This week's 'thought' comes in response to many comments I've seen this past week (though they are nothing new). Comments directed in response to posts where the writer of some blog, or some Christian person, shared an opinion contrary to what the majority believes -- and was chastised as being "judgmental" because they said they felt that something was wrong.
All one has to say is that they disagree with something, or believe something to be wrong, and they are instantly hit with a reference to Matthew 7:1 -- which almost every non-Christian seems to know about even if they've never picked up a Bible in their life!
Yet, is it wrong to have an opinion contrary to what the majority holds? Is simply believing that something is wrong being "judgmental"? Society would have us think so. Hopefully today's excerpt from Tim Wildmon from the afaJournal, and the commentary I share which follows it, will clarify the issue just a little bit. Enjoy.
"You Have No Right to Judge Me!" Really?
"Do you know the favorite Bible verse of those who don't believe in the Bible's authority? Think about it. It's not hard. The favorite Bible verse of those who do not believe the Bible is: "Judge not that you be not judged."
These folks cannot tell you where this verse is in the Bible, because they don't read it. But they have heard it is in the Scriptures somewhere, so if they don't like something you say when you pronounce something right or wrong, they whip out Matthew 7:1, and that is supposed to be the end of the discussion.
One of the problems is, if you tell others they have no right to judge someone else, you have thereby judged them for judging. You have done precisely what you claim to be against -- judging. That makes you a hypocrite. But that then begs the question -- why is it wrong to be a hypocrite? Who made that judgment? We just assume that to be a true statement, which is a pre-supposition. But presuppositions need a foundation to be authoritative. For example, the teachings of Jesus Christ are authoritative for those who believe He is the Son of God. Each one has a worldview on which we base our lives, presuppositions we operate under and make decisions on. Because of our country's heritage, most Americans, either consciously or subconsciously, derive their presuppositions about life and morality from the Bible.
Ask the average person on the street if lying is right or wrong behavior, and they are going to tell you it's wrong. Ask them who decided lying is wrong, and they will either say, "It just is," or "My parents taught me it is wrong," or "The Bible says so." However, "It just is," is not an answer to the question; it is an opinion. Neither is, "My parents taught me." Parents are an authority figure, but they do not define morality in any absolute way, because they are humans whose opinions are subject to change. "The Bible says so," is a legitimate answer because if you believe the Bible is God's Word, then you want to obey God so you don't fall into disfavor with a supreme being who controls your eternal destiny.
Many Americans will say they subscribe to the idea that a person should be free to do whatever he wishes, "as long as it does not hurt anyone else." This view is based on the presupposition that freedom is good and it is morally wrong to hurt someone else. But who made these rules? Who says freedom is morally superior to bondage? And why is it wrong to hurt someone else? Who says? To injure or hurt someone goes against biblical teaching. That is where the idea of it being wrong to hurt someone comes from in the first place. The Golden Rule was given to us by Jesus. (See also Rom. 13:10).
Some societies use an atheistic state government as the agent for defining what is right or wrong behavior. It's called totalitarianism for a reason. In Muslim countries, Islamic law and teaching dominate people's behavior. Islam defines good and evil, wrong and right. Most European countries have what's left of their Christian heritage to guide them, although the continent today is mostly secular with Islam rising as a possible replacement to secularism in the coming decades.
It is a healthy exercise to ask ourselves where we get the moral values that govern our lives. Is each person for himself, or do we acknowledge a higher power with authority to declare such?"To his comments I do need to add that as I've been preaching through the book of James, it has become abundantly clear that we are called to exercise wisdom, and that wisdom has a moral character to it (James 3:17-18). That's one of the reasons our culture values knowledge, but not wisdom -- it can't be divorced from making ethical value judgments when confronted by trends, ideas, beliefs, or behaviors.
This is made clear throughout Scripture, but nowhere more clearly than in I Kings 3:4-15 where Solomon is told he can ask God for anything and chooses to ask for a wise and discerning heart. "Give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and distinguish between right and wrong." That's one of the primary traits of wisdom -- the ability to discern what's right and what's wrong and choose the best ethical course of action.
That's what people today seem to forget. Jesus (who was the wisest person who ever lived) made ethical value judgments (Matthew 5:21-26, 27-30, 31-32, 33-37, 38-42, 43-48, etc., etc., etc.). He held that certain things were right and certain things were wrong, and often expressed those value judgments to the very people who held to them or disagreed with Him (Matthew 7:15-23, 11:20-24, Luke 12:13-21).
Likewise, He was regularly calling people to "repent" -- to change their wrong opinions, attitudes and behaviors if they held to certain beliefs, engaged in certain habits, or indulged in God-forbidden and God-dishonoring activities.
That's where people who quote Matthew 7:1 often get it wrong. They forget there are TWO types of judging -- one that is encouraged by Scripture, and one that is forbidden.
1.) The judging that is forbidden is judging that condemns another person. It is judging that seeks to belittle, hurt, humiliate, or demean others. And it is especially condemnation-worthy when the person doing the condemning is actively engaging (publicly or secretly) in the very things he condemns in the other person, or engages in another equally reprehensible thing (Matthew 7:3-5 / Romans 2:1-4). This forbidden type of judging is often harsh, and done in anger, with the proverbial "pointing finger" aimed at another, giving evidence of a graceless, un-gospel-like, holier-than-thou type of smug self-righteousness (Luke 18:9-14, John 8:1-11, James 2:13).
Likewise, the Christ-follower is forbidden from judging anyone on issues Scripture does not definitively address -- the "disputable issues" (Rom. 14:1). The morally grey areas of life that are merely matters of personal preference, or one's own conscience, and not defined as right or wrong by Scripture (Romans 14:1-15:13).
2.) But there is also a "judging" that is actually encouraged in the Bible. In fact, refusing to engage in this type of judging would be disastrous on both the individual and social scale. Solomon encourages "sound judgment" (that is, evaluating situations and circumstances and making good, wise, ethical choices) throughout the book of Proverbs. We also see this in Luke 7:43, John 5:30, John 7:24, Acts 15:19, I Corinthians 2:15, 6:1-8 and 11:31.
Guided by Scripture, and not mere human preference, this type of judging helps us avoid making unwise, impulsive, and disastrous choices (Prov. 7:7) that could bring harm to us, our loved ones, the church, the community or country we live in. In fact, without exercising this type of judgment, we would all ruin our own lives, and likely the lives of those around us. For the person who makes no "judgment calls" will inevitably try anything or experiment in anything -- even that which hurts them and does damage to others physically, emotionally, or in regard to their character. It is not "judging" (in the forbidden sense) to simply say you believe something is wrong.
I do appreciate those who tell me "not to judge" whenever I express an opinion contrary to theirs. It's a chance to see if I am truly engaging in the scripturally forbidden type of judging -- and for that I am thankful. Yet if that person suggests I should stop making all value-judgments, or exercising discernment, or should somehow adopt a view that says there are no rights and wrongs, I must lovingly agree to disagree. Such an unwise and lopsided rebuke should always be rejected by the Christ-loving person. A half-truth, even when spoken in earnest, is still an untruth, and an untruth -- when seen as the whole truth -- can be terribly harmful and misleading.
With Prayers That We Might Be Ever-Conscious of the Need for the One, Without Delving into the Other, Pastor Jeff