Wednesday, January 05, 2011
Condemnation and Discernment
Given these findings, it’s pretty important that both Christians and non-Christians understand what Jesus means when he says “judge not.” The key is recognizing that the word judge can be used in two different ways in the New Testament. Sometimes judge is used to mean “judge between things,” to differentiate, or discern. In this case we judge between right and wrong, good and evil, righteous and unrighteous.Boy is this stuff right on, but there are a couple of points that need to be made to add to it.
But this kind of judging-the act of discernment-is not what Jesus is forbidding. In fact throughout the Bible we are commanded to discern. In the same chapter of Luke 6 and in the very same discourse as the famous “judge not” statement, Jesus talks about having the discernment to see the difference between good people and evil people (Luke 6:43-45). He compares them to trees. Good trees, he says, produce good fruit and bad trees produce bad fruit. The call to differentiate good from evil is to judge, to discern, correctly.
This is often what get’s Christians into hot water in our uber-tolerant and increasingly diverse culture. When a Christian labels something as “wrong” or “evil” they are often pounced upon as being judgmental and out of step with Jesus. Sometimes this is the case, as I will discuss below, but very often the accusation is the result of a culture that no longer understands the difference between discernment and condemnation.
Fist of all - style matters. How we express our discernment can often turn a legitimate judgment into a statement of condemnation. Everything from the tone of voice to the adjectival choice must be considered when one is pronouncing a "discernment."
Secondly, we are often too sensitive when it comes to hearing such pronouncements. Not everything is about us as individuals, though in this narcissistic age we tend to assume so. Which is, I think a big part of the problem.
Here is the bottom line. If you feel convicted when someone is discerning, then chances are you need to make an improvement. Why can we not accept that with the humility seen in the cross rather than the violence of "you're judging!" We're sinners, that's why - but we need to get over it.