Don't Pass Judgment On One Another
Authority, Discernment, and Stumbling Blocks
Romans 14:13 (NIV)
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way.
Judgment : The evaluation of evidence in the making of a decision.
The term has three distinct uses:
- Informal – used to describe the quality of an individual’s ability to exercise wisdom or discernment.
- Legal – used in the context of law and trial procedure, to refer to the final finding, statement, or ruling, based on a considered weighing of evidence, and the authority to do so.
- Religious – used in the concept of salvation to refer to the decision and authority of God in determining reward or punishment for all mankind.
Using Wisdom :
When looking closely at the passage we find Paul addressing the act of passing judgment on others as a matter of course. There was dispute between the members of “The Church” of his day as is the case in our times. In our everyday dealings we sometimes draw conclusions concerning others based on our own actions or feelings. Paul, having been raised a Pharisee and formerly a persecutor of the followers of Christ, was in a very unique position to speak concerning this matter. The view of the Pharisees over strict adherence to the law had obscured their ability to exercise compassion, and tolerance towards others. While we must use discernment in making decisions (informal use), it’s not quite the same as passing judgment, and bringing condemnation on others. Especially when the expressed use of it is based on our own point of view, or when we have no authority. The actions of the Pharisees served to position them in a self-righteous posture. What authority they had was corrupted by pride and arrogance, making them a stumbling block toward acts of mercy. The very elements that give depth to the command to love your neighbor… forgiveness, and concern… the foundation of mercy; had been lost in the quest for tradition. Paul’s self recognition of his own shortcomings allowed him to spot its presence among members of the church.
Overstepping Our Authority :
In both the legal and religious definitions, there is the reference to…
the authority to do so.
when passing judgment. In terms of its legal context, judgment is a power given by agreement. Officials are selected and put into position to act with authority. That authority is installed by consent. There is also the consideration that passing judgment is always a formal act. It no longer is considered something that can be allowed to remain personal. The inclusion of law, police, government officials, and in this case… judges makes it a matter that concerns someone other than us. This also makes it necessary for the decision to be removed from our scope of authority alone. It is necessary to keep objectivity in place. When something is formal, it’s also official and holds implications… in the case of judgment that usually plays out to be punitive or damaging. Religion takes this process a step further with the inclusion of God. We are all under His authority, and there is none higher. The fact that one is a believer or not does not change this material element; being created by Him, we are subject to Him… like it or not. The sun and the rain fall on both the wicked and the righteous. What real reward or punishment can we therefore give when we have yet to receive our own… final verdict?
Follow Christ’s Example :
This is the one sure guarantee for keeping our actions centered in love. Jesus gave example after example of selfless action. His life and time spent among us is all about the compassion and concern of giving mercy in love. Read all of Romans 14 to get the passage within its full context. Consider the question posed in verse 4…
“Who are you to judge someone else's servant?”
Reflect also on the reminder of Christ’s purpose and intentions brought up in verses 9-12…
9 For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.
10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
11 It is written:
" 'As surely as I live,' says the Lord,
'every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will confess to God.' "
12 So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.
That should give you some meat to chew on the next time you find yourself looking at someone as though they were beneath your standards. Each and every one of us has enough faults to be concerned with before we seek to impose conditions (stumbling blocks), on those among us.
Matthew 7:1-3 (NIV)
"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 look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?
After all is said and done… we all fall short of the glory of God.