BY: John Driver
E-MAIL ADDRESS: firstname.lastname@example.org
BIBLE TEXT: “So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.” –James 2:12 (NLT)
“I really don’t want to judge…”
I see this holy Catch 22 play out almost everyday. Someone we deeply care for begins down a path clearly marked as a biblical dead end, but who are we to say anything? To judge? Thus the perceived damage of judgment seemingly outweighs the truth that might be difficult to hear, but crucial to someone’s spiritual survival.
It seems that “don’t judge” has become our Christian elastic clause… the new, more improved Greatest Commandment. We oftentimes feel like deer in the heavenly headlights, frozen with confusion over whether it is more important to pursue the absence of judgment or the presence of an actual right and wrong.
Biblical communities and teaching both involved a whole lot of confessing sins to one another as an act of healing (James 5:16). A whole lot of direct confrontation in which you actually approach the one who has offended you in love—and if necessary, approach them again a few times with extra people. Awkward. (Matthew 18:15-17).
By today’s standards, they walked in a whole lot of judgment. Did they get it wrong?
Here are three nuances of judgment we may be overlooking.
- Condemnation Is Not the Only Kind of Judgment
Though we would rarely connect the two words, mercy is actually is another valid form of judgment. In fact, it is infinitely the more frequent judgment we receive from God. Every breath. Every sunrise. Every inestimable detail of life and existence actively sustained by an active God. Contrary to our intuitions, these are actually all varied expressions of God’s choices of judgment, just not the kind most of us think of when we hear the word.
If the judgment deserved is condemnation, but the judgment dispensed is mercy, the judicial process becomes unjust… unless, that is, you are the One with the authority to rewrite the law itself. Jesus’ divinely human process on our earth forever morphed the rules, allowing all those who will approach the bench of salvation to be judged with mercy instead of condemnation. The law now sets us free! “So whatever you say or whatever you do, remember that you will be judged by the law that sets you free.” James 2:12 (NLT)
- Mercy Flows To Us and From Us Through The Same “Valve”
Because we so desperately want to avoid being accusatory in our judgment of others, we often become excusatory instead… and neither of these acknowledge actual biblical truth. The answer is not to blast truth like a pressure washer, harming those around us, but neither is it to clog it up completely. We should speak, just through the right filter.
The mercy we receive and the mercy we show are congruent graces. What flows to you also flows from you through the same “valve.” If you close off mercy to others, you also close it off to yourself. “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” James 2:13 (NLT)
- The Gospel is Offensive to Everyone, Including Christians
The message of Christ is indeed offensive because it says we must change, but the path of righteousness is not a Walkabout. It is a Guided hike. He never leaves us, but he also never leaves us the same. He keeps offending us with judgment… a judgment that if submitted to leads to his mercy and to change.
The church suffers when it stops being offended by the very message it proclaims. While our goal has become to not offend anyone with judgment, we should instead offend everyone, including ourselves, with the judgment of mercy that empowers us all to change. We all still share the same position: lowly and looking upward.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Mercy does not equal silence about the truth, but rather an equal expression of it symmetric to what we ourselves have received. We are free to speak truth, that is, to judge… as long as we do so with the same judgment we ourselves keep receiving. Mercy.
PRAYER: Father, let me continually see my own need for your grace and that it is as equal as anyone else’s on this earth. I need your mercy, so I choose to show it to those around me. Help me to know how to express Your truth in the midst of this mercy. Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
When I am not working as the Young Adults Pastor at Life Assembly, I am a covert agent for the CIA. Past missions include extracting hostile, yet crucial young assets from the Chic-Fil-A playground before they were ready to leave. They really needed a bath before bed. I have also found myself many times vacuuming crumbs off my bed with a full-sized vacuum cleaner and wondering what planet I was on. I thought I saved the world once, but it was really just a turtle crossing the street. I like yelling at people when I drive; it gives me many chances to pray later. I like writing ridiculous bios about myself just to see who really reads far enough to find the ridiculous part. My wife has endured me for thirteen years and I reward her with my mediocre appearance and many distractions and projects. I cheer for the Vols when they are good and bad. They rarely cheer back. I like music. Oh yeah, and I write books.