The one who believes God’s moral standards can be known, that they are not above the struggles with sin, and believes that reproof is an act of love, will be able to avoid the judging Christ is speaking of in this passage.
It is difficult to think of a verse more misused than “Do not Judge” (Matt. 7:1). The number of times it has been used to censure Godly reproof would be impossible to count. If you are in the habit of reading the Word of God and upholding Godly standards, then you have most likely had this verse thrown your way while commenting on some behavior or trend of which God disapproves.
To many people, this verse means that no one is ever allowed to reprove or correct someone’s behavior or beliefs. If you speak, even in love, against things like sexual deviancy, drunkenness, or false religious beliefs, then according to these people, you are judgmental and therefore violating Christ’s command. Of course, they are making a judgment about you, which means if their interpretation is correct, they are also being judgmental in their reproof of you. If they believe correcting people is judgmental, they should stop correcting judgmental people.
With only a tiny amount of exegesis, we will see that Christ is not saying it is always inappropriate to correct someone with the word of God. In fact, this is something Scripture commands us to do, and reproof and correction are two proper uses of God’s word. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”
So what is Christ telling us when he commands us not to judge? He is telling us of people who correct others but do not hold themselves to the same standard.
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By Samuel D. James — 3 months ago
Written by Samuel D. James |
Thursday, June 29, 2023
When God thought and made me a boy, he gave me a gift: the gift of a male body, and a male brain, and male feelings. These aren’t obstacles to overcome; they are gifts to be sanctified. Can they sin? Absolutely. There have been many times where I wish my particular impulses were different, or that I didn’t have to worry about the things I worry about. This is not a sign of a mistake. It’s the sign of imperfection, of a body that is waiting to be glorified, not emasculated.
When I was growing up, Mom would tell me sometimes:
God thought, and thought, and thought, and he made you a boy.
This is a beautiful thought to me. It used to conjure up images of God sitting carefully, deep in thought, deciding with unhurried precision whether my mother’s second child should be a boy or a girl. As I grew, so did my theology, and I no longer think that the moment of my divinely bestowed gender identity looked like the famous Thinking Man sculpture. But that’s not the point. I understand now what Mom was saying. The body that grew inside my mother was given to me, on purpose, by a Creator who decided to give it. It’s the opposite of a fluke, incompatible with impulse. God doesn’t think fast and slow; everything he does has an incomprehensible eternity’s worth of intention. God thought, and thought, and thought, and he made me a boy.
I wonder if this short thought might be a blessing in your own life and in the life of your home. We live in an era of near-unprecedented despair over the meaning of a life. Gender dysphoria is illness, and in the parched search for something to tell us what we are, many in our age have clutched at an illness to bestow some kind of direction to their lives. What Mom gave me those years ago was an antidote to despair. Unpack it:
The doctors didn’t, and don’t, decide who I am. Not even my parents engineered my maleness.
By Stephen Kneale — 9 months ago
Indeed, when it comes to analysing everything to death, Paul is quite clear in that section: ‘eat everything that is sold in the meat market, without raising questions for the sake of conscience, since the earth is the Lord’s, and all that is in it.’ His answer seems to actively shy away from analysing everything to death and instead towards just getting on with your life. Paul is saying it is okay to just enjoy stuff and not suck the joy out of life by analysing everything to death.
Christians are pretty expert at sucking the joy out of everything. You name it, we can find problems with it. Even if we can’t nail a specific issue to make you feel guilty for enjoying something, you can bet we’ll insist on a full introspective analysis of motives before you can even consider enjoying the thing. Then, if you do determine to enjoy it and go on to do so, you better make sure you don’t enjoy it too much!
We seem to often have a problem with joy. Even Lloyd-Jones’ book – Joy Unspeakable – features a picture of him looking miserable as sin on the back of it. In every way, that book title is a misnomer. How can you write a book about something which is apparently unspeakable? How can you then speak about that unspeakable joy next to a picture of you with a face like a wet weekend? That isn’t to knock the book at all; just to illustrate the fact we can have something of a problem with joy. If it is unspeakable, we are often certain it’s unshowable and, let’s be honest, potentially unreal.
A lot of this instinct comes out at Christmas. The festive period is fine, so long as we don’t enjoy it too much. Or, enjoying it is fine, but we have to analyse it to death before we can confidently just enjoy it. Anything we may think, say or do have to be pored over before we can legitimately enjoy anything. That isn’t to say we should never be introspective, aware of potential sin, and keen to honour the Lord in what we say, think or do, it’s just I don’t think analysing everything to death in the pursuit of that leads to the evident joy Jesus came to bring. Indeed, it is something of a joy-killer.
Someone will inevitably say, ‘whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.’ That surely warrants some introspection and consideration about ‘whatever you do’. Doesn’t that warrant asking whether this actually brings glory to God? Whilst I think that question is valid, it seems to miss the wider context into which Paul made that comment. Paul’s concern seems to be about not giving or taking offence. You have no need to judge another before the Lord and try your best not to do what is going to cause offence. The solution he comes to is to neither rule out or in the eating of meat offered to idols (the question under consideration). He essentially says, ‘whatever you do’ i.e. eat or don’t eat, do it with a clean conscience and try not to give or take offence over it.
By Timon Cline — 1 year ago
It is in man that God has implanted his law, the rule of right action according to the created order that reflects it. It is eternal law, the law of God’s essence, given by divine condescension to the creature for his good, unto his temporal and eternal happiness. Man is meant to live with others; this requires order, which, in turn, requires law—even in paradise this would have been so. In short, man’s nature requires him to participate in God’s law by making law too. That human law must then reflect, respect, and reinforce human anthropology—now under assault—for which it is made, and glorify the God who made it.
Whatever its genesis and cause—some suggest Karl Barth’s infamous “Nein!” to Emil Brunner—Protestants largely abandoned the natural law tradition sometime amidst the tumultuous twentieth century. It should be noted that this abandonment conspicuously coincided with the advent of a positivist Supreme Court led by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and his militant campaign from the bench to detach law from a “brooding omnipresence in the sky.”
Unsurprisingly, Protestant-positivist conceptions of law (like theonomy) have filled the void in the interim. Originalism—a sort of first-in-time positivism now generally identified with the Constitution’s original public meaning—albeit popularized by a Roman Catholic, dominates the Protestant jurisprudential posture. Like many American Protestants, Originalists—there are some, heavily qualified exceptions—decry judicial use of the classical natural law tradition as tantamount to so-called living constitutionalism and judicial overreach. But recent social trends evince that this form of originalism is radically insufficient. It inordinately fixates on method to the detriment of a substantive vision of justice.
Consider that two ethical concepts presently captivate the popular political imagination: justice and the common good. One currently serves as the causa belli of the progressive-woke left and the other saturates the rhetoric of the nascent post-liberal right. Both bewilder many observers. Both, in their own way, spring from the demand for a thoroughly moral socio-political regime, a comprehensive vision of life oriented to something higher.
Protestantism, if it is to have a political future, must recover a moral vision that rightly defines, orders, and mediates these contemporary emphases, which–if taken in isolation–drive many to dangerous ideological and political extremes. Rightly understood, the apparent dichotomy between the two is false, one manufactured by recent, shrewd efforts of rhetorical capture. Law is the common denominator of justice and the common good, although such a notion has been lost as of late. As Thomas Aquinas defined it, law is an ordinance of reason, promulgated for the common good, made by one who has care of the community.
In a very real sense, then, justice and the common good are inseparable according to the tradition only lately jettisoned by Protestants. The way back is the way forward. Protestants need to play catchup to remain players. This isn’t demagoguery or pandering. It is about recovering a coherent vision of a moral order and the goods toward which said order must be oriented to be just. It is about rediscovering a proper understanding of law by, inter alia, rejecting Justice Gorsuch’s now (in)famous positivist quip in Bostock, “Only the written word is the law.” For law is more than pure fiat; it must attend to reason and nature and conform to something ethically and metaphysically higher.
Such a recovery project requires an extension of the ad fontes enthusiasm amongst Protestants over the past couple of decades to the Protestant legal thought once firmly planted in the natural law tradition. Scholars like Stephen Grabill and Jordan Ballor have already begun this project. The works of Matthew Hale (1609-1676), Johannes Althusius (1557-1638), and Franciscus Junius (1545-1602), to name a few, are now accessible thanks to these scholars and many others. The Angelic Doctor is increasingly appreciated by Protestants (as he was in the past) as much as the Fat Doctor.
Yet, this is about more than resourcement. Protestants must readopt and embrace the child they once forsook, namely, a classical understanding of law, its source, rationale, and function in society. Shockingly, even at this late hour, by an acquired instinct of recent vintage, much of orthodox Protestantism still shuns, or is ignorant of, the natural law tradition.
Without it the future of political Protestantism is bleak indeed, in part because Protestants will be far less equipped to answer the most pressing ethical questions of the day, and will not be as able to adjudicate all-powerful rights claims like those in Bostock, Obergefell, and Roe. Neither will they be able to offer a positive politics, nor a metaphysically coherent account of human nature powerful enough to bring certain inseparable political themes together, themes such as justice and the common good. (Politics, after all, is but an actionable, lived extension of metaphysics.) They will, rather, remain political infants, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness.
Under a natural law-based jurisprudence, positivist, mechanical, proceduralism is insufficient. Law as law must be reasonable, which is to say, the means law employs to attain its ends must be fitting to the ends themselves. Most importantly, law must be cognizant of, and congruent with, the metaphysical realities of creation, especially an appreciation of the givenness of nature and natural limits.
As Pierre Manent put it recently, “the most precise way to designate what afflicts us, what troubles and demoralizes us, is to say simply: we no longer know what law is.” The key question is, “If our actions are not to be regulated by law, then what shall regulate them?” Ryan Anderson has identified the same problem plaguing debates within conservatism writ large. Responding to common good skepticism from a (typical) right-liberal (who essentially accepts that government mostly only exists to protect individuals from harm, and to protect their individual rights) Anderson asked how “the scope of […] rights” can be determined “without some account of human flourishing and the common good?” For instance, how can the conflict between the woman’s bodily autonomy and a baby’s right to life be mediated otherwise? What about rights of conscience? All exercise must have limits. A rule of right action must apply else we fall into the chaos of mere competing rights claims without means of adjudication—no lodestar to guide us. That way lies devolution into pure power politics. That way lies madness.