Judge Not

There appears to be conflicting statements in the Bible with regards to judging. Several passages say "Judge not, lest ye be judged" in a variety of ways. Others say "By what measure you judge, so shall ye be judged." (Kind of a reverse Golden Rule: as you treat others, so shall you be treated instead of treat others as you want to be treated.) Still others say "Remove the beam from your own eye before you try to help your brother remove the splinter from his." And yet at various other places, we are also told to "judge with righteous judgment". How do we know what is "righteous judgment"?

I can hear many people now saying, "Righteous judgment is what the Bible says!" But there are over 33,000 churches/sects of Christianity in the US alone. That means that, no matter how slight the differences, there are over 33,000 differing interpretations of the Bible. For some, a woman cannot show her bare arms or cut her hair. For others, this applies only to single women. For some, there are dietary restrictions. For others, clothing restrictions. For some, the Sabbath is one day and for others, a different day. And every single person can point to passages in the Bible that back up what they say is the truth.

Now, for those out there who would say "Yes, but there is only one real truth!", please remember that the person you're telling "you're wrong" is probably saying the same thing back to you. They hold their belief as fervently as you hold yours. Ask yourself, would you change what you believe simply because someone else told you that it was wrong? I don't think so. (If you would, you don't have much of a faith to talk about.) And yet you expect them to change their beliefs simply because you say it's wrong. That is asking them to follow man instead of following God, who speaks to them in their hearts and through their reason. (And they can give you as many reasons that their faith is true as you can give them that yours is true.)

So how do we judge righteously given that what is "right" according to the Bible varies so greatly? There's only one way to do so and here's where I bring the fictional Patty and Mark into this by giving you an example. Patty thinks that smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol is a sin. Mark does not, but he does think that using musical instruments in church is a sin. They start talking one day while sitting in the park for lunch and the subject turns to their respective churches. Mark is appalled that at Patty's church, they play guitars and have a sax and even a trumpet to accompany them during their "folk" service. And she plays the flute at those services. Patty is appalled when Mark lights up a cigarette after he's done eating and he tells her that his minister smokes too.

Now, if Patty judges Mark's actions by the standards of her faith, then according to the Bible, (by what measure you judge, etc.), Patty can expect her actions to be judged according to the standards of another's faith. She may think that her judgment of Mark is "righteous judgment", but I doubt that she'll believe it's "righteous" when her actions are judged according to the faith of another. Yet such judgment of her actions is a promise of the Bible: by what measure you judge, so shall you be judged. Patty judged another actions by her faith, therefore her actions will be judged by another's faith. But chances are Patty will not accept the label of "sinner" for playing the flute in church simply because Mark says it's a sin. Conversely, Mark will not accept the label of "sinner" for smoking because his faith does not consider it a sin.

BUT— and here's the secret— if Patty judges Mark's actions by Mark's faith, THEN, according to the Bible, she can expect her actions to be judged by her faith and she will find that righteous because her faith tells her that what she believes is righteous. So if Mark were to go to church and beat on a hymnal (drumming) during a service, Patty could righteoulsy call Mark a sinner because he is doing what his faith says is a sin. And guess what? By calling Mark for violating his own faith (or moral code of conduct) she is pointing out Mark's hypocrisies. Is that not what Jesus spent a good deal of his ministry doing? Showing people their hypocrisies? He did not name their sins— he simply pointed out their hypocrisies. (In my faith, hypocrisy is the only sin because any action that harms another is a hypocritical action.) "He who is without sin may cast the first stone" is nothing more than pointing out the hypocrisy of the crowd who was so quick to condemn this woman for violating what they considered the only "true" faith.

Did Jesus then name the sin of the woman who was about to be stoned? No, he didn't. Did he tell her "Go and commit adultery no more?" No, he didn't. He said "Go and sin no more." Sin is a violation of one's moral code of conduct. What I consider a sin, another may not. What they consider a sin, I may not. Neither of us will accept the label of sinner from the other if what we believe doesn't consider it a sin. Let's use an extreme example to show you what I mean. Let's say that Patty thought that wearing any blue clothing was sinful. If you ran into Patty wearing your favorite blue dress, would you consider yourself a sinner for wearing that dress simply because Patty's faith says it's a sin? I doubt you would, so it is obvious that what one person considers sin is not what another person considers sin. Now, there are going to be those who say that while some people may not want to recognize that sin is sin is sin, that is the truth. They will say that you can't simply pick and choose your own moral code of conduct; you can't simply name your own sins. That God is the only one who can define morality and sin. That is their faith. But it is a faith they chose. And when they chose what faith to follow, when they made the choice of what religion to adhere to, they also chose what concept of God to hold and therefore they also chose what moral code of conduct to follow and how to define sin. Of course, they will not be able to admit to that without violating their own faith since admitting to is an admission that spiritual truths are relative and not absolute. But that doesn't change the facts any more than someone stating that Friday is Monday makes it so.

There is but one way to judge the actions of others so that you can meet all requirements in the Bible: and that is to judge the actions of another according to their own faith. You're only hurting yourself if you judge their actions according to your faith.

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