Passing Judgement

This post was published on Saturday 10 November 2007.

At the sermon I heard on Sunday the preacher told a story which effectively made two points:

  1. we should derive our sense of self-worth from the fact that God loves us, not from what other people think of us;
  2. judging others is often hurtful, and usually wrong - we should leave it up to God.

After the service I reflected that the reason we often allow other people’s judgements to ‘stick’ to us, is because we actually deserve judgement. It is of course God’s judgement that we deserve, however, not other people’s - we have no right to judge each other simply because we all equally deserve judgement ourselves. In judging others we demonstrate our hypocrisy.

I would argue that the place of ‘accountability’, close friends/family telling you where you are going wrong, is not the same as ‘passing judgement’, because ‘accountability’ is only that if it works both ways. Passing judgement is a one-way street from one person to another.

That leaves two reasons why other people’s judgements shouldn’t stick to us:

  1. only God has the right to judge us - when others do (and when we judge others) it is hypocritical;
  2. God doesn’t punish us when he judges others, because Jesus took that punishment on himself, and gave us his righteousness - so although we deserve judgement, actually we don’t because Jesus has taken that judgement on himself.

So, given that, is it ever right for humans to pass judgement on other humans? Well, yes actually, in two situations I think:

  1. secular authority, law and order, criminal justic;
  2. Church discipline, where we sometimes have to deal with difficult and damaging situations here and now (as opposed to waiting for God’s final perfect judgement).

But when we judge others in these situations, it should always be done with humility, acknowledging that the authority to judge comes only from God, and that ultimately we all deserve judgement. These two situations are God exercising his authority through us - which, again, calls for humility.