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Mustn't Judge, Or How Our Nation Lost Its Way
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One of the most frequent accusations levelled against Christians is that we are “judgmental”. In our oh-so-enlightened age, we “mustn’t judge”. It’s bad to judge. Not that we’re judging judgment or anything like that, you understand. There are no doubt times when individual Christians are judgmental; but instead of dwelling on those, it’s perhaps worth looking instead at how this particular snippet of Jesus’ teaching is being misused to promote amorality.
Those who use the phrase may or may not be aware that Jesus himself taught his followers not to judge and condemn others (Mt 7.1-6). The problem western non-Christians have with appealing to this standard is that they have to assume its truthfulness and authority in order to apply it to anyone in the first place. The truth of this statement is perhaps easiest to see when non-Christians try to apply it to each other; but non-Christians also have to assume it when they try to use the “mustn’t judge” motto to gag Christian input to moral debate. After all, aren’t they saying that Christians are supposed to behave this way - even if Christian teaching is also supposedly foolish and wrong-headed?
This is why, logically speaking, non-Christians are in fact appealing to the existence of an objective moral standard, one which exists and applies regardless of anyone’s personal moral views. They are not merely saying “This is how Christians should behave because it’s part of the Christian package deal all Christians sign up to” (which appeals to a standard of honesty for everyone). What they are usually really saying is “I’m invoking this bit of the moral scheme we all ought to share because I can’t stand to hear or read of anyone else’s disapproval of part of my beliefs and conduct”.
Of course, when everyone invokes this approach simultaneously, the result is supposedly that nobody is allowed to disapprove of anyone else’s ideas or conduct – and anyone caught doing so had better watch out! Combine this sentiment with the constant presence of social media and the commercial demands of the news cycle, and the end result is that every day is somebody’s Judgment Day. This climate of lawlessness and fear has far-reaching consequences.
For instance, when social norms of morality are undermined and set aside in this fashion, there is a temptation to urge the State to fill the resulting moral vacuum. But the law of the land, especially in a society which is rebelling against the Bible, is the fallible, changing product of changeable, conflicted people. If political law is to remain internally coherent and publicly accountable, it needs a moral foundation external to itself. Especially in a society which may easily and completely change the composition of its governing classes every five to ten years. Without this moral foundation, each government of the day becomes logically and factually incapable of doing wrong. Legal procedures and standards broken by the State can simply be decreed to be inapplicable after the event.
The end result is not the rule of law in the western classical liberal sense, but rather the rule of lawmakers, the very thing western liberals used to say they wanted to prevent. The law becomes whatever the lawmakers say it is, and whatever they say it is becomes whatever the law “ought” to be. How could it be otherwise if the law of the land becomes the authoritative measure of all social standards of behaviour? This is nothing other than the old idea that “might is right”. The law of the land becomes a law unto itself. If this miserable state of affairs is allowed to endure, the highest good for the governed too often becomes “conform and survive”. This is how close western politics has now come to degenerating into a string of elected tyrannies.
For its part, Mt 7.6 shows us that “mustn’t judge” is not meant to be a moral blindfold. There needs to be a basis for deciding what is meant by “dogs” and “pigs” (Jesus’ words, not mine). We also need to be able to use the same basis to understand what is “holy”, or precious like “pearls” (again, Jesus’ words not mine). Since even non-Christians and many anti-Christians accept that Jesus was right to insist that we must not judge our brothers (Mt 7.3-4), might it not make sense to find out more about who Jesus says our brothers are? If Jesus Christ could be so right about one insight (“don’t judge”), might he not also be right about another?
Those who decline such an offer are trusting themselves to be their own infallible source of what is right and wrong. We can show people the lawlessness this creates simply by asking: If this standard is applied consistently, doesn’t this mean Christians are also right to disagree with you? A refusal to face up to this inconsistency is a good indication that such a person is lawless in the sight of God.
Paul tells us that those who choose to live outside God’s laws in this way will be judged by God “apart from the law” (Rm 2.12). In other words, such a person will be judged as an outlaw, as one who enjoys no legal protection from the claims of others and no legal limitation on the penalty they must pay for their crimes. Please pray for them, and if you’re wondering how God could judge people like this, remember that God in the Person of Christ is “the King of Kings and Lord of Lords” (1 Ti 6.13-16) to whom the Father has entrusted all judgment (Jn 5.22-24).
A lawless heart is the hallmark of someone who lives for self-gratification but inevitably can’t allow others to gratify themselves in the same way if they disagree with one another. Such people often claim to “celebrate diversity”, but only really want to celebrate their own diverse wishes. In the event of disagreement, they look either to settle matters in favour of their own wishes, or to exclude the object of contention, resulting in a so-called “neutral environment”. But there is nothing neutral about banishing the light of the world from any given area. The result is spiritual darkness. Nor is there anything neutral about banishing the living water of God’s Word from an area, which involves denying key elements of the host culture to incomers and residents alike.
The old liberalism looked to allow anyone and everyone to set up altars within its borders. This approach invoked a distinctly Christian form of tolerance for pluralism, but effectively denied that the Church’s teachings were in fact the primary historic basis for adopting such an approach. To the general public, this approach turned Christianity back into the worship of an unknown god. The new liberalism seeks to make a cultural wasteland and call it peace. Neither approach is truly faithful to the gospel. Each is hostile in its own manner to the teachings, claims, and Person of Jesus Christ.
Is there any way out of this dead end? Yes, there is. First of all, it’s worth reminding the “mustn’t judge” crowd about the source of their perceived moral standards. If Christianity is so wrong-headed and false, why are non-Christians appealing to its moral contents? Secondly, it’s worth explaining to them the difference between judging people and discerning whether a given idea or form of conduct is right or wrong. Finally, it’s worth making clear that you are saying this (and trying to live it) not merely to win a point, but to introduce them to the Jesus who says their lives are precious in his sight, and should therefore be valued by everyone. The truth remains that all have sinned (Rm 3.23-26). All need to repent, believe the gospel, and be born again by the power of the Holy Spirit.
© 2015 by Christopher Bevis. A Licensed Lay Minister in the Church of England, a Christian for many years, and an avid reader for even longer, Christopher is a UK-based writer who has long-standing friends and contacts in the USA. Christopher is available to research and write for hire on Christian matters via the Faithwriters.com website.
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