Wednesday, January 21, 2009

To judge or not?

    We have been taught our whole lives that we should not judge others. One of the main Bible passages that have supported this view is from Matthew 7:1-5, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged..." (NRSV). Many Christians believe that it is wrong to "judge others." Many believe that we are not permitted to judge others.
    But, in my interpretation of Scripture, not only is judging permissible, it is our scriptural responsibility. No person's teachings are above sound judgment-particularly those of influencial leaders. According to the Bible, authority and accountability go hand in hand  This is alluded to in Luke 12:48. The more and greater the responsibility one holds, the greater the accountability ( James 3:1).
    Moreover, while Jesus warned followers not to judge self-righteously, he also instructed them to make judgments based on proper standards (John 7:24). In the context of the often misquoted command by Jesus to "judge not, or you too will be judged," Jesus urges us to judge false prophets, whose behavior and teachings may lead some people astray (Matthew 7:15-20). Therefore, while Christians are commanded not to judge hypocritically, we are nonetheless called to judge.
    But that must a fine balancing act. Let us not be hypocritical in our judging but let it be with love and good will. In a very surprising book, UnChristian, by David Kinnaman of the Barna Research Group,the following information is revealed: "Nearly nine out of teen young outsiders (87 percent) said that the term judgmental accurately describes present-day Christianity."  Many young people perceive Christianity as being judgmental. That is a shocking and disturbing statistic. This negative perception must be reversed. We must love one another as Jesus loved us!
    The way we react to people and their life circumstances is also a measure of our spiritual maturity. As Christians, full of grace and love, we should be very careful in the ways that we convey the priorities of a Christian. I think at times as Christians we are far more concerned with being right than being righteous.
    We ALL are works in progress. Not one of us is perfect. Some sin is more visible than others, but we all do it. I have no right to harshly judge anyone, because I am just like them! We all need to keep our church doors open, our minds open, and our hearts open as we seek to find our unchurched and dechurched friends and neighbors.

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