READY TO GIVE AN ANSWER (AUTHORITY OF THE WORD)
Passages that will help you respond when people say…
It used to be that the most frequently-cited passage in America was John 3:16. The reference was visible at practically every NFL game you watched. As the football sailed toward the uprights, someone beyond the end-zone would hold up the sign. John 3:16.
Today it seems that America has moved on from John 3:16 to Matthew 7:1, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” You probably won’t see this held up for the cameras, but you will hear it when people are defending their sins. “Don’t judge me,” is the ready comeback. “Don’t impose your morality on me,” is the cry of our postmodern culture. “What is right for you may not be right for me,” is the way truth is reduced to personal opinion. If the person has any church connection, the response is often, “The only one who can judge me is God.”
Is it true that only God can judge?
In some ways it is. What matters is not my will or preference, but His. He is the Judge. But He doesn’t make people wait until Judgment Day to find out what His judgments will be. The time to find out where God stands on the moral issues of the day is now, because now there is still time to repent.
Even if we were limited to using Matthew 7, it would be clear that “Judge not” does not mean that all judging is wrong.
judgment is required.
7:5 “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” We are not to close our eyes to a person’s sin, but to address it in a humble and loving way.
7:6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” How to know when a person becomes a dog or pig toward what is holy? Judgment is required.
7:15-16 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” To discern between truth and lies, judgment is required.
7:24 “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.”
Judging is not the problem.
Being judgmental is. That can happen when we measure people by subjective, human standards. It happens when we judge motives that we can’t see. It happens when we judge without love.
it was an open
and shut case.
One day, the Pharisees dragged an adulterous woman to Jesus to see what He would do. Open and shut case? They thought it was. But then Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground. We don’t know what He wrote, but we do know what He then said to the Pharisees: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7) Jesus wasn’t condoning the sin of adultery. He was making it clear that she wasn’t the only one who needed to repent. Pious though they appeared, they didn’t care about the woman. They cared about themselves.
Scriptural judging has one goal: the salvation of souls. Its purpose is not to make people upset or make them look bad, but to lead them to see that God’s judgment has already fallen. It thundered down upon Jesus in our place. Every sin was paid for. Every misstep, every false belief, every act of false judging was charged to Him so that we are forgiven. Our goal is to lead everyone to repent and be saved. That takes more than holding up a sign. It takes humility, honesty, and love.
James Albrecht is pastor of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Okabena, Minnesota.