I know the areas of my life in which I fail on a regular basis. It’s human nature to not let everyone see the “worst” of us, but the thing about it is that it is not going to stay a secret. In fact, God already knows those areas of our life. It’s not just failing we’re talking about here. We’re really talking about sinning, and to call it anything else than that is trying to sugarcoat it in an effort to make it seem not so bad. So let me rephrase my first sentence. I know the areas of my life in which I SIN on a regular basis.
The problem I’ve been seeing recently, even from people that I know would consider themselves Christians, is an attitude of trying to justify their behavior, or possible sin, by using the statement; “Only God can judge me!” I get it. Who likes to be told they are doing something wrong? Who likes having to confront some of the worst parts of themselves, especially when having to deal with that is worse because we are our own worst critics at times. It’s just easier to justify it, or gloss over the sin in our lives so that we don’t have to deal with it. “God is the only one that can judge me”.
Is that a true statement, or are we just fooling ourselves when we use it? The simple answer is, there really isn’t a simple answer. First, let me deal with something that should be basic. Saying God is the only one that can judge me as a justification for my bad behavior should not be a comfort. God is going to judge all of us in the end, and we are told to confess our sins, not judge them or sweep them under the rug so to speak. I John 1:8-10 reads, “8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.”
So with that out of the way, let’s dive in to the question at hand; Is God the only one that can judge us? The good thing is that scripture does seem to speak to this, but at the same time, it doesn’t make one clear definitive answer. Jesus talks about this idea on more than one occasion, but let’s just focus on one for this discussion. Matthew 7:1-5 (click here) is where Jesus famously talks about not trying to get the speck out of your brother’s eye while you still have a plank in your own eye. In other words, don’t judge someone else’s sin without being aware of your own. Some people like to say that He is saying that it is not right to judge anyone at anytime. In fact, that passage starts off with, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
It appears, when you look at everything here, however, that He is saying make sure you deal with your own sin first, before helping your brother with his. In fact, that’s exactly what He says. He ends with this; “first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Remove the speck from your brother’s eye. We have a responsibility to help our brother, but only after making sure we have taken care of confessing and getting rid of our own sin. And that can be an ongoing process. That’s where I John 1 that I quoted earlier really comes into play.
Also, let’s look at some of the instructions from Paul to the church in Corinth. I Corinthians 5:12, 13 read this way; “12 What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? 13 God will judge those outside. ‘Expel the wicked person from among you.'” This would make it appear that if the person is not a believer, then we really have no business in judging them. That doesn’t mean that we don’t try to build a relationship with them in order to introduce them to our Savior, but it means that we don’t judge them with the same standards that we should one of our own. That’s a topic for a whole different blog that I may try to get to later. But Paul seems to clearly state that we, as Christian, are to hold each other accountable, and that is only done by seeing sin as sin and calling it out. He even goes as far to say that if that person won’t deal with their sin and get rid of it, then they should be expelled. Not a popular notion, but one that is spelled out.
So, can only God judge you? If you’re a non-believer, then yes, but I wouldn’t want to be on that end of the judgement either. If you are a Christian, you are responsible to God, but your fellow Christians are charged with helping to hold you accountable. It all goes back to the idea of community. We are supposed to be in this together, and just letting a brother or sister slide by when a sin is apparent is not a very loving way to share that community. It’s not about judging for the sake of holding someone down. It’s about holding each other accountable so that we can all grow closer to God together.