By Ben M. Shropshire
In our previous articles on this subject we .showed that Christians are required by God to do certain kinds of judging, none of which are in violation of Matthew 7:1-5. Then we showed the kind of judging which Jesus forbids in this passage; that is, judging in which we use our own lives, beliefs or opinions as the law by which we condemn another. We are guilty of this when we hypocritically apply the law of God to another person to condemn him but refuse to apply the same law to ourselves; when hatred and malice in our hearts causes us to speak evil of another person; when we attempt to condemn another person on the basis of his motives which we cannot know; and when we condemn a person on the basis of a misunderstanding or misapplication of God’s law. In this article we want to draw some general conclusions about judging drawn from what the New Testament teaches on the subject.
First, we need to keep in our minds continually the fact that we, ourselves, will someday be judged; there is no escape from this judgment (Heb. 9:27). “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). We also need to realize that one of the things to be considered in our own judgment will be how we have judged others; whether we have judged in the way required by God or in a way forbidden by Him. “So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment” (James 2;12, 13). In the verses immediately prior to this passage James was discussing the same kind of wrong judging that Jesus said was wrong in Matthew 7:1-5. The same thing is discussed by Paul in Romans 2:1-3. The sin of improperly judging others will be remembered against us when we stand before Christ to be judged.
The possibility of our being able to stand approved before God when we are judged to a very great degree depends on our well-informed in what the word of God teaches; we need to be able to “rightly divide (or handle aright, ASV) the word of truth” as a result of our having studied or given diligence to be able to do so, in order that we might not be workmen that will be ashamed (disappointed) when we are judged (2 Tim. 2:15). We need to be “fully assured” in our own minds with regard to our service to God that we are doing what He would have us to do (Romans 14:5).
Being “fully assured regarding our beliefs and religious and diligent study of God’s word, we would not be so easily offended when someone judges us or suggests we might be wrong about something. The uneasy feeling we have when someone suggests that we might be in error arises out of an awareness on our part that our beliefs do not rest on solid evidence or that our practices are not based on a firm foundation of the authority of God’s word. Knowledge produces a firm conviction that is not easily shaken by someone suggesting that we are in error. Ignorance of God’s word, on the other hand, causes us to feel unsure and to be resentful when it is suggested we might be wrong. Of course, when we really are wrong about something as determined by God’s word it is much easier to pass off the judgment of our error by taking offense at the one who shows it to us than to admit we are wrong and change. However, honesty and the fear of God demand that we do the latter.
Again, in view of all of this, instead of resenting the person who might believe we are wrong and taking offense at his “judgment” of us in telling us he believes us to be wrong, we should develop within us the capacity to appreciate the person who so “judges” us. Instead of condemning him on the basis of improper motives, we should be grateful for his desire to help us and for his effort in trying to teach us what he believes is right. If it should be determined by what God’s word says that we are not wrong at all, but that he is, we would then be given the opportunity of trying to teach him the way of the Lord more accurately. However, if it develops that he is correct, based on the teachings of the Bible and proper application thereof, we then should be eternally grateful to him for having taught us the way of the Lord more accurately. While a thorough knowledge of the Bible should give us convictions that are not easily shaken (being “fully assured”), we should never be so dogmatic and selfrighteous as to be unwilling to listen to another person’s reasons for believing we are wrong. Instead, we should be grateful for his knowledge, for his interest in our spiritual and eternal welfare, and for his courage in trying to teach us wherein he believes us to be wrong. We should be grateful to him in the same way we would appreciate our doctor when he tells what is wrong so that remedial treatment can be started immediately. A doctor who suspects there is something wrong with us but does not tell us about it because he does not want to “judge” us and upset us would not be much of a doctor. Likewise, a friend who thinks we are wrong but who is unwilling to be thought of as “judging” us and who does not wish to upset us is not much of a friend. “Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend . . .” (Prov. 27:5, 6).
Finally, we need to remember that we are all going to be judged by the word of God (Jn. 12:48); not just by our sincerity, not by the fact that we thought we were right (Prov. 16:25), nor by our motives only. Furthermore, in the day of judgment ignorance of God’s word will be no excuse (Acts 17:30). In view of this, how holily, righteously and unblameably we should strive to live in this present world (1 Thess. 2:10).
Truth Magazine XXIV: 28, p. 450
July 17, 1980