In recent posts we have been examining the definitions and differences in using judgment, being judgmental, and what the Bible says about judging others. In this article we use Jesus as our hermeneutic to mine the meaning of judging.
“Thou shalt not judge” is a phrase that Christians hear frequently, from believers as well as non-believers. Both groups tend to use this quote of Jesus’s from his teachings in Matthew 7 to their own advantage. But, we must be careful to take Jesus’ words in their proper context to understand exactly what he meant. In the last of three posts on judging, I would like to quote Christian philosopher and theologian, Dr. J.P. Moreland, concerning what Jesus meant by this phrase.
Using Jesus As the Hermeneutic on Judging
In the passage below, Dr. Moreland gives what I believe to be a balanced explanation on the two different types of judging…….condemning and evaluating. He explains:
We need to distinguish two senses of judging: condemning and evaluating. The former is wrong and is in view in Matthew 7. When Jesus says not to judge, he means it in the sense that the Pharisees judged others: their purpose was to condemn the person judged and to elevate themselves above that person. Now this is a form of self-righteous blindness that vv. 2-4 explicitly forbid. Such judgment is an expression of a habitual approach to life of avoiding self-examination and repentance and, instead, propping oneself up by putting others down.
But there is another sense of judging that is central both to moral purity/holiness and to showing tough love to another: evaluating another’s behavior as wrong, pointing that out to the person with a view to their repentance, restoration and flourishing. This form of judging another may bring short-term pain in the form of guilt, embarrassment and an experience of the need to change, but its long-term effect is (or is supposed to be) the flourishing and uplifting of the other.
Sometimes the most loving thing you can do for another is to tell him or her something hard to hear. This form of judgment is absolutely biblical. In fact, in Matthew 7:5, Jesus basically says that after one has appropriately engaged in self-examination and personal repentance, he/she is now in a position accurately and helpfully to evaluate another. This very same form of judgment is commanded in Galatians 6:1-2. It is moral confusion and cowardice to eschew evaluating other’s behavior. It is moral clarity and courage not to condemn others.
Today it is more important than ever for the church and her leaders to recover and proclaim judgment, not as condemnation, but rather as evaluation, gently yet firmly.
Posted on August 20, 2019