Judgement is a God-given Christian responsibility that is often abused. It is for restoration, not condemnation, to be exercised as Jesus Himself would.
So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7)
It’s an enormous tragedy that one of the chief reasons why non-believers resist the Gospel is the behaviour of the church. Christian hypocrisy is often top of the list – followers of Christ who preach one thing yet do the opposite. Yet even this is tied to a critical problem that undermines the body of Christ. Judgement is intended by God to fulfil a powerful spiritual purpose. But Christians throughout history have allowed pride to twist it to their own purposes. There is a very fine line between exercising biblical judgement and being judgemental.
The biblical judgement role of every believer.
There is no doubt that the Bible, both Old Testament and New, contains a solid foundation for the truth that God’s people are required to judge. This issue is never called into debate. As God’s representatives, we are called to judge all things according to His Word. The single criteria that emerges, however, is that we are to do so as He would. This is where things come unstuck. We lose sight of the fact that it’s God’s judgment we represent, not ours. The Old Testament contains a long list of crimes – both literal and spiritual – along with required punishment. Judgement for sin, however, even in the Old Testament, contained the provision of mercy and forgiveness. The detailed and extensive rituals of repentance and sacrifice attest inarguably to this. Christ was the physical manifestation of the grace of God.
John 12:47 is often misused by ‘anti-judgement’ groups. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. The criteria here concerns hearing and believing the Gospel. Rejecting salvation is something only God will judge. The current role of Christ – up until the final judgement day – is to save the world. That is our role also. However, the Bible contains countless verses defining how we are to judge sin. Our responsibility in judgement concerns sin, not the person who commits it. There is a significant difference between the two. We are required to exercise that judgement as Christ would. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. (Galatians 6:1)
Our judgement is for restoration not condemnation.
The fundamental purpose behind our responsibility to exercise the judgement of God against sin is to restore. We are here not to ‘play God’ and condemn others but, like Jesus, to restore them. As Christ’s representatives on earth, we are to share His love, mercy, and grace. This does not mean overlooking or excusing sin. The very existence of grace and mercy indicate the existence of sin. Without the need to be forgiven – judgement – mercy and grace would be meaningless. The problem with the issue of judgement within the church, however, is that somehow, it’s assumed the role of executioner as well. Nowhere in the Bible are Christians given the right to enforce punishment for sin. That implies condemnation, which is not the message of Christ. Our verse today highlights this error very clearly.
The religious leaders, of course, hoped to trick Jesus. There are still those today who use this verse to justify the fallacy that Christians should never judge sin. What’s important in the story of this woman is that Jesus never denies that adultery is a sin. He tells the woman to ‘go and sin no more.’ It’s not the judgement of sin that is called into question but the hypocritical execution of punishment. God alone has the right to punish or forgive our sins. We must judge what is sin and what is not, and always based on His Word. But we cannot pass sentence and inflict punishment. We must always restore.
Christian judgement involves Christian unity.
The reason for this is that the motive behind our judgement is sharing the burdens of others. It is to encourage and strengthen the body of Christ to turn away from sin. Part of our role until the coming of Christ is to prepare the bride. Without spot or wrinkle entails removing the sins that tarnish the purity of the church. It does not mean removing the people. Sadly, many churches are filled with believers who have forgotten that the Church is made up of sinners. Every single one of the saints came into the kingdom as a sinner. And all of us continue to sin. In essence, then, we are all the same. Whether we came in as liar, a murderer, a prostitute, or an ordinary person who tried to do good, there is no difference. Unity means agreement – to judge others as we do ourselves.
This is a point Jesus makes very clear in our verse today. He’s reminding these ‘upright’ religious leaders that their lives are no different. Sin, in God’s eyes, is sin. Large or little, it doesn’t matter. Sin of any kind offends His holiness. He judges all sin the same. While those of us who are saved are forgiven, we continue to sin and must repent and confess. We are not suddenly ‘made sinless’ for the rest of our lives. How much easier would everything be if we were? Jesus did not question the fact that these men had exercised judgement for the sin. But He did remind them that because they were sinners too, they had no right to condemn or execute punishment. A fundamental truth of the unity of the body of Christ is the fact that we’re all sinners, forgiven by grace. We are all the same.
The abuse of our judgement responsibility.
All too often, sinners within and without the church are condemned rather than restored through Bible-based judgment. The result of this, ultimately, is bitterness and resentment. Believers are wounded and rejected. Non-believers are often driven away by the ruthless judgement of the church. Jesus never condoned sin, but He never condemned the sinner. Our stand against sin should remain pure and Word based, and mercy and grace are never excuses to overlook or excuse sin. Instead, they are there to lovingly point out the truth and encourage others to come to Christ for forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. The basis of judgement must always be the love of God. Abusing our judgement responsibility brings God into disrepute. We call Christ a liar when we withhold grace and mercy while forgetting our own sinfulness. We must judge the sin but never condemn the person, lest we place ourselves in judgment.
Lord, forgive us our wrong attitudes and for forgetting that we are all sinners. Help us to pursue unity in Your body, a unity that is held together by the truth that we are all the same. Grant us wisdom and grace to judge sin as we should, with love and the desire to bring Your restoration to others. Give us courage to stand against the abuse of judgement within the Church and to hold Your name in honour. Help us to remember that we are representatives of Your love and mercy only, and that we have no right to condemn or punish. Teach us humility before You, so that Your truth will always guide us to love others as You Yourself love us all.