If you know anything about me you know that I do not enjoy openly discussing hot button topics. Politics? No thank you. Religious theology? I'll pass. Right verses wrong when two people are taking opposing viewpoints? I'm looking for the door. Now you might think this makes me a person without opinion, or possibly without passion. I can assure you neither of these are true. What I find is that most “discussion” is actually argumentative and confrontational without having the desire to seek truth. I do not find any of this appealing and therefore I rarely chime in when given the chance. However, I am a person that seeks out God. I may be headed for the door when said discussion has turned to an argument, but I haven't hid my head in the sand. Instead it's buried in the Bible, looking in the Word for an answer.
Lately I have been reading articles about judgment. Thanks to social media I'm able to read comment after comment sharing people's beliefs about what a Christian should and should not do with judgment. Some of these comments are well thought out, siting chapter and verse. Some of these comments can be rounded up into the generic, “Christian's are/aren't supposed to judge,” category (it kind of sounds like two little kids yelling, “Yes I can!” “No you can't!” at each other). And then there are the trolls. Let us ALL ignore them, shall we.
There have been so many things said in the comments sections of online articles that have broken my heart, made me angry, and left me in frustration that God has led me to do something that is far outside of my comfort zone; talk about a hot button topic: judgment.
But, Lord, how will I do this? Keep me off a soapbox, please, I don't wish to be on one.
There are two things I always have a strong desire to do when I hear or read comments that don't seem as if they are correct. The first desire I feel is to find the truth. The second desire I have is to find my Bible and search God's word, because I know truth is found there. These two desires are so strongly interconnected that one cannot come without the other. So, using the difficult topic of “Should Christians Judge?” I'll show how I search scripture, how the Holy Spirit works within me, and the inner workings of my brain as I study God's word with a purpose. In doing this I hope to give a guide for you if you wish to study a topic, difficult or not, on your own. It takes some practice, it takes some guidance, and it takes some tweaking because everyone has their own learning style, but it is without a doubt worth every bit of effort.
Look in the New Testament and Old Testament:
For most of you this step sounds obvious. We know that when Christ came He fulfilled the Law of the OT (Matt 5:17). This fulfillment changed what life looked like for those who followed Christ. It also means that we don't follow certain laws (how many of you have sacrificed turtledoves or goats lately?) but others, such as the ten commandments, are still upheld. It is because of these changes that happened after Christ's coming that some Christians will reject certain OT scriptures and consider them invalid. Some people have widened this theory so far that when they search for answers they stay within the NT. I urge you, if you don't already, to treat the Bible as a whole when you are searching it by topic. You are allowing God to speak to you. You are looking through His words, what He has said from the beginning. From Leviticus (19:15) “...but judge your neighbor fairly.” To Proverbs (31:9) “Speak up and Judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Finding Christs words in red in Matthew (7:1) “Do not Judge or you too will be judged.” And into Colossians (2:16) “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink...”
It's All Greek To Me:
You do not need to be a seminary student or theologian to dabble in the Greek language or to understand a little Hebrew. The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. It has since been translated, to the best of our ability, to the language that we are reading it in. When searching your chosen topic it can be important to go back to the original language. You may have attended a Sunday service or Bible study where someone you deemed knowledgeable explained a part of the Bible that your group was studying. They may have said something to the effect of, “In Greek, this word translates to 'parental love' so when we read this verse in context Christ is speaking of parental love, not love in general.” You nod your head, things become clear based on the new information, and you understand things with more clarity than before a word was translated. You can do this for yourself IF you have the tools and the support.
There are books through http://www.amazon.com/ and bookstores such as Family Christian Bookstores for you to peruse if you are a person who likes to study with books in front of you. If you are comfortable with technology I recommend http://biblehub.com/ . Simply type the verse you are interested in researching into the search bar and click on the word “interlinear”. I'll use one of my verses to explain how I came across something important to me. John 7:24 Christ says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.” The first thing that caught my attention was the fact that Christ, the same Christ that people love to quote from Matthew 7 saying, “Do not judge,” has just said to , “judge correctly.” Placing John 7:24 into the search bar on http://biblehub.com/ and clicking interlinear takes me to the Greek translation. Look at it with me (you are reading this on your computer, after all!). You will see that “judge” is used three times. #1 has a capital “J” and #3 has a lowercase “j”. See the number 2919 above them? Click on one of them (either one, it doesn't mater). Now you are on a scary looking page with way too much information that boggles the mind. Breathe and relax. Look to the left for the “short definition” and “definition”. You will notice that this “judge” in Greek means to decide, whether in a law-court or privately. Use your back button to return to our original scripture. Find #2 “judgment” and click the number 2920 above it. Breathe, relax, and find the “short definition” and “definition”. This Greek word means Divine judgment, decision. Congratulations, you have just had a 3 minute crash course in Greek lead by somebody who barley understands it herself and lived (now, if you continue to look things up and you need help, find support. This can get overwhelming and I want you to feel successful as you continue!). Why is it important to me to look up the words in Greek? Because my Lord and Savior, who talked about not judging, also talked about judging in a Divine way. Without the Greek translation I would not have known that. I can no longer tolerate when a person looks at me and says, “Christ says making a judgment is wrong,” because I know that it is not as black and white, as cut and dry, as clean and neat as one single stand alone verse from Matthew might make it sound.
I was a really good test taker in my English class. But I'll let you in on a secret, I was taught how to take tests. One of my favorite methods was using context clues to find the answer. This is where you use the information you are given to get at an answer or come to the best conclusion you can arrive at. I was taught to read all the information, not just some of it. I was encouraged to re-read difficult passages to get the most out of the material. As long as the exam had no time limit given I was NEVER to skim the story that held the answer. I hold to this when I am searching the Bible. If you use a concordance to look up a word like “judging” or “judgment”, those verses need to be read in context. They need to be read fully, not skimmed. It is the information that you get around the verse that can truly expand on the meaning of God's word. Remember, we're not just here looking for answers, we're here to get to know The One that made us and to see how He desires us to live. When you come across something difficult feel free to re-read it as many times as you need to. I struggle with John 12-47:49. I can't quite explain it to you here, but I can say that to me it's confusing. It hasn't stopped my faith, I won't lose my salvation over it, It doesn't change who God is one bit... but for me it is my re-read passage, and that's O.K. It doesn't stop me from forming opinions, or searching scriptures, or asking for guidance from God and the Holy Spirit within me. I'm not stuck, I'm growing. And so are you.
Bible Passages Are Just As Important As Bible Verses:
Call it what you like, Bible passages or Bible stories, whole sections and books of the Bible can teach us just as much about a topic as a verse can. I gathered some verses that are very important to me and and put them together. These all come from 1 Corinthians: (5:12) “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (6:2) “Or do you not know that the Lord's people will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world are you not competent to judge trivial cases?” (6:3) “Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more the things of this life!” These verses need to be understood contextually, and to do that you have to look them up yourself and do your own study.
Do you want to know what I found to be an amazing study in judgment? Reading through Christ's interactions with people. I wanted to see how he USED judgment. See, we who use the English language are the polar opposite of the Eskimos. I was taught in elementary school that the Eskimos had at least 100 ways to say the word snow (which a quick search on the internet has shown that fact has since been debunked and also made me feel very old because I can now say, “back in my day”) We, on the other hand, have one way to say “judge”, but we all have different definitions in our heads while we are saying it. People use the word judge with the definition of the word judgmental interchangeably. I want to see if Jesus uses his intellect to know the difference between right and wrong. Does Jesus use His mouth to explain the difference between right and wrong? How does Christ do these things? It's clear from the Bible that we are to use Christ as our example as to how to behave, and it's clear from Jesus' own words that He is using God's truth as His moral compass. I look to how Christ talks to the Pharisees. I find Christ's interaction with The Woman At The Well to be very telling about He uses earthly judgment (John 4:1-40). I pay attention to Christ's words and actions to both the Pharisee and the “immoral woman” when reading Luke 7:36-50. I take the Bible verse about he who has sinned casting the first stone in John 8:7 and I read the story that surrounds it all the way to the end. These Bible passages become as important to my theology as the Bible verses that contain the word “judge”. To me, Christ uses judgment without being judgmental. He calls out incorrect behavior in a loving manner. He never condemns, even when others command him to. Yet He cannot be called permissive, either. This is the Christ we strive to be like. This is the Christ that was crucified for who He was (and still is today). **Can I take just a minute here and tell you that it blows my mind that I strive to act the very way that cost Christ His life? **
Word Of God, Speak:
Those that have accepted Jesus Christ have The Holy Spirit residing in them. Fact. You have authority in Christ. You have knowledge through the Spirit. Your confidence is not pride, it is God given. You cannot stop people from believing you are judgmental and unloving, but you can stop yourself from being these things. Make sure that it is God who is your teacher. See the world through God's eyes, not your own, even if it means you do not see the world as the world sees itself. Word of God, speak. Holy Spirit, teach me. Pride, you have no place here. Knowledge, I am simply using you to get to God's truth so that I may know my Father better, not to condemn my fellow man. What you do with the information you gather on your desired topic will be vital. If you are a fan of The Spider-man comics you may be familiar with the phrase, “with great power comes great responsibility.” I recommend you read the letters Paul wrote in in the Bible. I firmly believe that throughout all his letters Paul is urging Christians that with the great power of one's belief in Christ comes one's great responsibility to the others around us. As does Christ's command to love our neighbor. If you believe in Christ the Bible says you have authority, and when you have authority you are responsible for that. We are taught through the teachings of the Bible to treat our fellow man, believer or not, with love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, and grace while doing tasks that Christ himself performed such as making a judgment (the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively, authoritatively, and wisely, especially in matters affecting action; good sense; discretion). If you force one Biblical concept (such as making a judgment) to stand alone by removing other Biblical concepts (such as grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness) when you speak (or learn) about them, as I have seen happen in conversations, it becomes a one dimensional understanding of God's teachings. The Word of God does not do this, therefore we should not either. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JK_6osCH74
There's A Verse For That!:
Searching the Bible for an answer about a specific question or topic is about both the journey AND the destination. Reading about other people's journey through God's word will never be the same as going through your own. Many people come through the journey with a specific verse that is special to them. It has meaning, a connection, it is a memento of their trip. Watch them get misty eyed over it. See the way they connect the verse with specific memories. There is a reason for that. God is speaking. He is not dormant; He is omnipresent. I understand trepidation, but do not let that stop you from your journey. As for me I have a memento of my journey. A journey I will take again and again because I believe a door never closes on a topic. My memento is 1 Corinthians 3:15-16 “The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment: 'For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?' But we have the mind of Christ.” Kimberly McKinney's opinion cannot damn you to a fiery Hell or lift you to an eternal salvation (and I am forever grateful for that). But I question the person who believes that a Christian is told through God's word that they don't have the ability or authority to know the difference between what is right and what is wrong in the eyes of the Lord.
I hope I've encouraged you, spurred you on, made you think, opened your eyes to something new, or reminded you about something you used to do. To put it simply and effectively: go with God.
an article I find insightful: http://forthefamily.org/teaching-children-judge/