Of Judgment

This reflection comes from reading too much comments on newspaper articles pertaining to the CHC case. On top of it, it comes from reflecting on the issue of being judged and the act of judging as a Christian.

We often hear people, Christians inclusive, that if we are in Christ, we should not judge. Such popular notions of how Christians should behave, or rather, how people should behave towards one another in general, have led people to believe that judging one another is wrong. After all, didn't the Scripture say that we should not judge? Didn't the Scripture ask who are we to judge our neighbours?

I am inclined to believe that most people say these things like "you should not judge me" when they have done something they know that they should not do, or they have committed something that they instinctively know it's wrong. But in such situations, they are unwilling to face up to the consequences of their actions and hence, they bring out their trump card and proclaim that they should not be judged.

I wonder if they dare to bring this argument to court if they are ever one day charged by the law.

But my focus today is not to target at such behaviour but to target at the question whether Christians should judge. To start off, we need to be at the same page: what does it mean by judging? To be fair, the Scripture does not lay out the definition, but we can find some definitions in our dictionaries. For example, Collins Cobuild dictionary gives the definitions of "judge" as a verb as these:
3. verb
If you judge something such as a competition, you decide who or what is the winner. 
4. verb
If you judge something or someone, you form an opinion about them after you have examined the evidence or thought carefully about them. 
5. verb
If you judge something, you guess its amount, size, or value or you guess what it is

And Cambridge Free Dictionary defines as these:

to ​form, give, or have as an ​opinion, or to ​decide about something or someone, ​especially after ​thinking carefully:So ​far, he ​seems to be ​handling the ​job well, but it's really too ​soonto judge.[+ question word] It's ​difficult to judge whether the new ​systemreally is an ​improvement.The ​meeting was judged (to have been) a ​success.You shouldn't judge by/on ​appearances ​alone.I'm ​hopeless at judging distance(s) (= ​guessing how ​far it is between ​places).to ​express a ​bad ​opinion of someone's ​behaviour, often because you ​think you are ​better than them:You have no ​right to judge other ​people because of what they ​looklike or what they ​believe.to ​officially ​decide who will be the ​winner of a ​competition:I've been ​asked to judge the children's ​poetry ​competition.judging by/from (also to judge by/from)used to ​express the ​reasons why you have a ​particular​ opinion:Judging by what he said, I ​think it's very ​unlikely that he'll be ​able to ​support ​your ​application.

We note that the action of judging, based on our English dictionaries, seems to happen after thinking carefully or examining the evidence. In that case, what does our Christian Scripture have to say about such behaviour? Let's look at this verse:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. - Matthew 7:1-5

Most people will normally quote from here or its parallel from Luke 6 to tell Christians not to judge. But I am at this point asking whether this is really what the passage means? As we can see, Jesus tells us not to judge and in the same way we judge others, we will be judged by the same way as well. This was followed by the parable of the plank and the speck. But at closer glance, one notices that Jesus did not just ask us to remove the plank from our eyes only. We are still expected to remove the speck after dealing with the plank. What does this mean?

This means that we are still expected to judge but we need to be aware of the standard that we use to judge people. Are we, as disciples of Christ, following the same standard by which we judge other people? This is not a Scripture to tell us not to judge, but one that tells us not to be too quick to judge, but consider carefully - precisely the definition given to us from the dictionaries. That's the reason why I always use the same standard on myself before I rebuke other people, which I know irks some people who think that I am being "judgmental." Christians are expected to make judgment, and take note, in this Scripture, it pertains to brothers and sisters.

Even more so, we are expected to judge in the church. Judging in the church is a necessary act - without which we cannot decide what kind of behaviour that we can condone within the church. It is the act of judging that we can help to point out the sins in the church and hence helping people to grow. It is the act of judging that helps people to settle conflicts between one another. It boils down to this thing called giving a judgment.

What the Scripture prohibits, I believe, is the act of judging without careful consideration or with the motive of tearing down one another. Let's consider James 4:
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?
If we read carefully on this passage, we realise that this passage talks about slander - the act of judging to tear one another down or the act of making false judgment. And this judgment is made with reference to the law. The point is that by slandering or by judging other people's destinies, we inadvertently take over God's role as the Judge and we proclaim the judgments on other people, which are reserved to be made by God. That is the reason why it is not our Christian duty to say that someone is going to hell. Just because I may say something wrong does not mean that I am going to hell. This is not our prerogative, this is God's prerogative. And that is the reason why Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 5:
12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
And note that Paul is not concerned about judging the behaviours and actions of those outside the church but those within the church. The context of this passage has to do with church discipline and Paul was admonishing the Corinthian church to deal with the act of incest in the church.

So let's not be afraid to judge in the church but also let us consider carefully what God has to say about judging. We are not Judge Dredd but we are indeed called to judge those within the church. For those outside of the church, and I mean the body of Christ as a whole, we leave the judgment to God. The world has enough of fire and brimstone preaching and we need to proclaim the full gospel to the world which the message of God's judgment is part of.

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