Are you my brother or my enemy? These days it is hard to tell! So many profess the same faith, but their actions are as diverse from yours as the many colours of the rainbow. It is hard to know who is really sincere, who’s right and who’s wrong. Can we really know who is on the Lord’s side?
It is important for us to know who’s a true believer and who’s a traitor, because the Bible tells us that “iron sharpens iron”, and that if we walk with fools, we will share their fate (Proverbs 1:10-19). So, while we consider ourselves sincere, we may have a hard time trusting other professing Christians around us, especially when their actions or words don’t line up with our expectations.
While the Bible is clear that we have to discern the Truth, and stay away from evil doers, we are also commanded not to judge. But how can you discern right from wrong and saints from sinners, if you don’t exercise judgment? And if some level of judgment is permissible, when do you know when you’ve crossed the line into the critical level of judgment?
Many people who are confused about this apparent double standard prefer to switch off their guage, and assume the best in everyone. They don’t judge period! If you say you’re Christian, and you do what you like (whether it’s right or not), then it’s probably because of the level you are on the spiritual ladder. You’re probably not as mature as they are. The basis here is that everyone has their own walk with God, so don’t judge your brother/sister. Romans 14:10-13 seems to support this approach.
But there are still others who judge everything and everyone according to their own standard. If it doesn’t fit in with their reasoning and revelation from God, then it is suspect. These can only fellowship with people who agree wholly with them, because the slightest difference may imply that the other may not be submitting to the Truth as they know it. For fear of their own sanity and righteousness, the ‘backslider’ is shunned. 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 seems to support this approach.
However, both approaches are dangerous. The first is dangerous because when we neglect to correct our brothers and sisters in error, we are not really loving them and showing concern for their salvation (Jude 23). They say that the only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for the righteous to do nothing.
The second approach is also dangerous because it doesn’t show compassion on the weak, or empathy as one who also suffers weakness. Rather than take time to persuade, judgment is passed, and the weak are lost, when they could have been preserved with a more loving approach (Jude 22).
I have practiced both approaches, and still struggle to find a balance. One thing that helps me to keep a right perspective is what Jesus said on this matter of judgment. In Matthew 7, verses 1 to 5, Jesus said:
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the beam in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother’s eye“.
I used to be very perplexed about these verses, but then God opened my eyes to them. The speck in your brother’s eye is the DIFFERENCE between you and him! Very minute and almost negligible! The beam in your eye is the difference between you and God! Extremely humongous and not at all negligible! Jesus is saying what is really important and necessary is for you to first get as righteous as God, then you’ll be in a better position to judge your brother and ‘save’ him!
Jesus isn’t saying that we cannot judge (John 7:24), but that the judgments we make when we are so far from perfect ourselves will be grossly in error, and that we also do detriment to ourselves, because we think we are better than we are. Consider also that if we were as righteous as God, then we would also be as gracious when it comes to passing judgment. But when we pass judgment without grace, we will receive the same judgment from God – without grace.
So, I guess I still haven’t answered my question – who’s on the Lord’s side? I don’t believe we will ever really know until we make it to Heaven. Jesus said that many will be shocked to see people they rejected as faithless in Heaven, while those who were esteemed as righteous, cast out.
So I try not to judge people, because I have a long way to go myself. What I do is speak the Truth as it is revealed to me, whether or not I am practicing it fully myself, and hope that it will not only change me, but also those who listen.
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