During the floor debates for the passing of gay marriage bill this past Thursday, Assembly Speaker Sheila V. Oliver spoke words that the Asbury Park Press printed in bold letters as a summation of the day. “My Judeo-Christian teaching taught me that I do not have the right to judge anyone else.” At the same time, the APP mentioned in the text that in “alluding to the Biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Oliver promised that “no one will turn into a pillar of salt” for voting for the bill.”
I do think that one of the most difficult topics among Christians is the topic of judging other people. Some people argue that since all of us are sinners, we should not judge others because we ourselves sin, perhaps in different ways. Other people have had experiences in which they were judged harshly or unjustly.
The verses to which Ms. Oliver alludes are from Matthew 7:1 and Luke 6:37. “Do not judge or you too will be judged.” However, these are not all of the verses that speak about judging in the Bible.
If we look to the New Testament, we can see three levels of judgment. Firstly, Jesus says that he is not going to judge anyone, but the words that he has spoken from the Father will judge them. This concept is primarily found in the Gospel of John.
Secondly, we find that Jesus Christ sets a case of judging between brothers – brother to brother, brother with another person and then if the case is not resolved, it is brought before the entire church. (Mt. 18:17)
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Paul uses this concept when there is a moral issue in the Corinthian church. He asks them if there is not even one wise person to judge among them. And then he tells them, “Since you were not willing to pass judgment, I will do it for you.” The church accepts Paul’s judgment in his absence.
However, there are also some important promises of judgment. Jesus tells the apostles that they will judge the 12 tribes of Israel (Mt. 19:28) and Paul tells his readers that they will be judging the angels (1 Corinthians 6:2-3).
I chuckled at the promise of Ms. Oliver that the people who vote yes for the bill will not be turned into pillars of salt. However, the story of Lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt was exactly that sort of event – God’s immediate judgment on someone’s disobedience. Many people argue that this was such a small infraction – just turning one more time to look what you have left behind. In the book of Acts, Ananias and Sapphira are struck dead because they lie to the Holy Spirit and Elymas (Acts 13:11) is blinded because he is in opposition to the Holy Spirit.
The reality is that in order to judge anything, there has to be a concept of right and wrong and there have to be absolutes. If there is no right or wrong or absolutes, then it is impossible to judge. Our society is not willing to judge because we do not want to be judged. However, often when we are not willing to be judged, it is not because we are right, but because we are hiding something in the darkness. The Apostle John talks about Jesus as the light and the fact that people did not want to come to the light because their deeds were evil. Because their deeds were evil, they were already judged by the word that Jesus preached.