- #1: A man sitting in a bar downs his fourth shot of whiskey while scolding the margarita-drinking woman in the next booth, tell her that drinking mixed drinks makes her a jerk and an alcoholic. He just can't stand to even look at her.
- #2: A man sitting in a bar downs his fourth shot of whiskey and scowls at the woman downing margaritas in the next booth. Part of him still thinks about what a jerk and an alcoholic she is, but another part of him... well... well, he's just stopped saying so much. He's been starting to realize he's been just as big a jerk and alcoholic. Probably even bigger. He continues coming in every day, but after awhile he just can't stand himself anymore and he wanders out into the nearest AA meeting.
- #3: A man that used to sit in a bar being an alcoholic jerk has been sober for some time now. Lately he's started taking a bunch of little cards that have the local AA meeting times on them, and handing them out to the bar patrons while telling them how wrong this way of living is. He just can't stand anything that even hints of bar or alcoholic living any longer.
What's really scary though is that most of them would also say the guy in scenario #3 was judging and therefore wrong. Why? Because he was telling other people their choices and lives are wrong, and he was pushing his own choices on them, trying to get them to change.
The truth of the matter is that the man in scenario #3 is actually doing God's work. Even more, it isn't until we get to Step 3 that we are of any real use to Jesus.
- Most Christians stop at Step 1. They never stop slapping others around for being sinners, while ignoring or explaining away the stink of their own sin that rises to the highest heaven. These are the folks going through the wide gate on the way to destruction not because God hates them or they aren't good enough, but simply because while proclaiming the Holy Spirit they've actually settled for Any Spirit. These are going to be the folks who stand up at the End to say, "But we did all sorts of great things in Your name, Lord! Why are we going to hell?" and He will answer, "Because you never really chose to be Mine."
- Some Christians move on to Step 2 - but then stop there. And Step 2 isn't a bad place. In fact, it's the place where we start to sense and then get to really appreciate the real Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives. But this is still only a self-focused place. It's a baby place. Here, we're figuring out right from wrong (including the wrong of being a hypocritical judge), but only in what it all means "to me", and how that "affects me", and what difference that should make "in my life". When we sit here too long, we never grow up spiritually. We become part of the Laodicean church, so grossly lukewarm Jesus says we make Him want to spit us out. We think we're deep in the blessings, while Jesus knows us as pathetically destitute, blind, and worthless.
- Only a tiny few Christians ever manage to move on to Step 3. But having gone from (Step 1) being a hypocritical judger, and through (Step 2) being a self-focused discerner, Step 3 Christians become other-focused evangelists for God's way. Quite simply, they not only clean up their act but also get off their rear ends and produce for Jesus. And doing that sometimes means saying something is wrong. It sometimes means confronting people (or systems, or countries, and so on) with their sin. It means being willing to speak up even when it's costly or hard. All because that wrong something isn't God's way -- and that means it's a way to destruction.
- Are we speaking up because someone's being hurt? Or are we just yowling because something offends us personally?
- Are we pushing for change because the status quo is attached to evil? Or are we just naturally pushy?
- Are we hurting in our hearts because someone is missing Jesus? Or are we just wanting to grow our church?
- Are we trying to help someone see the real Gospel? Or are we just selling our own human version of it?
- Are we passing out tracts and telling our testimony because our love for Jesus makes us want to share the Best Thing That Every Happened to us? Or are we just being religious?
- Are we deciding not to talk about what we know as Jesus' right way to others because we're sinful ourselves? Even the apostles, filled with the Holy Spirit, remained sinners. If the right answer was to never speak God's truth to someone else until you yourself were perfect, then Christianity would have died the day after Pentecost!
- Are we telling others not to speak up, accusing them of being "judgmental" for saying something is wrong? If they are Step 1 people, they may well be judgmental. But the Bible's way for handling such things is to get out God's Word, and to study it, to judge if what's said is true.
Still need more study on "judging" in the Bible? Check out these scriptures, as well. Many seem contradictory, until we move our hearts outside of "black or white" thinking and into the real context of God's Word.
Where does God lead you regarding judging?
"Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time? Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right?" [Luke 12:56]
"Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” [John 7:24]
"For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged." [1 Corinthians 11:31]
"Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters?" [1 Corinthians 6:2]
"I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner -- not even to eat with such a person. For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But those who are outside God judges. Therefore 'put away from yourselves the evil person.'" [1 Corinthians 5:9-13]
"But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For 'who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?' But we have the mind of Christ." [1 Corinthians 2:14-16]
"Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed." [Galatians 2:11]
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing [apart from Christ], he deceives himself." [Galatians 6:1-3]
"Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins." [James 5:19-20]
"Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God." [1 Corinthians 4:5]
"But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: 'As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God." So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore...." [Romans 14:10-13]
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.... For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." [Matthew 6:12, 14-15]
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will." [2 Timothy 2:24-26]
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the 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 plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." [Matthew 7:1-7]
"Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" [Romans 2:1-4]
"Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things. For one believes he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. " [Romans 14:1-3]
"Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!" [1 Corinthians 6:1-6]
" ...then the congregation shall judge between the manslayer and the avenger of blood according to these judgments." [Numbers 35:22-24]
"You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you." [Deuteronomy 16:18-20]
"You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. ‘You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the Lord." [Leviticus 19:15-16]
Your kingdom come - YOUR will be done, Lord, on earth, as it is in heaven!