I was teaching a a group of people one day several years ago. One of the people in this group challenged something I had said by boldly stating: “Judge not lest ye be judged.”
I asked them, “what does that mean?” They had a blank expression on their face like I had just asked them one of the dumbest questions they had ever heard like “why is there air?” Duh, to breathe!
One particular lady gathered herself and blurted out,
“the bible says we are not supposed to judge anyone lest we be judged.”
I asked her, “does it?”
In asking her that simple question, I think she was doing all she could not to get up walk out of the study class right then and there. Without a doubt, she was angry that I had questioned, or better yet, challenged, her. It would not have surprised me if she had retorted with something like,
“I thought you knew the bible, if you don’t know this then I am in the wrong place and learning from the wrong guy!”
To her credit, she stayed, albeit now with crossed legs, crossed arms, and an expression that hid nothing. I proceeded carefully because ideological stances can be fragile things. It is why ignorance is bliss. In other words, “I am very comfortable with what I believe.” When someone points something out that contradicts an ideological stance that someone subscribes to, the person is left with basically 2 choices:
- dismiss the contradiction (keeps their ideology safe)
- deal with the contradiction (leads to ideology change)
Problem is that the safe little ideologies that we build are not always rooted in fact. Sometimes they are rooted in what we think things are or should be. This happens a lot in the church. Many people go to church, accept what their pastor teaches, and anything or anyone that contradicts what they have heard from him is wrong. That week at church may be the only real time that they ever open their bible during the week. They may not understand the preacher’s message contextually. They may even jump to conclusions of their own based on what they think they hear him saying. Ideologies are formed with foundations built on less than even this.
Why do I point this out?
Let’s go back to our judging story. The verse that the lady was referencing an defensive about was:
Matthew 7:1 (CJB) 1 “Don’t judge, so that you won’t be judged.
I asked her and the group to turn to 1st Corinthians 5:12. I had them read it for the several different versions of the text that they had.
1 Corinthians 5:12 (CJB) 12 For what business is it of mine to judge outsiders?
Isn’t it those who are part of the community that you should be judging?
I then asked them a simple question,
“Is this a conundrum?
At first, it didn’t register for many of them in the group. There was silence. One of the guys finally confided that he didn’t know what a conundrum was but that he got the gist of what it meant because he asked,
“Doesn’t this contradict Matthew 7:1?”
I love it when I see lights go on. Even if it is only a porch light at times and the rest of the house is still dark. It means they are thinking instead of accepting. They are considering the implications. They are willing to risk the comfort of their safe little ideology in the pursuit of truth!
However, the woman still had her arms folded, her legs crossed and her lips pursed. I proceeded carefully.
I decided to use a part of the text that is much easier to see. I had them turn in their bibles to 1st Corinthians 6.
1 Corinthians 6:1-6 (CJB) 1 How dare one of you with a complaint against another
go to court before pagan judges and not before God’s people? 2 Don’t you know that God’s people are going to judge the universe?
If you are going to judge the universe,
are you incompetent to judge these minor matters?
3 Don’t you know that we will judge angels,
not to mention affairs of everyday life?
4 So if you require judgments about matters of everyday life,
why do you put them in front of men
who have no standing in the Messianic Community?
5 I say, shame on you!
Can it be that there isn’t one person among you wise enough
to be able to settle a dispute between brothers?
6 Instead, a brother brings a lawsuit against another brother,
and that before unbelievers!
Again we read this out loud from a couple of different versions and I asked a simple question,
“Why does Sha’ul (Paul) chastise this group of believers for having their dispute settled by a pagan (unbelieving) judge?”
A couple of more porch lights went on. Several in the room that were also defensive shifted in their seat and uncrossed their arms. One guy blurted out,
“The pagan judge is going to judge based on the laws of man and not on the laws of God!”
You could have heard a pin drop. I broke the uncomfortable silence by asking yet another question,
How do you settle a dispute without judging?
Silence again. I continued,
Can you have discernment without judgment?
I had their attention. The lady’s arms and legs were folded, but her sour look was disappearing fast. That is what I had been waiting for – her willingness to hear – her willingness to expose her safe ideology, even if just a tiny bit. I continued by having them turn to 1st Yochanan (John) 4:
1 John 4:1 (CJB) 1 Dear friends, don’t trust every spirit.
On the contrary, test the spirits to see whether they are from God;
because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Again, I asked a simple question based upon what we had just read,
“Can you test the spirits without using judgment?
Again silence. In retrospect, I think the footing was so unsure for them about now they they were afraid to say anything. They were thinking and they were listening. So I dropped the bombshell on them as I started reading from 1st Corinthians 5:
1 Corinthians 5:3 (CJB) 3 For I myself, even though I am absent physically,
am with you spiritually;
and I have already judged the man who has done this as if I were present.
Sha’ul (Paul) had “already judged the man” – a man that was stepson – a stepson that was sleeping with his stepmother. Had Paul just contradicted the teaching of Yeshua (Jesus)?
I am going to save you a lot of heartache over these apparent contradictions and cut to the chase:
Judge the action, not the intent.
I will let that sink in for a minute.
I want to close this by sharing a small piece of my unpublished book Even If . . . with you from my chapter on judging because it says it very succinctly:
You see, it is impossible not to judge the actions of our Christian brothers and sisters if we love them. That is part of what accountability is. If they are doing something that is contrary to the text, we should love them enough to correct them – to help them see their error – but the key to this is love.
Judge the action – NOT the intent! Don’t judge their heart (intent) – EVER!
Do you understand what I have just said? Do you understand why? If you judge someone’s heart, you are essentially saying that you think you are God or like God because we know that:
Adonai is the one (not us) that weighs the heart.
Adonai is the one (not us) that knows a man’s true motives.
Adonai is the one (not us) that will judge the soul.
Do you remember the last time someone proclaimed himself to be like “the Most High?” How’s that working our for him? Do you want to play on his team? I understand that the practices on that team last an eternity and are very hot! Simply put, judging the heart (or intent) is God’s job and God’s job alone. We are neither called, qualified nor equipped to do so.
In the end, it always comes back to a heart issue – you will hear me say that over and over and over.
Blessings to all of you!