Tag Archives: judgement

Judge not, lest ye abdicate your civic responsibility

I recently got called to serve jury duty in Fulton County, Atlanta. During the voir dire process where the jury panel is asked a bunch of general questions, the defendant’s lawyers asked if anyone held any religious, philosophical, spiritual, etc. Beliefs which would prevent them from sitting on a jury if selected.

Two of the women on the panel raised their cards and said their religious beliefs taught them not to judge anyone.

When pressed, the women cited Nubian and “Baptist” as their respective belief systems. The baptist couldn’t, when pressed, cite the specific reason why or where her belief on non-judgement was grounded.

I’ve written about the errant belief that the bible teaches that “thou shalt not judge” before. But this is the first time I’ve seen that belief interfere with someone doing their civic duty.

Beliefs matter, and false beliefs have wide reaching ramifications. I certainly hope that if I am ever in need of a jury of my peers, my peers will see it as a moral imperative to follow the words of Jesus and “make a right judgement”.

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment. -John 7:24


John Piper: Why the Tsunami?

I ran across this video recently and it reminded me about why answering the question of evil is absolutely critical if we are to uphold God as holy.

BTW: God doesn’t judge in this age. Judgement has been suspended until the end of time.


Thou shalt not judge

The problem

Josh McDowell has stated that in our day, Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge…” has replaced John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…” as the most widely recognized and quoted verse.

I believe this to be the case and I think the primary reason for it, at least in our culture, is the postmodern attitude our culture has taken when it comes to truth in general and moral truth in particular1. As alarming as this is, though, what I find more alarming is how this shift in focus has affected most professing believers and how this shift has made us largely ineffective in changing the culture around us.


To begin with this topic, however, we must first understand what man was created to do. In Genesis 2:15-23 we see several things including:

  • Adam was placed into the garden to work and keep it
  • Adam was given free reign over the garden to “eat of every tree in the garden”
  • Adam was told not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
  • it was not good for Adam to be alone
  • Adam was given the authority to name the animals God had made
  • upon creating Eve, the first thing Adam did was name her

In order to do the things the man was responsible for he required the ability to judge a variety of things Good, evil, what to eat, where to work, what to name, etc. In short, the man was created with a sense of judgement which was also required for him to accomplish the work he was given.

All humans since Adam have been given (to greater or lesser extent) the ability and responsibility to judge the world around them. Not merely amoral2 things but immoral things as well. In fact, the whole of Scripture calls us to account for our lapses in judgement.

In light of being created as judging creatures we can return to the original question of judging as raised by contemporary Christians.

Is it wrong to judge?

Matthew 7:1 would seem to indicate it is at first blush, but a more careful examination will reveal that the judgement being cautioned against here is not merely the distinction of right and wrong, it is the practice of condemnation. As 20th century readers, we forget that our own justice system is divided into at least two parts3 when it comes to courtroom trials. There’s the initial portion of the trial in which guilt or innocence is established and, if guilty, there is the sentencing portion where the judge (or jury in some cases) decides what the guilty party ought to pay in order to make up for their crime.

It’s the second portion that we are told in Matthew not to presume to take up and to proceed with caution when we go to judge a person’s actions as right or wrong lest we apply a harsher standard to them than we would want applied to us. Interestingly enough, the rest of Matthew 7 is often either ignored or overlooked but it is precisely the rest of Matthew 7 that puts the “do not judge” from Matthew 7:1 into perspective.

What about forgiveness?

Unfortunately, many people think that judgement excludes forgiveness. What many fail to realize is that forgiveness entails judgement, something the Pharisees understood all too well in Mk 2:7 and Lk 5:21. When we forgive we make several assumptions, including:

  • An offence or moral wrongdoing has occurred which requires judgement
  • We are in the position of judgement
  • We have the ability to sentence the offender in some capacity

Without these premises being true, our forgiveness is as meaningless as the rantings of a madman. However, this also means that even the act of forgiveness is an act of judgement. It is merely an act of judgement wherein we rescind the sentence or penalty.

In other words, we see an offence, we deem it to be wrong, and if we are the party that was offended, we release the person from their punishment as far as we have authority.

In this view of judgement being combined with forgiveness we neither sacrifice moral responsibility or a loving and forgiving attitude towards others. Both of which we are commanded to do at the same time.


We should not be afraid to judge and even admit to others that this is what we are doing when we deem an action right or wrong.

As long as we remember our place when it comes to the scope of our authority, namely that we do not posess the power to condemn anyone to eternal hellfire. And if we remember the commands of Christ to freely forgive as we have been freely forgiven. We will be able to truly love eachother in truth and love without sacrificing or softening either one in the process.

Justice and forgiveness are not mutually exclusive, they go hand in hand.

  1. A condition known as moral relativism. []
  2. non-moral, things that have no moral significance []
  3. There are more or less depending on the laws and specific case, but these two portions of the establishment of guilt and the establishment of the penalty are common to most courts in most countries. []

Judgement, or “Where has all the smiting gone?”

I’ve read many things about God’s judgement recently. Judgement of nations1 , judgement of groups2 , and judgement of people. The concept of God’s judgement is apparently a very misunderstood and frequently misrepresented and since it has the potential to do great harm to a believer’s growth or an unbeliever’s understanding of the relationship between grace and holiness, I figured it deserves some more ink (or pixels as it were).

Some of the extreme examples of recent stances taken regarding the judgement of God is the relatively new practice of imprecatory prayer3 where advocates literally pray for the death of specific individuals such as President Obama. This practice is said to have come from select Old Testament texts where various figures such as the Psalmist, David, and others prayed for their enemies to be vanquished.

I’m not sure this is what Jesus had in mind when he told us to pray for our enemies4.

Most Christians don’t go this far, thankfully, but they do adopt a slightly milder view of God’s wrath and judgement through unfortunate events5 and natural disasters6. While this view of God’s judgement often comes from a noble desire to uphold God’s sovereignty which often, unfortunately, crosses the line into causal determinism and, in order to reconcile the two, forces the holder of such a view of God’s sovereignty to ignore clear Biblical teaching about judgement in order to explain why a sovereign God would cause such tragic events to unfold rather than prevent them.

This issue ultimately leads to the question of evil in general, which is covered far better elsewhere, but I want to focus on the simple question of God’s judgement and what we can and can’t say about it in light of some clear teachings from the Bible.

The nature of God’s judgement can be summed up by the three words Jesus spoke on the matter from the cross. It is finished7 . The Bible clearly states that Jesus paid for sin once and for all at the cross8 . After Jesus rises from the dead we don’t read of anyone being punished for their sins but we are told that this is a time of grace until the final judgement comes where all remaining unrighteous will be dealt with. In fact, we are told that there is only one sin which will determine our innocence or guilt according to Matthew 12:32 and that is the acceptance of the witness of the Holy Spirit to Jesus, the Son sent to pay for our sin. In other words, to blaspheme the Holy Spirit is to call God a liar by refusing to believe in His Son.

An astute observer will note Ananias and Sapphira9 as an example of God judging (and smiting) people after the resurrection of Jesus.

However I would point out that, in addition with Paul’s admonition of 1 Corinthians 5:5 to “deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord”, Hebrews 12:17 tells us that when we are adopted into God’s family we are disciplined as sons . Because of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (once saved, always saved) we shouldn’t think that Ananias and Sapphira were judged in the sense that they somehow lost their salvation but were rather disciplined.

Only by claiming that Jesus did not actually die for the sins of all men could you claim that God is still at work judging and smiting the wicked or else we would have a problem with God requiring double payment for sins. This, too, is something many in the reformed camp end up accepting as a result of their theology10 which ultimately raises more issues than it solves.

As for claiming natural disasters and random events as judgements from God we need to look back to the Old Testament and how God brought judgement then and how what we call judgement today just doesn’t add up.

The first thing we should note is that the prophets in the Old Testament were sent to proclaim the coming wrath of God in order to 1.) give the people time to repent and turn to God (or did you think grace and mercy were unique to the New Testament) and 2.) to remove all doubt as to where the coming calamity came from and why.

With most (if not all) modern forms of “judgement” we see no prophet and we also, frequently, do not see the precision in scope we see in the Old Testiment. In other words, innocent civilians are caught up in many so called acts of judgement we hear about today.

While some theological systems do not hold to the notion of an innocent bystander and are perfectly fine with the idea that God would indiscriminately pour out his wrath on the righteous as well as the unrighteous, Abraham shows us God’s character in regard to judgement in Genesis 18. Before undertaking the task of bargaining with the Lord, he asks “Will you indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”, and later asks “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” This should show us, along with God’s statement about the Amorites ((Genesis 15:16 tells us that their sin had not yet reached its full measure)), that when God judges, he states his case clearly and limits his wrath to those he has also warned and given ample opportunity to repent.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to building a Biblical worldview is the admonition to remain consistent in what we believe and teach. In other words, we have no business telling people about the grace, mercy, and love of a God who has indeed paid everything on the Cross if we are, at the same time, going to tell them that God is, at this time, judging the world for the sin he supposedly already dealt with at the cross.

  1. particularly the USA []
  2. generally whichever one we don’t like at a particular moment []
  3. http://www.sltrib.com/faith/ci_12690952 []
  4. Matthew 5:44 []
  5. Such as 9/11 and bridges collapsing []
  6. such as tsunamis and hurricanes []
  7. John 19:30 []
  8. Hebrews 10, notice that Paul mentions the finality of Jesus’s sacrifice and the corresponding futility of thinking we can “add” anything to it. []
  9. Acts 5:1-10 []
  10. Which is sad, because it shows how bad theology can color a natural reading of the text, turning God into a capricious monster. []