Thursday, March 28, 2013

Righteous Judgment


What was never covered or considered in Worldwide or the splinters

At this time of year, I am reminded of the story about the man who was on a game show, and had to explain the meaning of Easter. He began by describing how Jesus was placed in a tomb, and rose again on Easter day, whereupon He saw His shadow, resulting in 6 more weeks of winter.

It would seem the contestant was a bit confused when it came to the facts or evidence of Scripture.

Unfortunately, during my sojourn within Worldwide, we were not taught to truly delve into Scripture deeply, with a critical view regarding what is written there. I think it was, to an extent, a type of laziness on the one hand, where we were willing to accept the explanations of Scripture as handed to us by the ministry, as well as an unconscious desire not to rock the theological boat, resulting in disapproval by the ministry and lay members alike.

I’d like to examine an example of this sort of thing, but go into it in greater depth with a more critical examination and share the results. After all, now that I am free from the social psychology of being in the group, I have much greater freedom to truly examine the Scriptures without the pressure to conform to the “rule” of the majority, or the dictates of a minority (read, ministry) that is imposed on the rest.

I have long since lost track of how many sermons I sat through where the topic was about judging. I have long since lost interest in what Worldwide had to teach on the subject. It was, after all, one big joke that has long since lost its humor.

The favorite flavor of verse quoted, ad nauseum:

Judge not, that ye be not judged. – Matthew 7:1

Once in a great while, the rest of the statement was quoted in order to instill a greater level of fear:

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. – Matthew 7:2

In the art and science of communication, we can break this down a bit.

When the minister quoted “judge not” while citing these or any other passages of Scripture, what he really meant was that you, as the lay member, had no right to judge the minister and the ministry under any circumstances.

Had you critically evaluated the ministers and ministry you might have discovered they were nothing more than wolves in sheep’s clothing, looking to feed their own bellies at your expense through tithes they had no biblical authority to levy on you.

Then, there is what the lay members understood or believed what the minister was saying to them: Judge not was interpreted to mean, do not judge unless you were right, and you were always right.

This judging was seen in relation to those who judged wrongly, not being in possession of God’s Spirit. It was your job as a member to make a judgment regarding other member’s behaviours and attitudes, for example, if you should happen to hear them judge (criticize) the minister, ministry or anything they said from on high. Any opportunity to advance yourself in the eyes of the minister was worth it, even if it meant ratting on one’s fellow member. It wasn’t really judging; it was all part of protecting God’s Church from any and all enemies, within or without the church; real or imaginary.

Actually, Jesus did say to His critics that they were to judge “righteous judgment” and not to judge according to appearance. When it came to much of the old covenant, especially the sabbath, judgment was nearly strictly according to appearance. If you were caught working on the sabbath, you were guilty, regardless of any excuse you might have had. Your next appointment was with a rock, followed by several more rocks of varying size and weight, sailing in your direction.

So to say we are not to judge misses the point of it all. We are not to judge in a manner that is critical or condemnative of others. When it comes to condemnation, that is God’s purview. When it comes to judging others, there is a call to judge righteous judgment.

What then is righteous judgment? What is judging according to appearance?

We should first examine the example in Scripture where Jesus speaks of judging righteous judgment in contrast to judging according to appearance.

Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law? Why go ye about to kill me? The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee? Jesus answered and said unto them, I have done one work, and ye all marvel. Moses therefore gave unto you circumcision; (not because it is of Moses, but of the fathers;) and ye on the sabbath day circumcise a man. If a man on the sabbath day receive circumcision, that the law of Moses should not be broken; are ye angry at me, because I have made a man every whit whole on the sabbath day? Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment. ― John 7:19-24

This was all in relation to Jesus healing on the sabbath, which He defined as doing a “work”. Today’s sabbatarian misses the whole point here, having concluded that Jesus didn’t really “work” on the sabbath by redefining work in relation to the sabbath, claiming He violated the additional laws the Jews placed around the law, and that there were works that were acceptable on the sabbath. But when it came to the law and the prohibition against working, the law makes no such distinctions. The prohibition was against anyone doing “any” work without respect to what kind of work or works were exempt from this “any”. Theirs is an effort to avoid judging righteous judgment all together.

What they see in relation to working on the sabbath where animals were fed and let out to drink as being acceptable works “according to the law”. What they fail to perceive here is that this was still work. One was not condemned by God because God does judge righteous judgment, and not according to appearance. They were, technically, breaking the sabbath, yet were blameless. As Jesus even pointed out, the priests labored on sabbaths at the temple “profaning” the sabbath, yet were blameless. Jesus’ observation and comments in this regard are conveniently sidestepped. They could judge themselves as not condemned, due to the circumstances, but were quick to determine others as condemned by reason of another standard; appearance.

The law said to not work on the sabbath, and God said to those priests to work. God trumps the law. Work sanctioned by God does not result in condemnation. Work associated with God does not result in condemnation. One’s focus is on God and serving God. This is an important aspect to understand, and the sabbatarian does not want to wander here.

Judging according to appearance is just as it states; one judges according to what they see. If you saw one working on the sabbath, and you judged according to appearance, you concluded they were worthy of condemnation for breaking the sabbath, and that it was time to break out the rock supply.

Judging according to appearance becomes an easy way to bring condemnation upon someone where one was looking for an excuse to condemn. The Jewish religious leaders were intent on finding anything they could use to condemn Jesus. They used the law as a means to accomplish this, hiding their evil in a cloak of religion and the law.

Years ago, I remember my father, who was an officer in the Marine Corps, talking about a Sergeant that some other officers didn’t like, and how they were looking for any excuse to bring charges up against this Sergeant in order to drum him out. Their actions would also have instilled fear into other Marines who might have thoughts of crossing the thin line they were supposed to walk. Their opportunity came one day, after a company pick-nick with their families, where some leftover hamburger that was checked out for lunch was kept by this Sergeant who took it home. Regulations required that any leftover foodstuffs be returned. However, regulations also required any such food returned was to be thrown out.

When this “evidence” was presented to my father in order to proceed with a court-marshal, my father would have none of it. His response to these junior grade officers was that, if they wanted to sink this Sergeant, then do it with something he truly did wrong, and not based on this sort of garbage. The Sergeant might as well have taken the hamburger home to feed his family than turn it over to be thrown out.

I am proud to say that many years after my father’s retirement, he was still a well known figure in the Marine Corps, with a reputation for fairness.

That’s more than I can say for these highly religious men of Jesus’ time, who condemned Jesus, basing their accusations and judgment solely on “appearance”. It is as Jesus spoke of them regarding their sin being one of hatred. The law was used, or misused as a tool to wield power, and corrupted power at that.

How then do we define and understand judging according to “righteous judgment”?

It is about judging the heart and intent of heart. An animal needed to eat and drink. To deny them was cruelty. An animal that fell in a ditch needed to be pulled out, else it was cruelty. It was an act of compassion. It may well be construed that to neglect to do these things would be a sin of omission.

As I pointed out in an earlier article regarding God’s judgment of Israel, which again I remind the reader is based in righteous judgment by God, He declared that the works of the Israelites were evil, even from their youth. Why? Because God was not involved in any real way with their lives. What they did in regards to a national religion was done as a matter of compulsion. If they didn’t do those things required of them, they could be killed. Their hearts were far from God, where only “lip” service was rendered to God.

For the children of Israel and the children of Judah have only done evil before me from their youth: ― Jeremiah 32:30a

The reason God gives for the destruction of the world through a flood is similar:

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. ― Genesis 6:5

Actions follow intent. The heart is a reflection of who you truly are. In the sabbatarian’s world, sin is working on the sabbath unless you meet one of their specific exemptions of the sabbath law they themselves have contrived. The very law they claim to be living by is side-stepped, as well as the requirement (command) to judge righteous judgment.

It does not occur to the sabbatarian that the Israelites were commanded to refrain from work on the sabbath in part due to their evil hearts and nature to begin with. The sabbath was to them a holy convocation. They were in the presence of God, even though figuratively speaking. The Christian, in possession of the Holy Spirit is described as being in God’s presence seeing as God now resides in the believer. We are not seen by God, according to His Righteous Judgment, as being evil, living according to evil intent, and a life and lifestyle devoid of God and His influence in our lives. As I cited before, our “works” are now seen as wrought in God. God CAN NOT condemn a Christian for working on the sabbath when we understand judging righteous judgment.

Jesus said, in relation to the sabbath, that He works. He informs us that even the Father in heaven works. If our lives are hidden in Christ, which they are, and if we have been made dead to the law, not under the law and freed from the law, there is no way we can be judged and condemned for working on the sabbath, no matter what the form of work is. When we were freed from sin, and became dead to sin, it was, and is, all about “sin” and not the specific sin or specific transgression itself, such as breaking the sabbath.

Like so many other things, the sabbatarian trivializes what is truly important, and maximizes things that are trivial. A Christian is now put in a new category of existence by God. We live for God. Our works are wrought in God. He lives in us. We are treated as though we were no longer living in the flesh, even though we still have the pulls of the flesh and the pulls of that human nature that is by nature, sinful. This is our state of grace. We have died to sin. Our old man has died. What we are now is a new creation. We simply wait now for a change of form, taking off the corruptible, and taking on the incorruptible as Paul relates in I Corinthians chapter 15.

The sabbatarian desperately wants to resurrect you back to an old way of life which, among other things, makes a mockery of righteous judgment. If you really stop and think carefully about this, their position is one of even judging God when it comes to judging according to appearance.

************ It is important that you understand; Everything on this blog is based on the current understanding of each author. Never take anyone's word for it, always prove it for yourself, it is your responsibility. You cannot ride someone else's coattail into the Kingdom. ; ) Acts 17:11 ************

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