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.
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.