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*Frequently asked questions*

Jacob Ninan

The Bible, the written word of God, is our sole authority in answering all questions pertaining to our spiritual life. However, in reading the Bible, we must keep in mind that the Bible is not written like a book of science where each statement is exact and complete in itself, nor like a book of law where the goal is to elaborate matters in sections and sub-sections so as to avoid loopholes. The Bible is written for the heart, and can be understood in its proper sense only by those who are spiritually minded (1Co.2:14), and who desire to do the will of God once it is revealed (Jn.7:17). Those who want to argue against the word of God can always find arguments, and those who do not want to obey what God says can appear to find words of God themselves to support their stand.

We can have many questions about this subject--confessing sins--, but unfortunately the answers given by different teachers are many times totally wrong or misleading. One reason for misunderstanding is that people take the words of the Bible literally without considering the spirit behind those words. In an attempt to be faithful to the inspired word, they miss the intention of God. Another common error is to treat different statements in the Bible as if they hold complete truths in themselves. It is not right to hold any one truth to the neglect of other truths without realising that spiritual truths are usually many sided and that even truths that appear to be in opposition to each other have to held together in order to get a balanced view of the truth. We shall go into examining our subject here along with an awareness of such dangers and ask the Holy Spirit who inspired the words in the first place to illuminate the truths to our minds and hearts.

Judge not!

1. Where is the need to discuss it when Jesus has already said, "Judge not"?

Of course, Jesus has said, "Judge not" (Mt.7:1). It is in fact one of the words of Jesus most quoted by unbelievers. They use it to mean that we should not find fault with anyone or anything even when they are wrong. In other words, the implication is that we should not intervene in whatever others are doing because Jesus said we had no business to judge. This is actually a misunderstanding of what Jesus said, and we need to understand it correctly in order to obey it.

2. What did Jesus actually mean by "Judge not"?

To understand what Jesus actually meant, it is better to look at the context in Matthew 7:1-5. "Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at 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,' and behold, the log is 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" (NASB). Isn't Jesus talking about our attitude towards others? When we have big faults in our own lives, why are we looking at comparatively tiny faults in the others? Doesn't that show a proud attitude about ourselves and a condemning or despising attitude towards the others? So what Jesus is saying here is not to look down on others in that condeming, despising attitude.

This is not the same as telling us not to have any opinion about others or their faults. We cannot avoid having opinions about everything and everybody that we deal with, because we need to be able to interact with them in the right way.

3. Isn't this just your own opinion, and aren't you dodging the plain meaning of the text?

One of the ways we can try to understand the true meaning of different passages in the Bible is to see what else the Bible says about them. We must remember that the Bible is not written in the form of a text book with everything properly explained in its own paragraph. You will remember how Satan tried to deceive Jesus by quoting from Scripture and how Jesus overcame him by quoting from another passage what was also written.

Jesus has also asked us to "judge with righteous judgment" (Jn.7:24). This would seem to contradict His telling us not to judge if we understood "judge not" as not forming any opinion at all. But this verse actually tells us not to base our judgment on what we observe merely externally, but to ensure that we form a right opinion in every situation.

Judging with righteous judgment becomes necessary and unavoidable in different situations of life. A man in charge of an office has to judge when it comes to people working under him. Parents have to judge what is going on with the children. Pastors have to judge the people in their churches. We have to judge what we hear from preachers if we are to protect ourselves from wrong teaching (2Co.14:29). We must form an opinion about the kind of people we have to deal with so that we can deal with them wisely (Mt.7:6).

4. So, how to judge and how not to judge?

The right way to judge in any situation is to understand how God views each person and situation. We must learn to do this better and better by studying God's word, and listening to the voice of the Holy Spirit as He illumines our path. While doing this we must also keep in mind that we are not God but only created beings. This means that we don't have the authority to execute judgment on other people as He does. So while we begin to understand how God looks at different people, in most cases we may have to leave the execution of that judgment to Him. For example, only God has the authority to take vengeance, and our place is to forgive others and leave them to God to deal with (Rom.12:19).

But in order to judge with a righteous judgment, we need to undetstand God's view about people and situations, take that view ourselves, take action based on our judgment (or assessment or appraisal) as long as it is within the circle of our authority, and leave the rest to God. A pastor in a church or a father in a home needs to form opinions of what is going on within their realm and take appropriate action to correct, warn, exhort, etc. A teacher to to explain what is right and show what is wrong.

5. What happens when we don't judge rightly?

A whole lot of wrong things go on when we don't judge rightly. Most often our tendency is to judge others harshly, not showing them any compassion or patience. Many times we form an opinion without sufficient facts. Many times we look down on others and condemn them who, we think, are doing wrong which we ourselves don't do! We exalt ourselves over the others, take the position of God over them and pass judgment. This is why Jesus said, "Do not judge so that you will not be judged." On the other hand, if we would only take a humble view of ourselves, recognising our own faults which God knows clearly (the logs in our eyes), we would be able to have a proper view of the faults we see in others. Then, perhaps, we would even be able to help them to get over their faults.

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