Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Called to judge?

So apparently I'm becoming adept at stirring the pot.

My last post led to a 75 comment long stream on Facebook.  Some folks really agreed with me,  while others adamantly defended the Pearls.  Some folks called me judgmental and called into question my behavior as a Christian.  

So my question here is, are we allowed to judge as Christians?  When?  Why?  Are there limits?

Nearly everyone is familiar with Matthew 7:1, "Judge not, or you will be judged,"  Offer an opinion on nearly anything that someone else doesn't like and you will be smacked in the face with this verse.  But what does it really mean?

If we continue down the passage we read, " 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."   A companion verse is Luke 6:37, "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven."

Reading these, and knowing what my Savior said to the hypocritical, hyper-judgmental religious leaders of the day, it is easy to see that we are not to judge other people.  I am not to look at another person's heart and condemn them.  I should follow Jesus' teachings and treat others the way I would like to be treated,  forgiving them as I would like to be forgiven.  We know from the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matt. 18:21-35), that it angers God greatly when we, who have been forgiven an unpayable debt, hold others accountable for the comparatively small offenses they have committed. 

So it seems pretty obvious that we must develop a policy of charity towards others since we desire charity for ourselves.

But the issue becomes more murky when we start talking about behaviors and teachings. 

Pope John Paul wrote that Adam and Eve mistakenly thought that they could choose right and wrong.  In reality, God alone can determine if something is right or wrong, good or evil.  We only get to choose which side we will stand on (Josh 24:15,  Matt 12:30.)   Will we agree with God or pretend that we get to determine what is sin?  It's a form of idolatry, really - enshrining one's own self and one's own opinion greater than God's.  Because when we refuse to agree with God and call sin sin, we are really telling Him that we could do a better job - that our judgment is better than His. 

So, for example, when we call abortion a sin, we are not being judgmental in a way prohibited by Scripture.  Instead, we are siding with God, who hates murder and the shedding of innocent blood (Prov. 6:17, Ex. 20:30).  I am not judging a woman's heart when I say that abortion is sinful.  I am agreeing with God, who creates life and despises the killing of innocents.   To say otherwise would be to tell God that I have better judgment than He does.  (I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that's a bad idea.)

Teaching is a whole 'nother ball of wax.  Teachers are held to a very high standard of accuracy and faithfulness to the Gospel (Titus 1:9 and 2:1, Gal. 1:6-9).   We are repeatedly admonished to evaluate teachings to make sure they line up with the Gospel (Acts 17:11).  We should endeavor to separate our feelings about a teacher as person from our evaluation of their message.

I am sure the Pearls are kind and meek.  My husband greatly enjoyed his time with the couple and was very blessed when Debi watched his movie and gave him a review. But I have a duty to separate those warm feelings from an honest evaluation of their teachings in light of revealed Biblical truth.  And I find the books lacking in the Spirit of grace that I see the Bible.  I also find them to be full of judgments and Law that will not bring life, but bondage.

I do not believe I am sinning in judging or evaluating the teachings of the Pearls.  I have not judged their hearts, after all, I have simply judged the teachings that they have presented to the body of Christ.  I would argue that not only is this an allowable practice, but an essential and beneficial habit for a maturing believer.

PS:  I should add that the teacher's platform matters as well.  The Pearls have presented themselves as Biblical child-rearing experts.  This means they must be evaluated using stricter standards than someone who is just sharing informally about their parenting philosophy.


Hermana Linda said...

Thank you!

TealRose said...

Thank you Tamara .. yes... we need to speak out on things we do not agree with. Especially on the the hitting of children. I don't believe that we should NEVER 'judge' because that to me would mean we would sit back and watch the world go by .. and never do anything about the wrongs that go on in the world. For me .. this whole spanking/hitting children abomination is just that. One little smack or a whole load are wrong. One cannot hit and love. We are commanded to love one another, to treat one another as we would like to be treated... and hitting a defenceless child or even baby - or and adult or animal is not loving. No one should be or deserves to be hit. Thank goodness I do believe in God.. because I do believe that we all will have to answer to him one day .. and that means the Pearls of this world .. and anyone who harms a child.

zekesmom10 said...

Thank you Tamara! I started a flurry of "thou shalt not judge" and WWJD? on FB two weeks ago. And that doesn't cut it with me. At what point does Christian Tolerance go too far? How much sin are we allowed to commit before someone can kindly say, "hey, maybe you shouldn't do that"? It's ridiculous.