The American Problem with Judging

James 4:11-12 – “Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

Criticism, judgment and any speaking ill of another person are out of place (out of jurisdiction), unless specific authority (under God) requires it (proper jurisdiction).

To judge someone implies the authority to justify him. Both actions are the responsibility of the judge only.

To judge someone implies the authority to judge the law itself, and to determine its relevance or irrelevance to the times and to the actions. This judgment places one over and above the law. (Unless, of course, the law itself, or the Lawgiver, delegates authority to the one who must make some kind of judgment.)

To judge someone else also implies the power to determine punishment and to command the punishment take place. Since God is the one who will bring punishment (or grant mercy), to set oneself up as judge is to set oneself up as a commander of God. We become the judge, God becomes the jailer who does our bidding. To forgo criticism is fitting for the one who patiently submits to God and rests secure in his righteous and gracious judgment. To forgo criticism and judgment of others is a profound act of faith in God.

This is a problem for Americans.

James 4:12 teaches that the lawgiver and the judge are the same Person. Our government’s legislative, judicial and executive functions are separated. We think of the law as something objective and impersonal; objective in that it is written only, impersonal in that it is not subject to any one person’s ultimate interpretation. We can (and should) debate the governmental law and try to change it when necessary. All of this is problematic when we turn to God’s law, because he and only he makes the law and determines its applicability. And he is not bound by any debate or higher courts. The Law is intensely personal. Therefore to speak evil of others, judging them according to some (we think) objective standard which (we think) we have mastered is to push aside the Lawmaker and place ourselves in the place of God.

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