You be the judge…or not

A friend of mine, who is very techno-savvy and is becoming quite the online missionary, started a Facebook discussion this week in preparation for our Sunday sermon.  Her question was:

Have you ever been “judged” by someone? When or how is it wrong to judge?

Over the past few days, there have been a few responses.  Most have been from a negative perspective, that judging others is wrong, that we need to take care of our own sin before we dare to point out another person’s errors, that only God can judge.

And while there is truth in those responses, and we certainly should take care not to be prideful or hypocritical like the Pharisees,  we may have taken this perspective a bit too far.  We may have become complacent and indifferent to sin, far too tolerant of those who use this verse as ammunition against us.  God prompted me to respond…so here goes…

Oh, boy. This is long. But I’m running on very few hours of sleep, so bear with me….

We are so afraid to use the word “judge” because of the negative connotations. We are so afraid of being labeled a “hypocrite” by Christians and pre-Christians alike. We are scared that we will ruin our witness and be perceived as holier-than-thou.

I’ve got one word for that line of thinking, which Trace will appreciate: Oy.

God has used people – sinners just like us – throughout history to “judge” others. Prophets – both men AND women – were used by God to speak truth to a sinful people, to a nation misguided by wrong choices.

Were those heroes of the faith any less sinful than we are? I’m taking a wild guess here, but probably not. In fact, we all know there is no “grading curve” as far as sin is concerned. If there was an ounce of pride, or jealousy, or lust, or envy, or anger, or bitterness in any one of them…well then they were just as guilty and deserving of God’s wrath than we are.

So how could God use people – like them, like us – to “judge?” Isn’t that contradictory? I mean, we *all* have planks, and if I gotta wait until my plank is gone, well then there’s a whole lotta people who will go to hell or continue to live in separation from God because of that.

But we do need to discern what we’re doing when we judge. God has not given us the power to absolve or punish sin. That is HIS right alone as the true Judge. But He *has* given us the gift of discernment. He *has* given us the presence of the Holy Spirit. He *has* given us the ultimate guide book in His word – His authoritative, definitive, “because-I-AM-and-I-said-so” final say on the matter. He *has* given us a spirit of boldness. Why has He given all this to us? Yeah, so He can use us. To do what? To speak truth. To share God’s truth. To bring spiritual healing where it is desperately needed. To restore relationships between people and God, broken by our own heedlessness and carelessness.

I *have* been judged. I have had my motives handed to me by others. I have had my unspoken intentions spoken back to my face. I have had my well-meaning actions questioned and unappreciated. All by Christ-followers who – in love, humility, and with a spirit of grace – allowed God to use them to judge my spiritual condition and be His megaphone to my prideful soul.

I *have* judged others. I have opened my mouth and uttered words I never expected to hear myself say: words of truth, words of power, words of tough love. God has – in His divine orchestration of time and circumstance – placed me in situations where I was the only voice of truth…and He needed me there to speak on His behalf.

So, yes. God expects us to judge: to call sin, sin. To be that light in the darkness. To stand up for Truth and righteousness. By His spirit, in His power, and with the words He gives us in His word, we have all we need to accomplish this.

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