I’ve always been a pretty big fan of the Ten Commandments. My favorites is the one that says “Thou shalt not judge.”
Oh, that one isn’t in there, you say?
Sorry, it’s easy to forget nowadays, especially in this country where many Christians carry on as though the entire Bible could be summed up by the phrase, “it’s all good, bro.”
In actual fact, there are a lot of urgent truths and important moral lessons in the Bible. Interestingly, almost all of them have fallen out of favor in modern American society. Here are just a few verses that aren’t particularly trendy or popular nowadays:
(WARNING: Politically incorrect truths ahead)
“Whoever harms one of these little ones that believes in me, it would be better for him if a millstone where tied around his neck and he were drowned in the depths of the ocean.”
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”
“But I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, unless the marriage is unlawful, causes her to commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.”
“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.”
Strange as it may seem, enlightened, progressive Christians rarely attempt to wrestle Ephesians 5 or 2 Thessalonians 3 into a conversation. Yet, while the bulk of the Bible has ended up on our civilization’s cutting room floor, the warnings about “judging” are quoted and repeated incessantly, by Christians and non-Christians alike.
Apparently, the rest of the Book is outdated, outmoded, antiquated and fabricated, but the verses about judging — that stuff is gold, man.
Here’s a fun experiment: post something on your Facebook condemning any sin — not sinner, but sin. Maybe write a few paragraphs about why we shouldn’t kill babies, or why marriage is sacred. Write something defending truth. Write something combating popular cultural lies about morality. Write something where you call out an act — not a person — an act, and then sit back and wait for the responses. Statistically speaking, it will take only 4.7 seconds before a self identified Christian rushes in to insist that you must never speak out against any evil, ever, for any reason, lest you be guilty of “judging.”
And then the “no judging” chorus will begin:
“We’re not allowed to judge.”
“Christians shouldn’t judge.”
“Jesus said to never judge.”
“You’re not a real Christian because you are judging.”
“You’re judging so I’m going to judge you and tell you that you’re a piece of garbage because you judge so much!”
“Judger! You’re a big fat judge-face, all you do is judge all day like a judging judge McJudgePants!”
And so on.
Now, here’s the thing: they’re right — well, almost. Unfortunately, they left out an important word. It’s not that we shouldn’t judge at all — it’s that we shouldn’t judge WRONGLY. The idea that we shouldn’t judge at all is 1) absurd, 2) impossible, 3) very much at odds with every moral edict in all of Scripture. It’s also hypocritical, because telling someone not to judge is, in and of itself, a judgement. Any time you start a sentence with “you shouldn’t,” whatever comes next will constitute a judgement of some kind. Saying, “you shouldn’t judge,” is like saying, “there are no absolutes.”
Translation: you shouldn’t judge… except when judging people for judging. There are no absolutes… except the absolute that there aren’t any absolutes.
Yet, have you ever noticed that these “Don’t Judge” folks are nowhere to be found when the conversation turns to the Westboro Baptists, or domestic abusers, or the Nazis, or Republicans? I guarantee I could write a post condemning gay marriage opponents as bigots and homophobes and not a one of these pragmatists would swoop in to tell me not to “judge.”
Behind the Bible, my second favorite book is the dictionary. Let’s consult it, shall we?
Judge: To form an opinion of; decide upon; settle; to infer, think, hold as an opinion.
When you tell someone not to judge, you’re telling them to stop deciding things, to stop forming opinions, to stop thinking, and to stop inferring. Brilliant bit of philosophy, Plato. “Stop thinking and deciding!” Do you really think Jesus meant THAT when he told us not to judge? Well, I guess you can’t think about it one way or another if you’re adhering to this whole “never judge” schtick.
I know we live in a sound bite culture. Everything has to be condensed down to 14 syllables or less, and every concept must be communicated in under 12 seconds. Entire elections are decided this way. And while this strategy doesn’t work well in the democratic system, it’s an absolute catastrophic heretical disaster if you try to utilize it in the realm of theology. Yes, Jesus said “Judge not,” but you have to read the rest of that passage, and then the rest of the Book to put those two words into context. Once you’ve done that, you’ll understand that what He meant is precisely the opposite of how it is translated by modern cowards who are looking for any excuse to shrink away from the task of standing up against our culture and its many lies.
We must judge. We must exercise judgement. We must be discerning and decisive. We must expose evil and identify sin. Only we must do it righteously and truly. Judge, but judge rightly. That’s the point. We are to judge the sin, not the sinner. People seem to love the latter part of that phrase, and then selectively forget the first portion.
We can not condemn a man to hell. We can not see inside his soul. This is an important point, but it doesn’t mean we can’t speak harshly about the atrocities of a particular individual. If a guy commits adultery, I’ll call him an adulterer. That’s not an insult or an evaluation of his soul; it’s a true and accurate judgement based on the fruits he has produced. If a guy steals, he is a thief. If he murders, he is a murderer. If he commits tyrannies, he is a tyrant.
Jesus stopped a bloodthirsty mob from stoning a woman to death for adultery. Famously, he said “let he without sin cast the first stone.” This profound Biblical event has since been contorted to mean that nobody can condemn any (popular) sin, or speak out against any (popular) evil, because nobody is perfect.
Jesus wasn’t telling the crowd to chill out and be cool with infidelity; he was telling them that they don’t have the authority to pass final judgement on another human being for their moral shortcomings. In the immediate sense, he was also stopping them from brutally killing a woman. This can not be construed into him strolling in with a shrug and saying, “Hey, live and let live, dudes.” In fact, after he forgave the woman’s sin, he commanded her to “sin no more.”
Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. That doesn’t mean that we must be without sin before we can call a sin a sin. Just because we make a judgment does not mean we are throwing rocks at a helpless woman. Sometimes, it means we are shedding light into a terrifying darkness.
Remember, this is the same Jesus who told us to separate the wheat from the chaff and the sheep from the wolves; the Jesus who called his opponents “snakes” and “vipers”; the Jesus who made a whip and violently drove the money changers out of the temple; the Jesus who said he came to bring a sword and drive a wedge between families.
He was loving and peaceful, but He was also manly, strong, courageous, outspoken, decisive, and commanding. He wasn’t a hippy. He was, and is, a King and a Warrior. Our culture has an agenda, and the agenda has nothing to do with following Christ or His precepts. Flimsy modern weaklings have taken the “don’t judge” concept out of context — twisted it, perverted it, and used it as an excuse to sit silently while all manner of unspeakable evils happen in their midst.
They’ve tried to turn Christianity into a religion of apathy and permissiveness. I certainly make judgments about their slander of my faith. I judge it to be sacrilegious, evil, and despicable.
And I judge it rightly.
So, don’t judge? Wrong. Judge. We must judge. The Bible exists, in large part, to shape our judgement and to tell us how to judge. We must teach our kids to have good and moral judgement. We must equip them with the spiritual tools to exercise it publicly, without fear. We must show them how to be discerning, critical thinkers.
You can not raise your children without judgement; you can’t function as a civilized human being without judgement; and you certainly can’t be an obedient Christian without judgment.
I am a sinful person. If you would ever consider accepting and celebrating my sins for the sake of being “non-judgmental,” please do me a favor and stop doing me that favor. I don’t want to be made comfortable and confident in my wrongdoing.
I’d rather have you hurt my feelings as you help me get to Heaven, than protect my feelings as you usher me right along to Hell.