We live in a culture that no longer sees its sinfulness but is saturated by relativism and tolerance. It wasn’t that long ago that you would attend a sporting event, and someone had a John 3:16 sign they would hold up for the camera. It wasn’t long ago that nearly every child in America knew one verse by heart, John 3:16. Matthew 7:1 has replaced John 3:16 in our nation’s life and practice, particularly in personal and social media conversations. Judgment is out tolerance and love are in.
If “Judge not lest ye be judged” was an issue in the 20th century than it has become a monster in the 21st century.
Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones explains “there are many who say that ‘judge not’ must be taken simply and literally as it is, and as meaning that the truly Christian man should never express an opinion about others. They must do no judging whatsoever, that we must be easy, indulgent and tolerant, and allow almost anything for peace and quiet and especially unity …they say, what is needed today is unity and fellowship.”
What Christ is proclaiming in his sermon is not the absence of conviction for the sake of unity.
He is challenging the type of judgments we make and the motivation behind those judgments. We are to examine our doctrine and the doctrine of others (1Tim. 4:16) while avoiding making final judgments of others because the authority to do so belongs to God alone. Our manor of judgment should be with the awareness of our need of saving, empowering and enabling grace which produces humility in our approach toward others. In examining ourselves first, we remove the plank from our eyes so we can become better speck removers.
The manner of our judgments must be based on principles rather than prejudices. Lloyd-Jones again hits the nail on the head.
“Another manifestation of this (self-righteous) spirit is that it puts prejudice in the place of principle.
We are to judge in terms of principle because otherwise, we cannot disciple the Church. But if a man takes his own prejudices and puts them up as principles, he is guilty of this spirit of judgement.
Another way in which it shows itself is in its tendency to put personalities in the place of principles. We all know how easy it is for a discussion to drift to persons or personalities and away from principles.It is true to say that people who object to doctrine are generally those who are most guilty at this particular point. Because they do not have a grasp and understanding of doctrine they can talk only in terms of personalities, so the moment a man stands for principles or doctrine, they begin to say he is a difficult person. The person is obtruded into the place where principle should come, and that, in turn, leads to the tendency to impute motives. Because they cannot understand why another man stands for principles, motives are imputed to him; and to impute motives is always a manifestation of a spirit of judgment.”
Never has there been such a need for proper judgment of doctrine and practice inside and outside the church pitted against the intolerance to any claim of truth. We must make our judgments based on principles of truth, not prejudices or personalities. In this climate, we must take risks to judge, but we must judge in the right way with the right motivation.