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by Brett Kunkle
Drinking. Premarital sex. Abortion. Homosexuality. Same-sex marriage. Christians have so many hang-ups with the behavior of non-Christians, don’t they? It all seems so judgmental. Christians have enough problems of their own, so why worry about others? Even Jesus warned against this. “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Who are Christians to judge others?
According to David Kinnaman, president of the Barna research group and author of UnChristian, this is the perception of an emerging generation of non-Christians. “Nearly nine out of ten young outsiders (87 percent) said that the term judgmental accurately describes present-day Christianity.”
For many young Christians, this common objection to Christianity packs some punch. But why? Our culture is swimming in a sea of moral relativism that prohibits moral judgments (that is, if you want to be a consistent moral relativist). Against this relativistic backdrop, to identify some behavior as morally wrong is itself wrong. The self-contradictory nature of such thinking is obvious, but sadly, relativism blinds its adherents.
So how should Christians think about judging? First, we must ask what one means by “judging.” The dictionary distinguishes several definitions. To judge can mean to pass legal judgment, like a judge sentencing a criminal at the conclusion of a courtroom trial. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of judging.
“Judging” can also mean to form an opinion or conclusion about someone or something. These are assessments or evaluations. A coach judges the skill level of a player trying to make the team. A mom judges the nutritional value of food she serves her family. A plumber judges a clogged sink to fix it. Such judgments or assessments are made all the time, everyday. Again, nothing wrong with this kind of judging.
But Jesus definitely suggests some sort of judging is wrong, so what was He talking about? Well, if you really want to know, never read a Bible verse. To determine the meaning of a single verse, you must read the surrounding verses. Context is king. When we look at the rest of Matthew 7, we actually discover Jesus doing the very thing most Christians think He has forbidden…
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