I am afraid that the Spirit of the Age has once again seeped its way into the thoughts and hearts of the well-meaning and the not-so-well-meaning, and it is now using the Holy Writ (Bible) against the Holy Wrought (Christians). Let me explain.
“Don’t Judge Me!” Have you ever heard that one before? What was the context? Was it qualified? Or was it used as a conversational trump card? I have experienced my fair share of “Don’t Judge Me”s, and I’ve gotta tell you, it has been extremely hard to continue a conversation once this magical incantation is recited. Why is this the case? How did this phrase gain so many sympathetic ears? How is it that this phrase is perhaps the only Objective Truth from the Bible accepted by all people everywhere? How did the words of our Lord become the battle cry of both the Pro-Choice and the LGBT movements while at the same time being used by Pot-Head Pete from the local youth group to slough off calls to repentance? Are we missing something?
It is here that I must qualify the rest of this post. This post is for Christians, for all those who would call themselves followers of Christ. If you are not a Christian, then I should not expect you to act like Christ. Paul gave the Church pretty clear instructions not to judge those outside the Church. Paul wrote to the Corinthians (lest anyone attempt to use this verse to claim that Christians should not be in the business of labeling sin outside the Church, such as abortion, homosexuality, etc., read Romans 1-3):
For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:12-13
“Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” So, hold on. Is Paul contradicting Jesus and James when they explicitly tell Christians to not judge others? Absolutely not. When Jesus commands his disciples not to judge, he is telling them not to use a standard of judgment that they would not want to be used on themselves. It is right after this command where the oft quoted speck/log teaching of Jesus is found in the Bible (Matthew 7:1-5). In fact, if one reads carefully, Jesus is teaching that once the log is removed from the eye, then the speck can be more easily extracted. This is completely different from simply ignoring the speck.
So what about James? When James commands the believer not to judge his neighbor (James 4:12), is he telling the Christian not to make any moral judgments about the actions of other believers? Well, this is where contextual and canonical analysis comes in handy. One doesn’t have to look very far to see that James is most certainly not commenting on the believer’s ability to exhort other Christians to holy living (see James 5:19). And the rest of the testimony of Scripture, including some red letters, also makes it clear that Christians are to admonish and exhort one another to live lives that are pleasing to God (see below). Instead, James is commanding the Christian not to make presumptive statements about the final destiny of others. This is, of course, different from making general statements about sin patterns in people’s lives and the corresponding destiny that is the result of a life of rebellion and sin (see Luke 13:3, John 3:36, etc.).
Contrary to the “stay out of my business” attitude shared by so many in America today, the Bible actually is very clear that Christians are to live their lives with other Christians in such a way that sin can be easily spotted and rooted out by their fellow believers. Don’t believe me? Try this sampling of Scripture:
Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. -Galatians 6:1
Letthe word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom… -Colossians 3:16a
We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle,encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. -1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13
Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. -Hebrews 3:12-13
My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. -James 5:19
[For further reading, see Matthew 18 and 1 Corinthians 5]
Instead of a steady stream of “Don’t Judge Me”s constantly flowing from our mouths and hearts, perhaps the more biblical phrase goes something like this: “Thank you for bringing me back to the truth! I was hardened by the deceitfulness of sin! Please continue to exhort me, lest I fall away from the living God!” (sure, it’s a mouthful, but hey, if I could respond to admonition like that, praise God!) You see, as believers, we have a common enemy. Satan, sin, and death are what we war against, what our Savior came to set us free from. Shouldn’t we be raging against sin in our own lives in such a way as to welcome any and all help that we can get? Let us not bristle with pride when someone is helping us to extract objects from our eyes, but instead let us be pleased with the kindness shown to us by someone who is simply trying to help us see clearer.
And you who are spiritual (in the Galatians 6:1 sense of the word). Don’t let the “Don’t Judge Me”s prevent you from speaking truth into a brother’s life. Call the smokescreen for what it is, and carry on your righteous war against the devil and his angels.