I would like to think we could just talk about the definition of terms and the meaning of words, and mostly, to be Biblical in our approach instead of smashing about with unresolved slogans.
- Old Testament and New Testament comparisons of “judgment” seldom address the real difference between before and after the Cross. The reality of judgment hasn’t changed one bit since the Fall of man. God judges. We judge. Simple. No need to make too many comparisons actually, since judgment remains constant. It isn’t judgment that changed, but redemption.
- The use of the term “judgment” in place of “punishment” also clouds the issue dramatically and unnecessarily. Judgment isn’t punishment. Judgment is the decision making process of determining the reality of things on the basis of facts. Once the decision has been reached, proper and appropriate responses can be administered and enforced.
- Judgment and mercy are not opposite or enemies, nor does any statement by the Old or New Testament authors suggest they are at odds with one another. Judgment sets up mercy. Mercy isn’t blindness or avoid behavior. Mercy isn’t the “God winked” part of the discussion or the God just looked away. Mercy, like judgment, has intention behind it, justice behind it, and love behind it. Both judgment and mercy are part of God’s leadership and authority; judgment isn’t evil since God is Judge and so are we.
- Jesus never once said not to judge. He says to judge at the same level of accountability to which you are judged. No Bible verse or statement says judgment has ended. Such an idea is as incapable with the Bible as the disappearance of time or love or any other reality of the eternal God.
- God has been, is now, and will in future judge nations, people, and generations. Some of His judgment decisions were made before the foundation of the world, applied during history, and continue to speak to the same spiritual and natural conditions today. In other words, God already made up His mind about a lot of things. So, the discussion about God judging America or an person is pretty much a misunderstanding of judgment. God is already judging America and responding appropriately upon the basis of His decisions.
- Judgment and love are companions as much as mercy and love are companions. Judgment doesn’t ignore sin and unrighteousness because of love or mercy. Judgment remains the same because it is based upon eternal, unchanging principles. The rub comes from tension between opinions about things that do not involve eternal principles and more importantly from examination of heart motives and conditions.
- No amount of love on God’s part or anyone else’s part legitimately voids judgment. It isn’t about love vs judgment at all.
- The Cross involves judgment because God already judged the world. The statement of Jesus, taken without context or further examination, to which many people refer – “God didn’t send Me to condemn the world but rescue it” – refers to the fact that Jesus had already accepted responsibility to redeem the world He created before He created it. Father didn’t send Him to condemn it because it was already condemned.
Judgment sent Jesus to the Cross. Judgment nailed Him there. Judgment continues now after the Cross, Resurrection, Ascension, and Intercession of Jesus on the basis of human response to His redemptive rescue. But, that doesn’t change judgment. It changes redemption.
- Judgment is the responsibility of kingdom leaders now just as much as it ever has been. Judgment is decision making, and all leaders make decisions at the level of their authority and assignment. The problem of judgment offered beyond that scope of authority and assignment is at issue: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant?” refers to the specifics of this. You can only offer judgment where you are responsible for accountability. Even when the issue is plain as day – you commit adultery when you choose to view pornography, for example – the decision making only enters my leadership purview when it is part of my assignment. Then, I both make a decision about the reality of the behavior and the consequences of that decision within the scope of my responsibility as a kingdom leader.
Usually, we get into trouble in judgment by attempting to make decisions or enforce decisions in things that are none of our business.
- Examining Scripture on this basis would be helpful. Making blanket statements and sharing slogans is not. Sloganizing exaggerations of grace and love or judgment and holiness really keep us divided for no profitable reason. No conflict between judgment and mercy exists. No conflict between love and principle exists.
God is Love, Judge, Holy, Consuming Fire, Mercy, Gracious, and immutable all at the same time. No good comes from attempting to slice Him up in pieces to suit our emphasis or personal dispositions. I’m always trying to be gentle in the discussion of “judgment,” and the dialogue is healthy. However, the discussion seldom actually centers so much on the real issues that it is usually more one cheerleader attempting to out shout another.