Judgement is a subject that raises many issues among God’s people because, on the one hand, we are to make judgements and on the other hand, we are not to judge. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get the balance between those two. But God has given humanity the ability to make sound and reasonable decisions, to evaluate and to form conclusions. The apostle Paul states this:
“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-3).
Back that up with a familiar verse in the Gospel of Matthew: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged;” (Matthew 7:1-2).
Judgment is compounded by two components, human nature, and the environment we live in. We all have human nature which empowers the mind to think that it is right, and it places itself at center stage. If we are looking at it from this point of view, it becomes a difficulty when we attempt to discern and construct conclusions because it places one in a very myopic state.
The second component is the environment in which we live which is a godless environment with no adherence to godly standards, values, or morality. An interesting article in Atlantic magazine in 1916 stated “What we are seeing is not a temporary spasm of chaos. It is a chaos syndrome.” It seems that chaos has become “the new normal” and it’s important that we are able to deal with the chaos by making appropriate assessments or judgements.
The aspect that I want to draw our attention to are the acts of violence that are happening in our society. We’re seeing many people killed – either in mass shootings or in other acts of violence like random bombings. The words of Jesus Christ in Matthew 24:3-31 describe a world that is going to become more and more an expression of unbridled human nature.
So let’s create a scriptural picture.
“Destroy, O Lord, and divide their tongues, for I have seen violence and strife in the city. Day and night they go around it on its walls; iniquity and trouble are also in the midst of it. Destruction is in its midst; oppression and deceit do not depart from its streets” (Psalms 55:9-11).
“Therefore pride serves as their necklace; violence covers them like a garment. Their eyes bulge with abundance; they have more than heart could wish. They scoff and speak wickedly concerning oppression; they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walks through the earth. . . . Oh, how they are brought to desolation, as in a moment! They are utterly consumed with terrors” (Psalms 73:6-9,19).
It’s interesting how many times the word “violence” appears when the Bible is talking about the conduct of unbridled human nature. We are now having to stare these things in the face as reality. Many are arrogant and proud of their wickedness. But it is important for us to not have an emotional reaction that takes us in the wrong direction as it becomes increasingly difficult to deal with injustice being perpetuated upon a people:
“No one calls for justice, nor does any plead for truth. They trust in empty words and speak lies; they conceive evil and bring forth iniquity. Their webs will not become garments, nor will they cover themselves with their works; their works are works of iniquity, and the act of violence is in their hands. Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths. The way of peace they have not known, and there is no justice in their ways; they have made themselves crooked paths; whoever takes that way shall not know peace” (Isaiah 59:4-8).
Followers of Christ must have a godly way of dealing with this because a godless society is not going to present us with stability. Situations in the world will not produce peace of mind.
Let’s look at Genesis 6 in case the impression is being given that all of this comes from the hand of God. It speaks of society in the past, which Christ equates with the time towards the end.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart” (Genesis 6:5-6). “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12).
So, not all the violence and the terror is going to be perpetrated by God upon man. It’s man’s conduct. It’s what man is doing that brings some of this about. “Behold, the day! Behold, it has come! Doom has gone out; the rod has blossomed, pride has budded. Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness; none of them shall remain, none of their multitude, none of them; nor shall there be wailing for them. The time has come, the day draws near” (Ezekiel 7:10-12).
But should we make judgements about these violent conditions? People are behind the perpetuation of violence and injustice. What should our attitude be towards them?
We need to separate our judgement from God’s judgement. When calamity befalls sinners, is it God rendering divine judgement on them? This is not God’s world, His culture. He’s the Creator; but this world, as it stands now, is not of God’s creation. It’s Satan’s world. God has allowed that to be so. And Satan is the author of human conduct.
Let’s get a firmer handle on this:
“There were present at that season some who told [Christ] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).
Christ is saying that time and chance happens to us all unless we repent. This means we are to take a step back and think about ourselves: “Get ourselves right.” Don’t get your mind on judging the Galileans or those killed by the tower of Siloam. Were they worse sinners because of what happened to them?
There is a temptation to conclude that because God allowed their death that they deserved it., that it was God’s divine judgement on them. Christ is using that mentality to teach the aspect of repentance that He emphasizes twice.
Solomon concludes that events happen equally to the righteous and the wicked: “All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; to the good, the clean, and the unclean; to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; he who takes an oath as he who fears an oath.
“This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead. For the living know that they will die; but the dead know nothing, But for him who is joined to all the living there is hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion. . . . Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:2-5,10).
Death is a common denominator for everyone. Being killed is not a measure of a person’s righteousness. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. This life is the training ground for something much greater. While we have life there’s something we can do with it. When we are dead there’s nothing we can do. God wants us to use every day that we have for growth and development to be like Him.
God’s work is to reconcile and restore a relationship with humanity. And all that God allows on the face of this earth is toward that end. It is more important to God that we lay out a clear step by step plan to build a restored relationship with Him.
But world events are going to be such as to cause a high level of distraction in our endeavors. It’s not as though there won’t be acts perpetuated by God. But as things are happening it is about our mindset today. Is it God’s hand out there in every little thing that’s happening, wreaking vengeance upon people?
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven (God will take care of things ultimately) against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, . . . being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them” (Romans 1:18,29-32).
There is judgement to be made about the sins that people are involved in. But Paul also speaks to the mental approach we are to have toward the sinners: none of us can say we are not sinners.
“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. . . . Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath,” (Romans 2:1-2, 4–8).
God knows that there are vile sins being committed and He will take care of the situations. But Christ set His requirements for those who are striving to become like Him:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; (a reconciled relationship) for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
We are to be perfect (mature) in all aspects of the spiritual intent of God’s law. It is easier to condemn and judge than it is to love. And we must not allow ourselves to get distracted from what God requires by focusing on the aberrant behavior of those around us.
He’ll redeem their life from oppression and violence, and He may allow some to die in the process therefore today becomes very important (Psalms 72:12-14). We can conclude that being killed or not being killed is not a measure of a person’s righteousness. God is far more interested in eternal life, sonship in His family, than He is in this life (Psalm 75.8; 116:15).
Christ brought a gospel that included life and immortality. In Him was life and that life was the light of men. And sometimes, to draw the attention of the world to that light, God allows His true servants to be martyred. It’s not out of a lack of love for those people (2 Timothy 1:8-10).
We need to develop the art of judging the sin and not the sinner, so that we might have love for this world and care for humanity as the violence, the injustice, and the suffering mounts. We are not to become hardened to people.
The list in Romans 1 is a powerful list describing our society today. By judging the sin – we focus on what we need to address in our lives. If we judge the person, we lose the focus that we are sinners also. So if we judge others, we condemn ourselves.
If we assign random acts where people die as God’s judgement on the dead, we draw attention away from the goodness of God leading to repentance. Ancient Israel rejected God. Now there is a spiritual Israel, the Church, which is called to fully embrace, to reconcile, and to restore a relationship with the Father that will be a witness to this world.
God’s judgement is righteous. His timing will be perfect. So we need to get on with the work of judging ourselves. We need to remember human nature does not want to think about its own evil ways, so it puts its attention on current events to distract us. The news can be an “opiate of the people”.
Most of us cannot affect world events very much, but all of us can worry about them and criticize the sins of others instead of focusing on our own lives and our own sins. We need to focus on the repentance that Christ brought out in Luke 13:1-5 and not sit in judgement of other people.