard, other than himself, could he use and remain perfect? So, if you don’t live by his standards to the perfection that he sees in himself, you fail and will be judged guilty. So the next logical question would be about his perfect standards: what are they? Check the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) and then read Jesus’ teachings in Matthew chapters 5-7. These are his standards. The Ten Commandments give you the brief overview, the Sermon on the Mount give you in depth application. Let me give you a hint before you read them… they’re impossible to keep perfectly. And that leaves us guilty.
Third, God’s judgment is severe. Now, I don’t want to understate this, but I’m afraid words will fail to communicate the severity of God’s judgment. It’s fiery. It’s worm-ridden. It’s agonizing. It’s lonely. It’s never-ending (we covered this already). At this point you might accuse me of being old fashioned with all my fire and brimstone talk, but truly, I’m not. Jesus is. Go back and read those passages from Matthew up above. God’s judgment is compared to a fiery furnace where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth – agony! It’s compared to fire that was prepared for the Devil and his angels – notice it wasn’t prepared for us, which leads me to my last point about God’s judgment.
Finally, God’s judgment wasn’t intended for humanity (Matthew 25:41). God’s judgment – hell – was prepared (notice it wasn’t created, it was prepared) for the devil and his angels. Hell wasn’t a part of God’s original creation… he prepared it after there was a rebellion among his heavenly host. And his heavenly host deceived humanity into rebelling as well, so now what was intended for the judgment of rebelling angels will also be used for the judgment of rebelling humans.
So, do you really want only God to judge you? I think you’ll find the judgment of your peers much less severe, much more tolerable, much less painful. But perhaps you protest, “Well, my god doesn’t judge like that.” That’s alright. Fair enough. But don’t call your god, the God of the Bible. It’s a god of your own making, not Yahweh, who has revealed himself to us in his Word.
Now, that was preliminary, but it was the longest part because it’s actually not hard to show the difference between good judging and bad judging. And in fact, there is such thing as good judging. Also, all interpersonal judging happens between two guilty people. No one is perfect, so all judgments come and go between imperfect people. So let’s get down on bad judging first.
Bad judging is easy to identify, even if you don’t know a single Bible verse. Bad judging is, as the old saying goes, the pot calling the kettle black. If I am a habitual liar, and you’re a habitual thief, I’d have no moral high ground from which to judge your behavior. We’d both be breaking the law of God, which makes us both law breakers and equally guilty. So if I persisted in judging you, ignoring my own law breaking, I’d be a hypocrite and guilty of bad judging. The most well known teaching of Jesus on judging others is found in Matthew 7.
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7:1-2
And now you know where your sassy cousin or sister gets the phrase judge not lest ye be judged from. She didn’t make it up. She cherry picked it from the Bible. Or she heard a preacher say it. Or maybe she had a frenemy say it to her. But regardless, Jesus said it first. And this is the beginning of his statements against self-righteous judgment. Notice I said beginning because this is where people like to stop. And let’s face it, if we stopped here, we’d have a water tight comeback for our haters. But that’s not the end. Read on through verse five.
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” Matthew 7:3-5
Here’s where we get the rest of the story. This is how good judgment happens. There’s an old blues song that goes, before you accuse me, take a look at yourself. Again, Jesus said it first. Before you judge anyone, look in the mirror! Take a long hard look at your own issues. First take the log out of your own eye. In other words, before you go to anyone to talk to them about their moral choices, examine yourself. You’re guilty too. You need a healthy awareness of your own failures before you try to show someone else theirs. You and the Holy Spirit need to be in agreement about your sins before you approach someone else about their sin.
Jesus encourages good judgment among brothers and sisters. It’s a healthy part of a believer’s spiritual journey. It’s called accountability. The Christian life as a solo act is impossible. You and I need each other to hold one another accountable to the Word so that the name of Christ won’t be slandered among the lost… which just makes spreading the Gospel a harder thing to do. It hardens the soil for the seed when Christians go off the rails.
Let me chase down one bunny. The judgment that Jesus is teaching us is to be practiced between believers only. A believer has no business judging a non-believer because, quite simply, we’re not family. Notice the family language Jesus uses: why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye… Unbelievers will be judged by Yahweh alone. Now I realize it seems like I just spent some wordage tearing down the idea of only God can judge me. I never said it wasn’t true. If you’re an unbeliever, it’s absolutely true; only God will judge you. And that should frighten you. It should send you on a life long quest to find out how to escape Yahweh’s judgment. And the good news is, he’s provided an escape. Yahweh’s son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross, taking the judgment that you deserve upon himself, paying the penalty that your sin had earned. If by faith you trust that Christ’s sacrifice is enough to receive Yahweh’s forgiveness, then you will be forgiven and saved from his wrath against all sin. All of Yahweh’s wrath was poured out on Jesus when he died on the cross, so if you have believed and belong to Jesus, no wrath remains for your sins. Once you’re in God’s family, we do judge one another, but in humility, with grace and love, and with complete recognition of our own sinfulness. It’s not holier than thou, but rather it’s done in love so that your transformation from the old you to the new you will be healthy.
Alright, bunny captured.
So, bad judgment is hypocritical and lacks humility. Good judgment is dripping with humility because you’re supremely aware of your own failures as you confront someone else’s issues. Bad judgment is really just a power move; it’s a way to exercise control in another person’s life. Good judgment is actually handing control to the other person, giving them the power to listen or not. Bad judgment writes people off. Good judgment writes off mistakes and loves people. Don’t misunderstand me. Jesus isn’t advocating sweeping sin under the rug for the sake of love. But he is advocating that we love each other through our issues. Tough love isn’t always tossing someone to the curb. More times that not, it’s tough on you to keep loving and resist the urge to simply write them off. And with that, this edition of Friend Requests is done.