There are some obvious tensions that we encounter when we read the Scriptures. One such tension that often causes significant problems between Christians is the biblical teaching regarding judging others.
The Scriptures do teach us to avoid judgmental attitudes toward others, especially in dealing with Christians. At the same time we are clearly encouraged to developing a discerning attitude that can evaluate people and ministries carefully; e.g, 1 Cor. 5:12-13; 1 Cor. 5:1-5; 6:1-6; Matthew 7:15-20; 2 Cor. 11:10-15. This is the tension I refer to here. How can we follow both of these standards? No matter how you apply these texts you will soon have to admit that judging and discerning sometimes do get very close to one another.
The temptation to pass judgment upon the life or testimony of other individuals is clearly warned against in the New Testament. If you have lived in a Christian context where the truth of your church or mission is extremely important than the tendency will always be to err on the side of passing judgment wrongly or unfairly. I have seen more of this misuse of Scripture than I care to think about. I have also done more than my share of judging others critically and unfairly.
I recently dipped into a great resource on my shelves titled: The Quotable Oswald Chambers (Grand Rapids: RBC Ministries, 2008). Chambers had a lot of great thoughts about this subject. I find him extremely wise. Here are a few of his comments on judging others.
We say that a man is not right with God unless he acts on the line of the precedent we have established. We must drop our measuring-rods for God and for our fellow men. All we can know about God is that His character is what Jesus Christ has manifested; and all we know about our fellow men presents an enigma which precludes the possibility of the final judgment being with us.
What a marvelous reminder of our human weakness and limitations. The "enigma" precludes the possibility of final judgment residing with us.
Chambers is again insightful when he says:
We pronounce judgments, not by our character or our goodness, but by the intolerant ban of finality in our views, which awakens resentment and has none of the Spirit of Jesus in it. Jesus never judged like that. It was His presence, His inherent holiness that judged. Whenever we see Him we are judged instantly. We have to practice the presence of Jesus and work on the basis of his disposition. When we have experienced the unfathomable forgiveness of God for all our wrong, we must exhibit that same forgiveness to others.
I wish I had a dollar for all the times that I allowed my views to lead me to embrace "an intolerant ban of finality in