A discussion on “The Appropriateness of Judging others”

The Appropriateness of Judging Others

by: Ryan Gallifant

Imagine yourself on a day much like today. Imagine that, instead of going to school, the office, or wherever it is you go after you get ready for the day, you decide to carpool with Jack. Jack is not an ostentatious man, nor is he so unassuming as to not be noticed. No, Jack has a simple and quiet bravado that makes him a hit with all the female leaders at youth group. Though this wouldn’t be a problem for some people, you, however, know that Jack comes from a background of sexual promiscuity before coming to the saving knowledge of Christ and you know he’s had four girlfriends in the last six months. Knowing this, you ponder and pray for wisdom that God with give you the words to speak truth that causes change in Jack’s life.

As you carpool to your destination, you notice Jack handling his Blackberry in a surreptitious manner as a lascivious smile creeps upon his face. Your precarious position is only compounded by the day’s rush-hour traffic and you ask yourself, “Do I confront Jack to not let another easily avoidable heartache for both him and her? Or, do I allow myself not to speak up because I’m afraid I might offend him?”

“Jack?” You ask.

“Yeah, buddy.” Jack responds, as he gives you a quick glance out of the corner of his eye, all the while devilishly hiding whatever risqué note he’d been reading.

“I want you to know that I respect you as a brother in Christ and, as a fellow believer, I have a responsibility to ask if you think what you’re doing with these girls in honoring to God?”

“What!” He immediately responds on the defensive, “Who gives you the right to judge me as if I’m some kind of criminal! You don’t even have any room to tell me what I’m doing is wrong because you lack integrity even in small things, like when you cheated on your test. Besides, they appreciate the attention.”

It was so long ago, but that’s how long you’ve known Jack and instead of admitting his actions are wrong, which is pretty much what he did when he decided not to answer, he decided to attack you.

However, this predicament of judging puts many aback as it is an all –too familiar event that clouds the sincere and caring Christian from helping other believers come to an understanding that their actions don’t just affect them, but they themselves affect and hurt the relationships in the body of Christ and cause division. Division is the complete opposite of what Jesus and His disciples taught. However, should anyone really approach another believer who is going against the teachings of God? Won’t that action in itself cause division and go against the scripture in Matthew 7:1? Some may believe the meaning of this verse stands on solid ground to cover their own sin up. However, this passage speaks to the involvement of one’s life and actions upon another believer. Through Matthew 7:1-6, this paper will seek to demonstrate the appropriateness of ‘judging’ others based on the summative evidence researched. This is not to say or mean that one’s ability extends to condemnation of someone else’s salvation. However, it is meant to be a call of obtaining an active, ethical, and cognitive, decision-making mindset that should be in use by the believer, to limit the extent of involvement with another whose actions and lifestyle are negatively infectious and against the Word of God and the Life of Christ. From this mindset, the believer may be encouraged to give an appropriate accountability, in love, and spur the object of their judgment to a closer walk with Christ there from. This is not to say that believer can hope to help keep a nonbeliever in a righteous obedience as those of flesh walk by the flesh. However, this stands as an encouragement for the brothers and sisters in Christ to care for and look after one another.

First, the honest argument against the purpose of this paper will be given. Though most scholars would understand the roles of a Christian by an exegesis of the passage in context, that study will be addressed later. One such argument that seeks to make an explanation of Christ’s sermon on the mount from Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged,” is the call for a character adjustment to not judge (Orr 1999). This is taken to a meaning of disallowing another’s measure of obedience to the precepts of God’s Word as taught through the Bible. The popular statement that is said is, “Don’t judge me.” While this is a response from the individual’s understanding of Matthew 7:1, this is more accurately placed within the realm of an emotive response (Balz S.319). It is a conviction within the individual that causes them to rebel against correction; this is what is considered the flesh because very nature of opposing truth is the antithesis of what the “Spirit” demands, a change in action, attitude, or communication.

Therefore, the role of the Holy Spirit is not called into a situation, whereby, the individual, expounding their need for independence and personal character without review, is one who has not come to accept the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The reason for this absence is found in the lack of a restoration of death to life by the Holy Spirit because there is no conviction from which the flesh rebels against. However, the standpoint of there being no privilege for someone to judge another comes from a misunderstanding of the term judge.

For, the word judge has a correlative meaning in the action and use. Webster’s 1828 dictionary definition unifies agreed meanings of the Greek in the passage contextually and the latent flavors found in later books of the New Testament. Here, judge, transliterated from Greek to krino (Arndt S.570), is said to mean a discerning of moral right and wrong, a truth, or good and evil. These meanings, a variation of the other, are surround the first of making a personal choice, based on a standard, to side with what is morally correct (Fridberg S.238). Understanding this meaning becomes more applicable to Matthew 7:1 rather than the first application when looking at the context of the passage.

Remember, this is Jesus’ famous Sermon on the Mount where just one chapter ago, He is speaking on the making of one’s self right before the Father and His provision by seeking the Kingdom. This is mirrored in the apostles and most noticeably Apostle Paul’s teaching in Philippians (Correia Slide 9). Also, immediately after the passage proper, according to Matthew’s account, Jesus reaffirms the character trait seeking self-correction to draw near to the Father and His provision through a proper relationship with Him. This ancient and effective form of literary device is known as an “inclusio,” whereby the speaker gives an idea, a furtherance of the idea, and then restates the idea showing a correlation and importance.

Finishing the contextual journey, at the heart of the inclusio are five verses that give description and direction. First, the description is represented with a pictorial reference to hypocrisy as removing “the log from your own eye” before taking the “speck out of your brother’s eye.” Second, Jesus gives a direction or lesson about not being hypocritical in one’s judgment. This understanding is achieved by a contextual understanding.

Therefore, the application of appropriate judgment is reached by this contextual study of Matthew 7:1-6. First, one must be in proper standing with the Father, Matthew 6. Second, if one is not right with the Father they should not be making moral decisions, Matthew 7:1. Third, honesty and empathetic correction is the Christ honoring form of judgment, Matthew 7:12 (Nelson S.231). This was the practice of Christ’s corrective judgment for His disciples.

To further the example at the introduction to this paper, this mindset of Christ and privilege given by God for the fellowship of believers should be the mindset and practice of believers just as the Apostle Paul commands in Philippians 2:3-8. Throughout scripture and especially the New Testament Church, believers are called to a mindset of discernment – a mindset of judging morality based on an ethical framework lived out by Christ and contained in the precepts of the Bible. “Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world (Ryrie 1Corinthians 6:3)?” This is obviously a passage not directly related, for Paul is addressing the issue of dealing unjustly with fellow believers by taking them to the courts of people “who are of no account in the church (Ryrie 1Corinthians 6:4).” However, this latent meaning of judge is carried over to another matter of discerning a moral issue with another believer.

Further examination of this theme of judging between believers is found within the pretentious passage of James 4:10-12. “Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you. Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor (Ryrie James 4:10-12)?” While it may seem that this passage goes against the carefully presented character and mindset a believer is to have, this, as will all Scripture, must be seen in context. James has been previously discussing the conflicts within fellowship being attributed to the church’s inclination to the flesh. This church was not in a good place and so there is a negative connotation attributed to the judging of brethren upon another, as it is malicious. Review the passage again and take notice of how James himself is actually judging the church towards corrective action. Being in a position to discern the morality, or lack thereof, based on the ethical standard of Jesus, James, as well as the well known Apostle Paul, further the theme of judging or, more directly, rebuking towards correction. For, the Apostles were still working with Old Testament knowledge and knew the value of an open rebuke and the faithful wounds from a friend (Ryrie Proverbs 27:5-6).

In the effort of this undertaking, many sources were intently examined to arrive at this conclusion that is both encouraging and personally applicable as my correction. While the point has been made for the theme of how judging others is indeed appropriate and beneficial for the believer and the church as a whole, it is also necessary that this correction be done in love and not a hypocritical request. For just as Christ rebuke in love and in a stern tone, I among people must learn that this is not simply a bold and insincere rebuke demanding change, but one of understanding the shortcomings of this battle against what I want to do and what the Lord wants to do through me. While it is easy for me to say that this is a mindset believers must carry with them, I forget that I cannot judge by my own standards because I am fallen in nature; however, if I am to judge, it must be done based on the ethical precepts taught through the Word of God and Jesus Christ.

For the reader must be made aware that this scenario is not one fantasy, but one of my personal scenarios, whereby, I knew that I needed to confront “Jack (his name was changed to protect him),” before our Young Life club was ruined from the inside out because our lack of integrity. However, I had messed up and compromised my morality by not sticking to the ethics I had been taught through God’s Word. I thought I could ask a classmate for answers to an English exam because I forgot to study.

It was just once and I had argued with myself that it was okay; yet, I never made amends or repented for atrocious actions. I had desecrated my testimony for Christ for something so cheap that I do not deserve to be His follower. Luckily, we are judged by the Ethics of God and not our own.

This one slip made a crack in the door perfect for the enemy to use. As I confronted Jack about the misgivings I had, he retaliated with, “Don’t judge.” Therefore, taking into account the complete journey of this them on judging there is appropriateness in judging others; however, it must be done in love, with no hypocrisy, and one’s heart must right with the Lord. Once these prerequisite parts are met, the believer may be encouraged to have the privilege to strengthen the fellowship by offering correction. This is what it is to judge according to Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 7:1.

Bibliography

Arndt, William; Danker, Frederick W.; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000, S. 567, S. 570

Balz, Horst Robert; Schneider, Gerhard: Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990-c1993, S. 2:318-321

Correia, John. “Slide 9.” Gospels. Proc. of Matthew, Southwestern College, Phoenix. Phoenix: Southwestern College, 2009. 9. Print.

Friberg, Timothy ; Friberg, Barbara ; Miller, Neva F.: Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament. Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Books, 2000 (Baker’s Greek New Testament Library 4), S. 238

Merriam-Webster, Inc: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary. Eleventh ed. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 2003

Orr, James, M.A., D.D.: Orr, James (Hrsg.): The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: 1915 Edition. Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1999,

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print.

Strong, James: The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed. Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship, 1996, S. G2919

Thomas Nelson Publishers: What Does the Bible Say About–: The Ultimate A to Z Resource Fully Illustrated. Nashville,  Tenn.: Thomas Nelson, 2001 (Nelson’s A to Z Series), S. 231

Thomas, Robert L.; The Lockman Foundation: New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible: Updated  Edition. Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc.,1998, c1981, c1998

Zodhiates, Spiros: The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament. Electronic ed. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000, c1992, c1993, S. G2919

  1. March 7th, 2012

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