Boletim dos Obreiros

Judging others

 

The moral relativism that is spreading in the world is a logical consequence of the wide acceptance of atheistic evolutionism, which is itself a humanist religion. An idea of tolerance known as "political acceptance" is promoted with it together with the elimination of general standards of conduct, concepts, prejudices and moral traditions, claiming that morality is the personal choice of each person and cannot be imposed on others.

As a result, there is a growing intolerance in Western countries, starting with Europe and North America, towards the more radical Christians who openly express their repudiation of practices that God calls sin, wickedness and ungodliness, embracing not only behaviour, but also religion and sexuality.

Interestingly, those who deny the existence of God or the credibility of the Bible, often try to use the word of God (for example, quoting verses out of context) to excuse their actions in confrontation with the Gospel and the consequence coming to those who reject it. A very well known verse used in such circumstances is "judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1). This verse, as the one following: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you" seems to indicate that the believer should not under any circumstances make a judgement of others.

Let's look at three aspects of the Christian judgement:

The Supreme Authority:

The Bible says clearly that God is the supreme judge of all, and that He gave the Son authority to make every judgment: "the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22). Only He has the authority to judge the motives and behaviour of people, for example:

  •          God is a just judge, and God is angry with the wicked every day.” (Psalm 7:11).
  •          He (the Lord) shall judge the world in righteousness; and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness.” (Psalm 9: 8).
  •         The LORD is our Judge, the LORD is our Lawgiver, the LORD is our King; He will save us” (Isaiah 33: 22).

In these verses the word LORD is the translation of the Hebrew YHWH, the second person of the Trinity also called the Son in the New Testament, and we know Him as the Lord Jesus Christ. He declared to everyone, when He was here: “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him— the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:46-48).

Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul said in a speech to the Athenians: “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead." (Acts 17:30 .31).

As these passages and many others show, the Bible makes it clear that one day the Lord Jesus will judge all mankind based only on the individual faith or rejection of his Person. To a world full of people who believe in moral relativism that will be a day full of fear and uncertainty.

The Judge of the universe will make a judgment for salvation or punishment, concerning which the Apostle Peter warns in Acts 4:12 "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved". There will be no opportunity to debate whether the judgment is right or wrong, because the Chief Judge has already decreed the terms of His righteousness through the Son.

Judgment of unbelievers by believers

Unbelievers need to know the Lord Jesus Christ, and to be reconciled with Him to avoid eternal punishment. When a believer presents the Gospel free of charge and with love to those who disbelieve, they will have to make a decision regarding their position with God. The Bible clearly declares that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).This judgment is not made based on the opinion of the believer that is presenting the Gospel, but is based on what the Bible clearly teaches.

You will often hear the claim that Christians should not judge when dealing with issues such as abortion, adultery, homosexual behaviour and same sex marriage. When a Christian says, for example, that homosexual behaviour is a sin and that gay marriage is wrong, the unbeliever often finds objections, such as "Who are you to judge two people who love each other?","Who are you to say who can and cannot love someone? You are a sinner, too!", "the private life of anyone is his concern. Do not make judgment.” Sometimes they even quote Matthew 7:1, assuming that it supports their argument.

We must remember that the verb "to judge" can mean "to decide”, “to consider”, “to make a concept”, “to sentence”, “to arrive at an opinion”, “to assume” and even “to imagine”, according to the context. In Matthew 7:1 as in the commandments following up to verse 7:5, the Lord Jesus is warning His disciples against making a hypocritical judgment or condemnation like the Pharisees of that time. Even in this last verse the Lord adds "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." The teaching is that we should judge ourselves first before judging others because "with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”  (v. 7:2).

The believer must purify his life first before judging others. What the Lord teaches the disciples in Matthew 7 is that if they do not repent of their sins and personally leave them, they will be not be able to accuse others. But the Bible tells us to preach the Gospel, and the act of warning sinners to their sin so that they will know the need of salvation is an integral part of the message. Sin is anything that is short of the purity of behaviour laid down by God in His Word, and the divine moral standard is immutable for all humanity, therefore not allowing for a moral relativism.

Judgment of believers by their brethren in the faith

All who are saved by the grace of God by their faith in Christ need to grow in Christ and to live in harmony with each other.The commandment in Matthew 7:1 does not mean that the children of God (to whom it is directed) are forbidden from judging their brothers in every way.

There are some prohibitions from making judgment, such as:

  •          Of motives for actions, because only God knows the thoughts and intents of the human heart (Hebrews 4:12). We do not know nor understand with certainty why a brother in Christ acts in a certain way.
  •          Of appearance (John 7:24; James 2:1-4).
  •          Of scruples about matters that are not, in themselves, right or wrong (Romans 14:1-5).
  •          Of work done in the service of the Lord (1 Corinthians 4: 1-5).
  •          To speak evil of brethren (James 4:11-12).

But believers can discover and see what their brethren do, and God does not forbid them from forming a concept about their actions, whether they are good or bad, if they produce good or evil fruits, when confronted with the directive given us in His Word. God does not forbid believers from condemning wrong actions that are a bad testimony before unbelievers and undermine the message of the Gospel, or the teaching of false doctrine in disagreement with Scripture.The believer can and should use his powers of discernment and of constructive criticism, which are beneficial to his brethren and to the work of God. We find in the New Testament several illustrations of legitimate judgment that should be made by brethren in relation to the state, condition, and teaching of others. There are also several areas in which a Christian has an obligation to take a decision to discriminate between the good and the bad and the good and the best, as, for example:

  •          To distinguish believers from unbelievers, so as not to be unequally yoked with these (2 Corinthians 6:14 -17).
  •          Conflicts between believers should be judged and resolved by competent brethren in the church (1 Corinthians 6: 5).
  •          The believer who sins must be reprimanded by the brethren and, in the last instance, by the church leadership who should take the necessary measures to put him back on the right track (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:9-13).
  •          A teacher must be judged as to his fruit (Matthew 7:15 -20; 1:29; 1 Corinthians 14; 1 John 4:1).
  •          Identify the wicked people ("pigs") so as not to give them Holy things: When a believer finds people who treat Divine truths with total contempt and respond to his preaching of the Gospel with abuse and violence, he is not required to continue to share the Gospel with them (Matthew 7:6). Without doubt there must be spiritual awareness to discern these people.

We conclude that the believer cannot give "political acceptance" to the world’s individual concepts of morality, but must submit to the Divine standards found in the Bible. The Bible, for example, condemns fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, the covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, robbers of men, liars, perjurers, and all that is contrary to sound doctrine (1 Corinthians 6: 9.10, 1 Timothy 1:10), found in abundance. Some of them do not transgress the world’s accepted individual morality and are even approved by established authorities who ensure they have protection and respect.

A Christian is not given authority to impose Divine standards to the lost world, but he must expose the sin of the unbeliever to convince him of his lost state and to offer him the Gospel of salvation. His judgment comes from God. With some exceptions the believer must also exercise his own judgment with discernment to separate himself from evil and to guide his brethren towards a holy life which is pleasing to God.