THE GOSPELS 57
Before leaving these two great principles of Christianity, forgiveness and non-judgementalness, I think we need to clarify a very important point. In neither of these admonitions does Jesus intend to excuse misbehavior, nor suggest ignoring that which is sinful and reprehensible. To forgive a person for doing wrong does not mean to ignore or whitewash the wrong itself. Not sitting in judgement on another person does not mean approving of their misbehavior.
Forgiveness is based on the individual recognizing his bad behavior and asking pardon for it. God bases our forgiveness on our willingness to repent. Not sitting in judgement on another person is a case of recognizing our own weaknesses and not using our personal standards to evaluate the behavior of others. Only God can know all the factors, and only He has the right to pass final judgement. But that does not remove from us the responsibility of recognizing the difference between right and wrong and attempting to make corrections. I can believe that certain actions are wrong but I cannot know all the factors involved, nor what God’s final disposition will be. I can only govern my personal behavior by my recognition of right and wrong.
Every student of the Bible knows that the responsibility for choosing between that which is good and that which is evil is a dominant theme of the Book. In witnessing for the Lord, we are obligated to recognize misbehavior and to point it in the right direction…never to shrug it off as if it is a matter of choice, and that everyone has a right to decide for himself what is right for him. The principles of right and wrong are clearly spelled out in the Bible, and respect for the Word of God means I must judge what is right and what is not.
However, consciously fulfilling this obligation to my Lord does not give me the right to sit in judgement on others. It only obligates me to recognize wrong and suggest correction to those who are willing to hear. I do not have a right to force my interpretation of the truth on others, to ostracize or punish them if they do not respond to my concept of right, nor to proclaim what God’s disposition will be where they are concerned. I fervently hope that His mercy will forgive my own mistakes and weaknesses, and in this frame of mind I have no desire to pass judgement on any other soul.
The most important point is that I must study to find the way He would have me to go and to follow that. None of us has the right to do as we please, nor to make others do as we please, even if it is right.