You be the judge

Judge Judy

Some of us are too anxious to point the finger.

To judge or not to judge, that is the question.

In our very liberal times, it seems as if nobody wants anyone to say anything to him or her about a wrong decision or sinful practice—in the Church! This has resulted in either an abuse of Scripture or living a life of secret sin.

On one hand, there are those who try to use God’s grace as an excuse not to change, in fact thinking that there is no need to change. Conversely, there are those who are quite dissatisfied with their wrongs, but refuse to ask for any kind of help at the risk of tarnishing a “perfect” image.

Both dispositions are indicative of a characteristic that plagues our human condition: pride.

To be understood, pride is the root of all sin. The original temptation and consequent fall of man was a result of a very prideful decision. Genesis 3:5-6 reads:

“For God knows that when you eat of [the tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

Originally, Adam was given a command by God to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan, the original sinner and ultimate salesman for sin, however, steps on the scene and begins to tempt Eve—who had some apparent knowledge of this prohibition, though it preceded her creation.

After Satan poses a question to her that distorts God’s word, she replies by adding to the command, placing a further restriction on what God originally outlined: “you must not touch it, or you will die” (Gen. 3:3).

At first glance, I actually did not see a problem with this. Certainly if eating from a tree would make me die I would not want to touch it. I would try and stay as far away from that thing as possible.

The problem lies, however, in the fact that she made a modification to God’s word. Though she made the command stricter, once you make one amendment to God’s instructions they become easier to manipulate.

Moreover, Eve’s more stringent command took her out of God’s grace into legalism. Instead of enjoying the freedom of unimpeded fellowship and perfect harmony with God and creation, she began to focus on “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!” (Colossians 2:21). Colossians 2:23 adds, “Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

Eve probably thought that this new “self-imposed worship” would make her more like God, while gaining wisdom in the process. With those things obviously not occurring, satan tempts her with the two things that she earnestly desired.

The fact that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye is not really headline material. After all, God, who planted the Garden of Eden, “saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Gen. 1:31).

Eve was most assuredly accustomed to eye-pleasing food. It was the fact that she saw “wisdom” written on this fruit, however, that intrigued her.

So, at what point comes the pride?

Eve, in her misguided quest to become like God, thinks herself better than God by neglecting his command. She does so, initially, by merely taking the fruit. According to her own witness, God said not to “touch” the tree. When she touches it and does not die, she thinks God to be a liar and proceeds to eat the fruit that would cause her eventual death.

Just as pride was the motivating force behind the fall of man, the devil uses the same tactic today (1 John 2:16). This pride shows up too often in our churches. Pride is not only unfitting for God’s holy people, but it leads to lack of compassion and being hypocritical.

Luke 18:9-14 details the following:

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

God is not looking for people who are self-righteous and faultfinding, but those who are contrite and operate in meekness. We do not justify ourselves, God does (Romans 8:33). Once we drop the self-vindicating spirit of competition and seek to operate as a unit, the Church can become a place of openness and honesty.

As we strive for maturity, however, we will experience some growing pains. Matthew 7:1-5 gives further advice on hypocrisy:

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 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? 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? 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.

Now, contrary to popular belief, Jesus is not saying that we should not judge. (GASP!) In fact, Jesus says in John 7:24, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

What Christ wants is for us to point out transgression in a constructive way, one that does not disregard our own wrongs in an effort to promote personal piety. Galatians 6:1-2 exhorts, “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you may also be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Judgment has as its end restoration. Paul, after rebuking the Corinthian church in his first letter, writes, “Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I do regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while—yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance” (2 Corinthians 7:8-9a).

We are never to be eager to judge someone, but we must do so as necessary for the health of the church. Judgment, then, becomes a means for correcting ungodliness and fostering repentance in those who unapologetically continue to sin—not those who are penitent and desire to change.  First Corinthians 5:12-13 reads, “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked man from among you.’”

Living lives of openness and honesty amongst one another is the only way to maintain the spiritual health of our churches. James 5:16a says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”

Our healing is being largely held up because of pride. Whether our so-called “images” will be tarnished or we are in denial about our sins—thus making Christ to be a liar (1 John 2:10)—in the end, we are only hurting ourselves. There is no shame in shining the light on the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11-14), even if the deeds might belong to you. By walking in the light, we not only have fellowship, but forgiveness from “all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Finally, as you may endeavor to share your faults, you may have fear of being criticized or even condemned. Recently, I exhibited fear of sharing my struggles with pornography. I trust, however, that these words will be your confidence as they were mine:

 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. (Romans 8:33-34)


~ by christianballenger on June 12, 2012.

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