Pediment courthouse, Rome, Italy (CC 1.0)
Lady Justice at Pediment courthouse, Rome, Italy (CC0 1.0)

Judging People, Judging Leaders

September 7, 2020
5 mins read

I’m a Christian, but I wasn’t raised in church. I came to faith in Jesus Christ in my mid-20s. A girl I was dating asked me to go to church with her, and I said, “Sure!” I liked this girl, so why not? The Holy Spirit convicted me during one of those services, I asked Jesus to forgive me, and God changed who I was. It’s quite an amazing thing to become a different person. There aren’t any good, rational explanations for what I experienced, but that’s another post.

Since I wasn’t raised in church, I didn’t have any denominational beliefs ingrained in my mind. I read the Bible cover to cover. I have an open mind about scripture. Maybe God created the universe in seven, literal 24-hour days, maybe he didn’t. When Paul says we should submit to authorities, maybe there are exceptions. We have to compare the Word to wisdom and common sense.

One of my fundamental beliefs is that what we say and think is much less important than what we do. Our tongue is subject to our heart, and our heart is full of emotion.

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

James talks about the power of the tongue.

And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. – James 3

As a Believer who understands sin and human nature, I generally don’t put much weight in what people say. I do care about what they do, how they treat people.

As an aside, what people say in public is much more important that what they say in private. We are emotional beings, after all, and sometimes we say things in private to blow off steam. What we do in private is also important. If we hurt people or commit sins again people in private, that matters. What we say in public also matters if we are slandering someone or encouraging people to sin.

Here’s how I would rank saying and doing, from most important to least important:

  1. What we do (in public and private)
  2. What we say in public
  3. What we say in private
  4. What we think

We can’t judge the hearts of men. We can only judge what men do. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks about judging others.

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. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. – Jesus Christ, Matthew 7

I don’t think Jesus was saying we shouldn’t judge murderers, or adulterers, or people who break any of the laws in the Old Testament. The Ten Commandments tell us what we should do and should not do. The laws of Leviticus are all about what the Israelites should do and should not do, how to offer sacrifices, who they should and shouldn’t have sex with, who they shouldn’t worship. All sins of doing; all sins of action.

Earlier in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. – Jesus, Matthew 5

When Jesus said, “Judge not, that you be not judged,” He was talking about spiritual judgment. He was talking about condemning people for their beliefs. To me, it follows that Jesus wouldn’t condemn people for what they say or think, with some exceptions, such as gossip about a brother, for example.

If someone said something uncouth, I imagine Jesus would say, “You know, that’s not appropriate. We should strive to think on the good and speak the beautiful, the true.” But I don’t think Jesus would say that brother or sister wasn’t a good person or a Christian just because they said something coarse or discourteous. We all sin and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3) Even Believers sin and say things they shouldn’t sometimes. The New Testament is full of verses acknowledging that Believers will sin.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. – I John 1

Remember all the public commentary and hand wringing over some things President Trump said in the past in private? The reason I don’t worry much about his past comments is because of everything I’ve said above. People sin and people change. What you say in private isn’t as important as what you say in public. What you say in private is almost irrelevant to what you do, how you treat people.

We must judge our leaders, our family, and our friends by what they do.

If someone treats people well, and doesn’t slander people in public, what does it matter what they think or say in private? We can’t know the heart of a man. It’s not our place to judge beliefs and thoughts. That’s God’s job.

However, if people slander others in public or commit sins against someone, we can judge them. I have acquaintances who have made public comments on social media slandering Trump supporters. You can be sure that I’m judging them for those comments. I’ll follow the Golden Rule if I encounter them in public, but I have no desire to be their friends.

When I condemn Leftists and Communists in public on social media, I don’t expect them to want to be my friend or hang out.

We should judge those BLM Communists destroying property, stealing, and harassing people. We should judge those criminals we see attacking people. They are breaking the law. We have it on video. The Police should charge them and the Courts should try them. They should be punished if found guilty.

If Authorities in our country don’t hold criminals accountable, then they are abandoning their God-granted authority, and they are sinning against God. We should judge them based on the Bible and the law of the land. They are immoral and we should hold them accountable.

It is not our place to condemn the hearts of men, but it is our place to judge the actions of men.

Act accordingly.

American son of the Appalachian mountains. Happily married father of several and devoted man of God. Hold fast.

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