The topic of judging others is one that typically brings out strong emotions amongst Christians today. One can have an argument erupt without ever getting deeper into the discussion behind the word “judge”. It is important to consider context of how we use the word “judge”. It can be used to refer to determining one’s salvation in Christ or also used in regards to determining right actions and motives from wrong ones. These are two very different contexts, even though the external actions are often a reflection of the internal motives. How might we go about considering this topic? How about we pick a good role model and see how they show it should be done?
From the time we are young children we are often taught to look at role models to guide our behavior. The concept is simple… identify someone who is doing something well and that you want to “be like” and then study how they think and act. Repeat their actions and hope to repeat their successful outcome in your own life.
The right role models help us succeed in our endeavors, but the wrong role models can lead us on a path to failure and destruction. The wise take great care in evaluating proper role models to follow, but the foolish decide quickly whom to imitate based on surface evaluation of fame or money or status. What we perceive to be “success” has great influence in whom we choose as a role model. Am I pursuing a football career? or a close personal relationship with God? If both, which is my higher priority?
Pause for a moment and consider who you would use as your role model in evaluating the topic of “judging others”. Now let us consider who Paul points to in Ephesians 5.
Be Imitators of God
3But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.
6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7Therefore do not be partakers with them; 8for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light 9(for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), 10trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.
14For this reason it says,
And arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.”
15Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; 21and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.
I hear many cling to false doctrine that “I can do anything I want and the grace of God will cover it“… which essentially makes the case that we can intentionally rebel against God, or just ignore Him, instead of submit to Him and He does not mind! That is absurd. Paul clearly teaches differently as did Jesus and all the prophets. The key message of all of them was to “repent, turn away from wrong behaviors and attitudes, submit to God, and sin no more“. No Biblical prophet or disciple (and certainly not Jesus) ever taught that it was ok to keep sinning willfully. If you find that scripture… please send it to me. It is not there.
It should be sobering to all of us to read Ephesians 5:5.
Yes… our behaviors and attitudes, which are observable by other people, are a reflection of our inner faith and relationship with God. We cannot claim to be righteous and in right relationship with God just because we say so and then keep on sinning!
Ephesians 5:6-7 are actually a command for us to avoid the deception of empty words! Far too many are confused and declare no one should “judge” anyone else. We are clearly instructed to discern genuine followers of Christ from liars by their actions and then to keep away from those who are not truly following God!
It is equally true that we should test even our own actions to see if they reflect Christ or not. Let us not be complacent in that we say Jesus is Lord, but rather test our actions to see if we are living in such a way that demonstrates we believe Jesus is Lord. This means we obey His commandments, not our own desires and not the value system of the world.
Ephesians 5:11 goes on to instruct us explicitly to not participate in and even to expose the deeds of darkness rather than ignore them for fear of “judging” others who do wrong. We are not called to just go along to avoid offending other people. We are called to use wisdom and discernment to judge right from wrong!
If we listen to many role models, even leaders in many churches, we will be told not to “judge” actions of others. But when we choose God as our role model, and the Bible as our primary source of revelation about God… an unchanging source of knowledge about an unchanging God… we see different instruction. We must wisely judge right from wrong so that we can do right and avoid wrong. To do so we must identify by their observable actions who are those that we can trust and who are those we can not. We should even go so far as to challenge ourselves by comparing our observable actions to the words we say when we claim to submit to Jesus.
As an interesting exercise, consider the following. If you were on trial, accused of being a Christian… a true follower of Jesus Christ… could anyone convict you based on actual observable facts?
18But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
What changes should you consider to your life that may help build the evidence that you are a genuine Christian? Keep in mind, of course, that doing works just to do works amounts to nothing. We must start by testing what we really believe in our heart, submit to and follow Jesus wholeheartedly, and you will want to do the works.
Said a different way, if you can not find evidence to convict you as a follower of Christ, do not try to fix the problem by starting with more works, but rather by inspecting your heart and transforming your heart to fully submit to following Jesus. Then simply live your life with a genuine love for Jesus and desire to obey His commands… and the works will just show up.
Have you submitted your life to Jesus Christ? If you die today, do you know for sure that you would be with God in heaven? Learn more about salvation through The Message of the Cross.