Apostles’ Creed: To Judge

Is it proper to say that God will judge? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Judging is a funny thing in America today. People constantly say “I’m not trying to judge” and every time I hear that I want to say “But that’s exactly what you’re doing and that’s not necessarily wrong.” Of course, some judging is wrong, and this is the judging that is hypocritical judging, which is what Jesus is talking about in Matthew 7.

It’s a shame that John 3:16 used to be the most quoted Bible verse and today, it’s Matthew 7:1 and even then, just the first part. Jesus is not telling you to never judge. In fact, the very passage talks about throwing pearls to swine and giving what is sacred to dogs. Those actions involve making judgments.

When I lived in Charlotte shortly before the wedding, my best man who was my roommate knew he needed to find a new place to live shortly after Allie and I met. He got a job living in a luxury apartment with a boy in a wheelchair who had had a stroke. (Yes. Luxury apartment all paid for. Just suffering for Jesus I suppose.)

Once in a trip over to visit him, a nurse was there to help out who was saying that we shouldn’t judge. I asked her if her car was parked in the garage downstairs. She said it was. I then asked “Did you lock the doors?” At that point, the light bulb clicked.

Judging is inevitable. You have to do it. If you lock your doors at all, you judge. If you’re cautious about who you choose to babysit your children, you judge. If there are places that you avoid while driving or walking, you judge. When you decide who it is that you are going to marry, you judge.

It’s strange also that judging is being seen as a negative when we have more and more shows of the American Idol variety that rely on the judgment of the man on the street more and more. Why is it that judging is seen as so problematic?

A large part of it is our pseudo-tolerance society. I say pseudo because we do not know what real tolerance is. Tolerance is not being accepting of what everyone does. Tolerance is thinking that what someone is doing is wrong but being able to accept the person regardless.

Let’s consider what has to be there for tolerance. First off, there has to be an area of disagreement for tolerance to exist. A husband for the most part will not tolerate it if his wife wants to make love to him in the evening. Of course not. He’ll openly celebrate it. That’s not something that a guy just puts up with. He wants that. A husband will tolerate it if his wife burns dinner one evening.

Tolerance also when seen as a virtue is normally about something someone has a serious disagreement with on someone. You could tolerate going to a fast food restaurant whose food you don’t particularly like because everyone else in the car is going there. If you make a big issue out of it, then that is more of a problem with you. You don’t call yourself a champion of tolerance just for putting up with food you don’t like.

Third, tolerance has it that what is being done is seen as wrong. Again, you don’t tolerate something that you approve of. Husbands don’t tolerate a wife who wants to make love. Parents don’t tolerate children who clean their rooms.

The obvious example today in America is the debate over homosexuality. For a Christian, if they show tolerance, that means they show love to someone in the homosexual lifestyle without approving of the lifestyle. You can love someone without approving of everything that they do. Case in point, we all do it to ourselves.

Someone can think that the Christian is wrong in not agreeing with the homosexual lifestyle. It does not follow that the Christian is however intolerant. Of course, they could be, and if we think of people with the mindset of Westboro Baptist, they indeed are. Some people do genuinely think homosexuality is wrong but have a great love of homosexuals as people and seek to share the love of Christ with them.

Putting a stigma on judging allows possible evils to go unchecked. It should be for any of us that if a viewpoint or practice we engage in is wrong, we would want to know about it. We would want to be open to evidence and correction that will show that. Too often we are not. Too often also, we blame everyone else for how our lives are turning out instead of taking responsibility.

In a situation like this, people are allowed to use their feelings to hold others in tyranny. Having your feelings hurt is not the worst thing in the world. Sometimes, in fact, it is absolutely necessary. Sometimes you need to be told a hard truth and the only way to do that is by stepping on those toes a little bit. Some people also are not genuinely interested in debate but only in tearing others down. A firm hand can be needed for those.

So what about God? Can God judge? After all, the creed says that He is coming to judge.

It amuses me when I see atheists who complain about the problem of evil. Then you point to a society filled with evil like the Canaanite culture of the past and the atheist complains when God judges that culture as well. No matter what, God is seen as guilty. If God lets evil keep going, then He is wrong. If God judges, then He is also wrong.

God is in fact the only one who can judge perfectly since He alone is wholly good and wholly just. In fact, He is goodness and justice. When God judges also, He will be a good and fair judge with the people who He judges.

“Well how can that be? Christians get a free pass!”

God’s standard is perfection. When God judges a Christian, He will see the Christian in covenant with Christ and will judge the Christian based on the work of Christ. What happens when He comes to the non-Christian? He’s a fair judge and He uses the same standard. The standard is perfection. If someone falls short, they don’t make it. God judges them by their works.

Kind of ironic isn’t it since so many people think God should do just that and judge us by if we did more good than bad in this life.

Now you might say your works are not that bad. You never do anything really really evil. You’ve never murdered anyone for instance.

The reason something like that is thought is because people don’t really know what sin is. Consider what happens when you do what the Bible refers to as sin. You are making these claims.

You are saying your way is better than God’s.
You are saying you know better than God.
You are saying you will not be judged by God so you can get away with it.
You are saying that you will be unholy while knowing that God is holy.
You are saying you are the ultimate authority of how this world should be and how you should live in it.

In essence, you are wanting to be on the throne of God yourself. You are in fact guilty of divine treason.

If that sounds extreme to you, it’s because you just don’t realize the gravity of the situation.

I would also contend that if you are sentenced to live apart from God forever, you will continue to live in rebellion. In other words, you will be building up a debt that you could never pay off.

Saying you are guilty of divine treason could make God sound like a harsh judge, but that’s only getting one side of the picture. That’s what makes forgiveness so beautiful. It’s God saying that He knows you wanted Him to not exist and you wanted to be God yourself, and yet He is going to drop all charges against you. He will not just wipe the slate clean. He will break the slate into a million pieces. You will be seen as innocent based on your trust in Christ.

Keep in mind God could have not sent Christ and been entirely in the right. He could judge us all right now and who could say He was wrong? From a Biblical position, we all deserve death and in fact, we all deserve it right now, so every moment we are allowed to live is in fact a gift of grace.

Also, if you find yourself getting offended at the thought that you deserve death right now for being in rebellion against God, then I can just easily say you are demonstrating pride. If God is the king of this universe, upon what grounds does He owe you anything? You are to bow to Him. He is not to bow to you.

God does have the right to judge and while our judging is imperfect, passages like John 7:24 tell us we need to make right judgments, especially as people of truth who should be constantly seeking out truth. If we live in fear of judging, then we will not be able to fulfill the Great Commission our Lord has given us, for that requires we tell a world that they are sinners in need of a savior and that the King is on the throne and they need to honor Him.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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One Response to “Apostles’ Creed: To Judge”

  1. labreuer Says:

    I suggest some Paul:

    “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. (1 Cor 6:12)

    “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor. (1 Cor 10:23–24)

    Here’s a question for when you are judging:

         (1) Are you attempting to promote life?
         (2) Or are you attempting to destroy?

    There is a purpose 1 Cor 13:1–3 exists: it is possible to speak truth in a way that does not prefer (1) over (2). We see life in the purpose of YHWH all over the OT; Deut 4:1, Deut 6:20–25, Ezek 18, and Is 58 are all examples. God wants life. As I pointed out on Hermeneutics.SE, Jesus slyly presumes in Mt 7:5 that the purpose of judging is to heal. Hence we have the tear/heal pattern in Hos 6:1.

    Another excellent verse:

    But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:14)

    ‘good’: καλός (kalos), Synonym for: Bad, Evil
    ‘evil’: κακός (kakos), Synonym for: Beautiful, Graceful

    Critically, kakos has the sense of something not being quite right, not being as it ought to be. That is, there is perhaps a log to take out of it. Even the one-letter difference between kalos and kakos hints at this. This way of thinking about evil makes it clear that vessels in which evil dwells do not need to be destroyed completely; I would argue that God never does this (not even with Noah). Satan is “the Destroyer”, not God. See 2 Tim 2:21 for dishonorable vessels being cleaned—Calvinist lovers of Rom 9:19–24 do not like noting the existence of this verse.

    So, when you judge, is it your intention to make something which is kakos, into something that is kalos? This seems to be our job, per Rom 8:16–25. If you merely wish to destroy what is kakos, then you are become death, destroyer of worlds, buddy of Satan.

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