“Judge not, lest you be judged.” Someone once quoted this to me from Matthew 7:1 in response to the mere suggestion that certain behaviours offend God, even if they are unintentional. Though I didn’t have names of people in mind, it was clear that sensitivity to the perception of critiquing behaviour is prevalent, whether motivated by guilt or grace. Naturally, I am opposed to misplaced criticism that runs people down to others. Jesus advocated direct and humble conversation in a spirit of preserving relationship. However, the view that any questioning of choices constitutes unwarranted judgmentalism can often misunderstand both grace and judgment.
Firstly, Paul asks in Romans 6:1 whether we should continue in sin that grace may abound? He answers in the negative, showing us that God’s grace, though available as a free gift, does not absolve us of the need to live in a way that honours Him. That means we live on His terms (which we first have to learn and then commit to). We endeavour to avoid sin in our desire to please Him and serve Him, but without fearing that any failure will jeopardise our eternal security. After all, we can confess our sins and He is faithful and just to forgive them and to cleanse us (1 John 1:9).
Everlasting life is clearly gifted by God’s grace through an act of faith and not good works, but where we then display good works anyway as evidence of the genuineness of that faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). God’s love provided the Lordship of Jesus Christ as the source of our redemption because our sin was deserving of His judgment.
It is helpful to remind ourselves that God’s attributes co-exist and don’t cancel each other out. His perfect love does not excuse sin because it cannot override His perfect justice. How could God be God if he did not judge sin perfectly and how could Heaven then be truly better than Earth? God is perfection in every sense and the source of our own morality which imperfectly reflects His own (due to our fallen and limited human nature).
Because God is judge, jury and executioner and we are not, we cannot presume to act as His enforcers. Instead, we humbly speak the truth in a spirit of love that desires to correct behaviours out of relationship and for a person’s own good. We refrain from an attitude of superiority and, instead, become conduits of grace so as to help lead people to consider what God might be saying to them about their choices. The Good News we bring is therefore motivated by a desire to deliver people from the sentence of death that we all deserve from God and to discover that His unconditional love has actually given us a way of escape.