December 3, 2017

In this issue: Judging and Casting Stones by Heath Rogers

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by Heath Rogers

  We live in a world that embraces tolerance. "Live and let live" seems to be the ruling spirit of our day. Our culture tells us that we can have and hold our own views, provided they don't condemn the views of other people. When Christians point out and object to the sin and immorality in the lives of other people, we are quickly reminded that we can't do that because our Bible says, "Judge not."

Indeed, Jesus did speak these words of warning to His disciples. Here is the entire quotation: "Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you,: (Matt. 7:12) A careful look at this passage shows that Jesus did not forbid His followers to make judgments about others. He warned them against making harsh or hypocritical judgments. He stated a general truth, that we will be judged according to the same standard that we use on others.

Can Christians make judgments about other people? Yes, we can. Later in the same text, Jesus warned of "false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits..." (vs. 15-16) False prophets are compared to wolves among sheep because of their deceptive nature and because of the damage that they can do. How are we going to know if a man is a false prophet? Jesus says we must observe his life and make a judgment to determine what kind of person he is ("You will know them by their fruits'). The Bible allows this kind of judgment. Christians are not violating the commandment of verse one when they observe verse sixteen.

Those who are quick to quote "Judge not" need to realize that Jesus also said to "judge with righteous judgment." (John 7:24) In this passage, Jesus was speaking of those who were making judgments about Him. He did not tell them it was wrong for them to make judgments, but told them that their judgments needed to be right and fair. This same thing applies to judgments that we make about others today.

The apostle Paul said to, "Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thess 5:21-22) To test means to make a judgment according to a standard. The standard is the Word of God. From these tests, we are to determine what is good and what is evil. Otherwise, how will we know what to hold fast and what to abstain from?

There are times when these judgments about things and people need to be made public. "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them." (Eph 5:11, emphasis mine - HR) Christians have the right to determine from the Scripture if something is an unfruitful work of darkness and the right to expose it as such. Standing for what is right involves pointing out the things that are wrong. This is true of the immorality in the sinful world as well as the error in the religious world.

There is another passage that is commonly misused by those who do not like judging. "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." Some people understand this passage to be a prohibition against judging and condemning others. The argument is that, since we are all sinners, then none of us is in a position to judge and condemn others. What did Jesus mean when He said this?

The entire context of this statement is John 8:2-11. Early one morning, the scribes and Pharisees interrupted Jesus as He was teaching in the Temple. They brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, set her before the Lord, and said, "Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say? (vs. 4-5)

John indicates that this was a trap. They were not looking for justice. If so, where was the man? The Law of Moses stated that both were to be put to death. (Lev 20:10). The scribes and Pharisees were looking for something with which to accuse Jesus. If Jesus had said that the woman should not be stoned, He was contradicting the Law of Moses. If He said she should be stoned, He was violating Roman law which forbad subject peoples from carrying out capital punishment.

Jesus' immediate reaction was to ignore the question. He stooped down to write on the ground. As they persisted, He raised up and said, He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first." (vs. 7) Those who heard it were convicted in their conscience and went out one by one, beginning with the oldest to the youngest, leaving Jesus alone with the woman.

What did Jesus mean when He said, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first?" As stated above, some claim that Jesus was teaching that no man is in a position to condemn another because we are all sinners. This interpretation is heavy on emotion, but it is sorely lacking when it comes to harmonizing with the rest of Scripture. Most scholars that have commented on this verse believe that Jesus was speaking specifically of the sin of adultery, meaning that all of these men had been guilty of adultery at some point in their life. This understanding is heavy on speculation. I believe the answer lies in the immediate context. Jesus is referring to their involvement in the set up. "He who is without sin among you (regarding this stumbling block that you have set before Me), let him throw a stone at her first." Jesus took their trap, turned it around, and sprung it upon them. All of them were involved in sin when they brought this woman before the Lord to test Him. One by one, they realized they were caught, and walked away.

There is more to the account. "When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, 'Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?' She said, 'No one, Lord. 'And Jesus said to her, 'Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." (vs. 10-11)

Why doesn't Jesus condemn her? He can't, according to the Law of Moses. The Law stated that in capital cases, the hands of the eye witnesses were to be the first to cast a stone at the guilty party . (Deut. 17:7, also 13:9) Jesus was not an eyewitness to the event, so He could not condemn her (cast a stone at her). However, He does not dismiss or condone her adultery. He told her to "go and sin no more."

Jesus' statement in John eight was made to a specific group of men regarding their involvement in a specific situation. Those who would use it as a blanket prohibition against condemning sin in the lives of other people are twisting Scripture by taking this passage out of context. When Jesus said, "Judge not" He was not prohibiting judgments. The Bible teaches that we can observe the fruits borne in their life and determine what kind of people they are. We can conclude that a work is of darkness and expose it as such. We can judge a religious practice or doctrine to be unscriptural and point it out. "Judge not" is not a prohibition, but a warning. We must be honest and fair when making such judgments, knowing that we will receive the same kind of treatment from others, and that we will receive the same kind of judgment from God. ~

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