Recently, I posted two items on Facebook that are admittedly controversial. In one, I denounce rapper Jay-Z’s song “Empire of the Mind“ where he states that “Jesus can’t save you… life begins when the church ends”. A second posting is a Youtube clip where an Orthodox Jewish Rabbi is coming against Zionism and alarming the world of the internal struggle between Orthodox Judaism and Zionism. Both these positions were met with hostility towards me and and indifference about the issues I raised. Some point out that voices that call out the struggle between good and evil are should be silenced. The thinking is that prophetic voices that signal wrong have no right to do so.
Those exchanges raise a very basic question, “Should Christians judge”?
In short, I make the case that tolerance is not necessarily virtuous, but rather we are to judge and are held accountable by God if we do not.
FORMS OF JUDGMENT
The world misunderstands judgment. In-fact, even those in the church often mis-represent what the Word says. There are different types of judging. Christ speaks against judging to ultimately condemn. The transliteration of that form of judging (Matthew 7) is “krinete“, which comes from the root krino; the form of judging to condemn. And there are areas where we are not to judge such as to judge someone’s outward appearance as being “ugly”.
But Christians are to judge in various other areas. This goes all the way back to the time of the Judges in the Old Testament. That system was set up by God for man to hear and judge matters between people. Coming forward in the New Testament, the Bible instructs us to judge in a new of places. For instance, in 1 Corinthians 5: 3-5, Paul judges non-repentance, which is the spirit of pointing out sin as Jesus instructs in Mat 18:15-20. The purpose however, is not to condemn, but to restore – in accordance with Galations 6:1-5.
Notice that Christ rebukes the Church at Thyatira for NOT judging – Revelation 2:20-24. And this is the danger we run into when the church falsely accepts a narrative that says “don’t judge”. NO, we are to judge as a precursor to restoring and we will be held accountable by God for not doing so. It is a judgment out of the Word and with love so as to restore. Hence, for instance, we judge homosexuality – something popular culture wants us to accept – for the purpose of restoring. Society teaches us to be “tolerant”, which IS NOT consistent with Scripture. And here, we judge Jay-Z’s work as anti-Christ that he might be restored. God ultimately concerns himself with “motivations”, and specifically, the motivations for judging. We can be confident in judging with restoration in-mind.
Matthew 7 Jesus rebukes judgment that was intended to condemn. We must judge to bring ourselves closer to the Lord. Anything that distances man from God – as in Matthew 7 – is not godly.
There are other contexts for righteously judging according to God’s Word:
1. DOCTRINAL TEACHING: We are to make sure/judge doctrine is true or false (Matthew 7:15-20; Acts 17:10-11; 1 Corinthians 14:29; Titus 1:10-16; 3:10; Hebrews 13:7; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2:20-24). There are other places where Paul instructs churches to judge what he is saying and judge themselves as to their keeping with the faith.
2. BEHAVIOR: In 1 Thessalonians 5:14, Paul instructs the church to admonish the unruly. That word “admonish” is another word for judge. Verse 15 adds the spirit of judging – not to render evil for evil. So, it was right to judge apartheid, but the Truth and Reconciliation process was the proper resolution versus war. To be clear, South Africa did not go far enough to reapportion the wealth of the nation after apartheid, but that is another subject.
3. PERSONAL JUDGING: 2 Corinthians 13:5-7 teaches us to judge ourselves to see if our faith be real. Also, we are instructed to examine ourselves (i.e., judge) as a condition of partaking in the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:31).
4. AT THE END OF TIME: The people of God will judge the nations 1 Corinthians. 6:2.
RESPONSES TO WRONG
Voices that call for tolerance, in the face of wrong, are voices that either participate in the wrong implicitly or that by-necessity require a sort of wrong double standard.
This implicit wrong that that In a recent essay entitled, The Moral Imperative of Activism, former CIA official Ray McGovern, reflected on St. Thomas Aquinas’ philosophy about justice, patience, and anger:
I find that people often are conflicted about whether or not to allow themselves to be angry. Thomas Aquinas, who wrote a lot about virtue, got quite angry when he realized there was no word in Latin for just the right amount of anger — for the virtue of anger. Thomas cited what a famous fourth-century theologian said on the subject: “He or she who is not angry, when there is just cause for anger, sins. Why? Because anger respicit bonum justitiae, anger looks to the good of Justice, and if you can live among injustice without anger you are unjust.” Aquinas added his own corollary; he railed against what he called “unreasoned patience,” which, he said, “sows the seeds of vice, nourishes negligence, and persuades not only evil people but good people to do evil.”
— Ray McGovern
Implicit wrong implicates the those involved in that which displeases God and those who remain silent about it. Here, those who burned to-death protestant bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley at the stake are little differentiated from
Tolerance of wrong is an moral distance from it. This form of tolerance prolongs wrong, what some call the grease that spreads it. What meaningful distinction can one make between a slavemaster and the citizen who tolerates slavery? What would history’s reflections be had the United States not fought Hitler’s tyrannical regime because a “not in my backyard” indifference?
“Indifference, to me, is the epitome of evil.”
Professor, Boston University
Political activist, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor
This kind of tolerance become the reflection in history’s most egregious evils. God hates sin categorically. And yet, there is a response for lukewarmness that God so disdains that Jesus says to these, God spews out of his mouth. [Revelation 3:16] Indeed, I often observed God’s diametrically opposing responses in two famous “3:16” passages. In John 3:16, God gives himself to restore the evildoer. But in Revelation 3:16, God has little tolerance for the indifferent.
The above response to wrong appeals to a sense of tolerance that effectively joins the tolerant to the wrong itself. This creates a second and equally problematic aspect of misplaced tolerance. Namely, one who encourages tolerance of one wrong must inherently be silent on all wrong or be guilty of establishing moral double standards.
How else can fighting for the right to abort babies on September 16, 1963 while decrying the evil of bombing the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham on September 15, 1963. Is not one life as precious to God as the next? Does one who seeks tolerance for two men who desire to insert their sexual organs in one another under some guise of “marriage” in a position to disdain the pedophile? Can one toot the horn to end capital punishment while beating the drums for unjust warfare?
Tolerance robs us from our moral authority. Tolerance separates us from the standard we have in God’s Word. This is not to suggest that intolerance means to become the next link in evil’s lengthy chain. Burning people at the stake indicts the very executioners as they indicted the executed. Intolerance simply
GODLY JUDGING IN SCRIPTURE
Those who suggest we are not to judge in the sense of bringing ourselves and men to God’s will actually deny the very Word of the Lord. God uses Moses to judge Pharaoh oppression of the Hebrews. God sends Nathan to King David to judge the latter’s actions with Bethesda and the killing of Uriah [2 Samuel 12]. In the 33rd Chapter of the Book of Job, Elihu judges both Job and his three unfaithful friends, which set a suffering Job on a positive spiritual course with the Lord. And Jeremiah judges the Southern Kingdom for its idolatry [Jeremiah 3]. In the midst of King Belshazzar’s feast, Daniel interprets God’s writing on the wall, judging the idolatry that would soon bring destruction to the king and his kingdom [Daniel 5].
John the Baptist, declared the sin of his countrymen and the need for a massive wave of repentance [Matthew 3:2]. And the Apostle Paul rebukes Galatians for leaving the principles of faith established through Christ [Galatians 1]. One of the popular retorts from the gay agenda side of discussions on the highly contentious discussion of homosexuality/gay marriage is, “Don’t judge”. Some even point to the case of the woman caught in adultery. Namely, that Jesus did not judge the woman caught in adultery. Well, that is a flat-out lie perpetuated by people who are not reading the text.
Jesus does in-fact judge her lifestyle. Consider his parting words, “Go and sin no more” [John 8:11] Notice the inference here that Jesus cited what she was doing as sin! That is, to sin no more as a command recognizes that her lifestyle was sinful. But again, he called her to a better life, and not to be stoned. He judged the sin to conform her life to God’s will. The homosexual movement does not want to hear that this lifestyle is sin. This is the spirit out of which we discussion homosexuality – which it seems is the only sin we are not supposed to discuss. If we fail to call it sin, our love is not as deep as our political correctness. We are like the doctor who calls cancer, gas, leaving the patient without a sense of his/her need of a cure.
It is in this context that judgment is a prelude to extension of God’s nature to which Christians are called to be conduits in our dealings. Judgment renders a verdict, subject to the Word of God and for the purpose of bringing us closer to God’s image. And it is judgment that enables us to unleash grace and mercy — two aspects of God’s nature. Here, then, we see that we cannot operate in various aspects of God’s nature without judging. If something is not found to be “wrong”, then grace and mercy are not operative. We can set neither in-motion without judgment.
Indeed, much of what we find in God’s character — the character we are to exhibit — follows this seemingly ironic pathology. Love is most exemplified when directed at one’s enemies. We cannot be ministers of peace unless there is a prevailing discourse. That is, I need not be a peacemaker where peace already exists. And in this same manner, I cannot extend grace and mercy where no precipitating wrong has occurred. Consequently, judgment takes on a great burden, a responsibility, that it leads us down the path of virtues such as longsuffering and forgiveness. If we cannot be available to these responsibilities, we should not be ex
WHAT OF THE IMPERFECT “JUDGING”
Some, who are hostile to the idea of godly judging, suggest that those who are imperfect should not judge. This is a flat-out lie from hell and not consistent with Scripture. With the exception of God himself, the history of godly judging in the Biblical text involves imperfect people. Certainly, the above — Moses, Elihu, Nathan, Daniel, John the Baptist, Paul, etc — were imperfect. God inspired imperfect people to write Scriptures. God set up the system of Judges, recognizing Othniel, Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Jephtah, Elon, Eli, and the others were also imperfect people. God calls imperfect people to prophecy — whether Elijah or Hosea. And this historical pattern of God using imperfect people to judge follow us into today. Consider that the abolitionist preachers — John Brown, David Walker, and Frederick Douglass — were all imperfect.
Bishop Tutu, who judged the evils of South African Apartheid, has sin in his own life. Indeed, Dr. King, Ralph Abernathy, Wyatt T. Waler, CT Vivian, Hosea Williams, Fannie Lou Hamer, and a host of civil rights leaders were also imperfect individuals. Ultimately, physician with cancer can still treat cancer patients. Those who’ve suffered with alcoholism can make for great counselors on substance abuse. And oddly, many of the same persons who would claim otherwise readily accept marriage counseling in the form of books and movies from someone who while counseling, was willingly leaving a marriage.
The fact of the matter is, God’s system of using imperfect people has brought about incredible positive changes in the world. As such, it is very consistent with God’s plan that imperfect people can both judge and call nations to righteousness.
When we fail to judge, we take away one of the basic reasons God gave us The Word. Note: 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV says:
All scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
The word “rebuke” is to conclude a thing is bad. It means to criticize and to criticize harshly – as we are doing to Jay-Z’s song. Rebuke (or reproof in the KJV) comes from the Greek word “elegchó“, which means to call out or to expose as being guilty. Scripture is given for that reason. Surely, those who are not following the Word are not expected to call out things that are matters of the Word. Hence, we are called to apply Scriptures for that purpose, again in the Spirit of God.
I find it interesting that some readily take one of the most harshest forms of judgment without trepidation while desiring Christians be silent. Warfare is the epitome of judgment where a nation passes judgment and executes penalties. Had we not done so during the days of Hitler, European Jews would have continued to be slaughtered. That said, our judgment must be equitable. We cannot judge some evil dictators, while closing our eyes to others.
There is so much more on judging. I encourage people to read on this topic. Be clear that words must be studied for their thrust and meaning. As in the case of judging, IT IS A DESIGN OF SATAN TO CONVINCE US NOT TO JUDGE. That leads to tolerance for things God is not tolerant. And we then are accountable because we are silent. Let us go forward, examining ourselves, and yes, judging the world according to the Word of God.
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