Sunday, August 22, 2010

Judge Not

Matt. 7: 1-2 Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Today in church our men's group discussed the teaching of Jesus Christ to "Judge Not." Now, when Christ taught this principle, He wasn't saying never judge at all. Each day is filled with necessary little judgments about right and wrong and good and bad. The kind of judgment that Christ is referring to here is the judgment of others and whether they are deserving of our love, kindness, attention, and forgiveness.

In other places in scripture, Paul talks about righteous judgment in a different context. In a nutshell, those who are to judge are only those acting in the name and authority of God like the Bishop who acts as a high priest in determining ritual purity to participate in the ordinances of the gospel like Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The Bishop, as a Judge in Israel, may also specify the conditions of repentance and purification. (1 Cor 6:2-5; 1 Cor 11: 31)

Christ taught that if we wish to be forgiven, then me must be willing to forgive others their trespasses against us up to seven times seventy. However, many times we may fall into the trap of prejudice and justify our judgment of others for several reasons:

1. We claim that we judge ourselves to the same rigorous standard and expect that everyone should live to the same high standard.
2. We forget that more often than not we judge other based on their performance, but we judge ourselves based on our intent.
3. We think that heaping upon another person a lot of criticism and guilt, that all that negativity will help them improve and change.

The truth is that we need to remember that it is the Holy Ghost which inspires and empowers people to change and improve. This process is called "Sanctification" in the scriptures. While being careful not to be an enabler, I have found that most people are sufficiently suffering the consequences of their sins all on their own without my needing to pile on. Instead of criticism, what people really need is encouragement, support, and love to try harder, and to do better. We need to help others feel our love, and the Holy Spirit, because only the Holy Ghost can empower someone to change.

In reality, we all are sinners and none of us deserve the presence of the Holy Ghost based on our own merits. However, through the good news of the gospel, the atonement of Christ made it possible that each of us could be justified of our sins, have Christ's righteousness imputed to us, and receive the Holy Ghost based on His righteousness. That said, as the Holy Ghost strives with us, He will always empower us to change, repent, and improve.

That said, we need to realize that all of us are on different spiritual levels. While one person may have been sanctified and was empowered by the Holy Ghost to completely forsake sin in one area, that doesn't necessarily mean his neighbor has arrived at the same point in their spiritual progression, or even that the Holy Ghost is necessarily working with them in that area. It could be the Holy Ghost is continuing to strive with them in their current spiritual state and sins just fine. However, because you have already progressed in that area, if you were too sin like your neighbor the Holy Ghost would be even more grieved.

Again, we should not forget, the better we can align our lives with the will of God, and the better we can live the commandments, the more light, and joy, and spirit we will enjoy. However, we should also remember that in comparison to God's spiritual plane, when it comes to you and your neighbor, in God's eyes you are both just spiritual children. As a parent, I am reminded of this lesson any time my 6 year-old brags that she is better than the 4-year-old.

Lastly, while we are commanded not to judge. We need not endanger ourselves by putting ourselves in dangerous situations especially while someone is in the act of sin. We can follow the example of the Holy Ghost that is withdrawn for any sin. Also, according to 1 Cor 5:11, the Bishop is instructed to disfellowship members for certain severe unrepentant sins such as: fornication, covetness, idolatry, railing, drunkenness, and extortion. In the case of continual unrepentant sin, the Bible instructs us to pray for them.


Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the issue is how to apply these principles in real life. Let's take the example of a young woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock, as a consequence of her own choices. There is no question that this young mother should be shown compassion, love, and every measure of charity.

Where I struggle is this: how do you walk the line between showing charity and compassion and giving an indication of approval or acceptance? This is especially the case when thinking about young women who may be "on the edge" in their personal circumstances -- that is, not receiving the kind of guidance in the home to reinforce the message that becoming pregnant, unmarried, at a young age is not OK (at least as the teachings of the Church should be concerned)?

What if the young mother in question doesn't think there is anything wrong about her situation? Should that change the approach?

In a situation like this, as members of the Church I feel like we are in a delicate position between showing charity and condoning sinful behavior -- especially when shows of charity are couched in the language of moral relativism and with the result of somewhat shielding the person from the consequence of their choices.


David B said...

In this case, I say play your position. Let the Bishop do the judging, and let the membership do the caring.