Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Discerning or Deceived?

     At the conclusion of a highly publicized murder trial, many (including myself) were left scratching their heads when the jury pronounced the defendant "Not Guilty" on most of the major charges.  As I read the newspaper today, one of the comments made by a reader caught my attention.  The individual known as
"Commonsensical" wrote:  "I think this verdict is just an example of today's society being unable to clearly recognize right from wrong.  'Non-judgmentalism' has become more important than justice" (Tampa Tribune, Metro Section, pg. 4).  I could not agree more with this reader's assessment of what transpired.
     In the wake of the verdict, many people (including Christians) have stated that we really do not have the right to judge someone.  Within their thinking, only God has that right and they quickly point to the verse in Matthew 7:1-2: "Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you."  This passage comes from the "Sermon on the Mount" and is a call not to go around fault finding as we so readily do.  Instead, Jesus calls us to examine our own lives and offer gentle, humble criticism only after our self-examination is complete.  However, later in this address, Jesus goes on to tell believers about the type of judgment that should take place.  Matthew 7:15-20 reads:  "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruits.  Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?  So, every healthy tree bears good fruit but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus you will recognize them by their fruits."
     Christ calls us to be discerning in our relationships especially with regard to our beliefs.  False prophets are just as present today (if not more so) as they were then.  How can we tell who is telling the truth?  Jesus said that  by their fruits we would be able to recognize them.  Their actions, their words and ultimately their hearts would betray them.  Perhaps the most important weapon in our arsenal of truth detection, though, is the Word of God.  It is the foundation and the rod of measurement for all of life...both Old and New Testaments.  God established His Laws and makes known His Sovereignty through Scripture.  He has also allowed the creation of government and leaders to better deal with wrongdoing as a result of man's sinful nature.   The Apostle Paul confirms this in his letter to the Romans:  "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.  For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad.  Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority?  Then do what is good and you will receive His approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain.  For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer" (Romans 13:1-4).
    All this being said, let us consider the comment I mentioned earlier about not judging others.  In the case of criminal conduct, we thankfully have policemen and a court system to deal with those who break the law.  As the Apostle Paul indicated, we do not need to fear those in authority if we have done nothing wrong. He also calls them "avengers" who carry out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.  Ultimately, all who break the law will face God's judgment.  He uses those in authority to carry out His judgment.  At times, there is a miscarriage of justice and the criminal is set free.  Still in other situations, an innocent person is falsely accused and often imprisoned.  We do not have a perfect system because we are not perfect people, but this system of reaching a judgment is God ordained.
     Whether we are called to discern if a teacher that comes into our midst is a false prophet or if we are called to serve on a jury, we are called to use the wisdom of God based upon the foundation of His Word to make a judgment.  If we do so with humility, prayer, and gentleness, we will be following the direction which Christ offered to us.  He did not want us to be deceived by high sounding words or gimmicks.  The Lord wants us to walk in the truth.
     I became very aware of the pitfalls we Christians face when my husband and I studied and then led "The Truth Project" by Focus on the Family.  Dr. Del Tackett does a superb job of taking a believer on tours through every area of life to show us that there is no area that God's Word does not speak to.  However, as believers, we can so easily buy into the world's system of relativism and humanism to the extent that we no longer reflect a Christian worldview.  We become deceived rather than discerning.  I commend this entire series to you if you have never been through it.  It will open your eyes as it has mine.
     God has called us to discernment in our homes, our communities, our churches and in the courtroom. We, of all people, need to be able to make sound judgments in order to be the salt of the earth.  By no means are we to attack or impugn another's character to make ourselves look better.  This type of judgment is condemned.  Yet, we are to take a stand when it comes to discerning good and evil.  It may not be politically correct or endear us to those who wish to avoid the hard calls in life but it will honor God if done with the right heart motive.  My prayer is that more Christians will exercise their discernment so that none may be deceived.  Selah!

I welcome your thoughts and comments.  Please feel free to leave them here as encouragement.


TeamKC said...

You've done your homework as usual, Barb, and have presented an impressive discourse on how I believe our Lord would handle our judicial system these days. We do indeed need to be discerning and (without wanting to sound judgmental myself) I think we have no excuse when the Father promised the Holy Spirit to share all wisdom with us. We need to use it. Be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves." We often take that statement and lean heavily on the "harmless" portion and sadly neglect the "wise" part.
God bless you, Barb, for your continued upholding of Scriptural principles and your boldness to speak out.
Love you!!

Green Eyed Girl said...

From a lawyer's perspective, she was found "not guilty," not "innocent," which is dramatically different. Case in point, OJ Simpson was found "not guilty" in the criminal trial but held culpable in the civil trial because the standard is different. The criminal standard of "reasonable doubt" is analogous to a 99.5% sure standard. A civil standard is you are 51% sure that they are responsible. For example, the jury could be 99.0% sure and that's not enough. This standard has helped many a criminal embrace freedom (at least from a jail cell). However, God does not deal in percentages, he deals in absolutes.

Discernment or judgment? That's a great question. In Luke 17:3-4 it says “If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is repentance, forgive. Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” Does this mean that "if only" you are a "believer" that others may rebuke you? Does this mean that we as Christians should turn a blind eye to sinful behavior because it comes from a non-believer? Does this mean that Christians have a blank check to rebuke others so long as that person remains unrepentant?

Yes, yes, I believe as a Christian that I have the freedom to find unrepented sinful behavior repugnant. In doing so, I am simply saying this behavior is unacceptable for whatever reason. Whereas, I believe that "judgment" is holding on to the outcome and trying to do God's job. It's not my job, thank goodness. So, maybe this was the impetus for the saying hate the sin but love the sinner?

Great topic!!

The bottom line with or without a biblical or legal analysis, would you let this person babysit for your child? For me, that is not a judgment but

Barbara Thayer said...

TeamKC...thanks for dropping by and adding your comments here. Yes, I have prayed over this subject all day. I think too many Christians are afraid to make a judgment call when we are asked to do so. After all, Moses judged between the people when they had a disagreement during their time in the wilderness. Eventually 80 other judges were added to the group. It is one thing to judge a person's flaws and another to judge whether someone has committed a crime. Unfortunately, we have bought into the world's concept of that "poor criminal"...they suffered so much abuse. Instead of thinking about the victim. I so appreciate your kind words and your input!

Barbara Thayer said...

Hi Green Eyed Girl. Thanks for stopping by and adding your comments here. My purpose in writing this was to encourage believers to be bold in trusting that God will give them wisdom when they are called upon to make a judgment call...whether it is in a ball game as an umpire or in a court of law. Too many people do not stand up for truth today and I want to encourage people to do so. I appreciate your thoughts. I hope you will stop by again. Blessings!

Penned Pebbles said...

Great post and discussions!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thanks Petra. Glad you stopped by. I love it when others come and put in their insights. We are all the better for it.