As a Christian I find the slogan, which is also the title of Tupac Shakar’s 1993 song, puzzling. The phrase seems backwards. Proudly stating “Only God can judge me” looks as if you’re welcoming the Almighty’s verdict, while shunning your peers’ opinions on your lifestyle.
Taking this stance is harmful. Not only are we to have a healthy fear of the reality of God’s judgement, but we should also not be afraid of other people’s opinions, instead valuing the wisdom that God often gives to those around us.
1. Christians are instructed to judge fellow Christians (1 Corinthians 5:11-13)
Sin is serious – it separates us from God. So if we see a fellow believer caught up in a sin, we must do everything we can to lead them away from their wrongdoing. In doing this, we make a judgement and say that X is wrong and our friend is wrong for committing X sin. Of course, it should go without saying that we must always judge with love and any judgement should come out of a pre-existing relationship.
If the idea of judging others makes you squirm, it may be that you’ve never thought of love and judgement as going together. You may have also assumed that when Jesus said “judge not lest ye be judged” he was referring to all judgement. In context, Jesus was only speaking about unjust and unloving judgement. If he was referring to all judgement, then we’d have to shut down the law courts and stop locking up murderers and rapists.
2. Not all sin is equal
A well-known Christian recently put the following on their social media accounts:
While I can forgive the lack of an apostrophe (Gods/God’s), I’m struggling to reconcile the theology in the above image with what the Bible says.
Many Christians argue that all sin is the same. While all sin has the same effect (it separates us from God), I think some sins are worse than others. Stealing a car and murdering someone are both wrong. Both acts separate us from God. But does God really believe there are no differences between murder and theft at all? I don’t think so.
In the same way that you will be dealt a harsher sentence for murder than you will for theft, God issues more severe punishments for some sins (Luke 12:46 – 47, Matthew 11:21 – 22, James 3:1). The Biblical writers and Jesus himself had no problem with describing some sins as worse than others.
3. Because God does not view all sin as equal, we shouldn’t either
The caption which accompanied the above picture read: “Don’t judge someone because they sin differently than you do.”
It is true that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”. Every human being has sinned and will sin. But just because both the person on trial for murder and the judge have failed to love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength, it does not mean that that the judge, as a fallible human being, has no right to convict the murderer.
Who are you to judge?
Too many Christians have read Matthew 7 (“judge not”) but ignored John 7 (“judge with righteous judgement”). We need to read Jesus’ words in context. The idea that Jesus never judged anyone is wrong, yet many Christians believe it.
It’s time to rethink our doctrine of judgement. Jesus has entrusted his church with a huge responsibility. In Matthew 18, Jesus says: “Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Both ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ require us to make judgements.
By remembering that Christians are only instructed to judge fellow believers, and by following Jesus’ example of being a loving and just judge, we can help bring God’s kingdom to earth.