Is judging a sin?
I have been pondering the “judge” term as it’s used in our culture. I think we fear committing the sin of judging. But is it the judging we are supposed to avoid — the evaluating a person’s actions and determining if they are right or wrong? I don’t think it is. I think what we should avoid is being haughty when we realize that a person is doing wrong. As I examine myself, I feel this is what is in my head: there is a temptation to feel superior to the person who is in sin. That’s where I feel the danger lies, at least for me. So I often ask people if it’s the judgement we should avoid, or the haughtiness after we gain understanding of the fact that a person is not obeying Christ. Because of this, I use the word haughty in such discussions.
In my advocacy work, these kinds of conversations often come up because as normal healthy neurotics (I am using the term as Dr. George Simon would, at least I hope I am) we fear being judgmental and unforgiving and bitter and all the other things that people accuse us of — that we often accuse ourselves of as we’re learning to enforce boundaries with unsafe people. It took time for me to learn that it isn’t haughty or unforgiving of me to implement boundaries; rather, I implement boundaries because I must be careful, be safe, and because abusers do not have healthy consciences, they are therefore unsafe.
I have forgiven. I continue to forgive. I pray that the abusers I know surrender to Christ. I know that they haven’t and because of that, I enforce boundaries that don’t match what our culture tells us Christian behavior should look like, namely, acting like nothing ever happened. I have been so blessed to read Mending the Soul [affiliate link*] and to have Dr. Tracy’s perspective of praying that abusers will feel shame for what they’ve done and come to repentance. I recognize that most abusers hates shame. I have learned that this is a common behavior among narcissists. One author labels such projection as shame dumping. Ah! The perfect term for it. Great visual. I have seen abusers flip out when ashamed and find a way that those around them should’ve stopped the shame from coming on them. So I know that for them to even feel shame, not dump it on those near them, and really own it will take an act of God. But he is God! And I can pray. Here is the excerpt from Mending the Soul* that I am referencing:
Prayerfully Hand Shame Back to the Abuser One of the most empowering things an abuse survivor can do is to prayerfully hand shame back to his or her abuser. Theologians rarely discuss this concept, but it’s a frequent biblical theme. Biblical writers often asked God to shame their abusive enemies. Most likely, this meant asking God to do two things:
- cause the abuser to be overwhelmed with shame for his or her sin so that they would repent, and
- bring utter destruction on the abuser if he or she didn’t repent.
Asking God to utterly destroy an unrepentant abuser is not an unchristian prayer. Abuse victims experience tremendous injustice, but God is a God of justice. Humans long for justice and innately rebel with the cry “That’s not fair” when they don’t receive it. In fact, the Bible tells us that the prospect of God’s bringing full and final justice on the heads of unrepentant evil people is what allows us to endure injustice in this life without becoming bitter (2 Timothy 4:14; 1 Peter 2:23). Christians are not to seek revenge, not because it’s an inappropriate desire, but because they don’t have the power or the authority to properly exact justice on abusers. Paul admonished the Roman believers not to take revenge on their enemies but to let God do it for them (Romans 12:19). His retribution on evildoers will be perfect and inescapable. Thus, it’s biblical to pray that our abusers will be filled with shame so that they may repent and that they’ll be punished and destroyed if they do not. Practically, abuse survivors can apply this principle by writing down the name(s) of their unrepentant abusers. They should then regularly pray over the list, asking God to engulf these individuals with shame so that they will repent, and to bring divine judgment on them if they do not repent. Tracy, Steven R. (2009-05-26). Mending the Soul: Understanding and Healing Abuse (Kindle Locations 1756-1770). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (For additional thoughts from our readers regarding this quote, you may want to visit our post, Thursday Thought – Prayerfully Hand Shame Back to the Abuser – which also focuses on this quote.)
I find this advice more comforting than Piper’s improvements to the Golden Rule and the Lord’s Prayer. First of all, I find it much easier to pray for the eternal souls of my enemies/persecutors/irritating people in my life than the temporal physical needs in their lives. Are there really people who pray that God will prosper their enemies here on earth but neglect to pray for their souls? I suppose it’s possible. I’ve never met them. And then there’s the whole guilt-mongering aspect of Piper’s instructions. This advice of Piper’s is bondage to targets of abuse because he doesn’t acknowledge the pain the abusers have inflicted and God’s wrath against them because of it. For a guy who tweets about God’s judgement falling on the masses in the midst of some of the greatest tragedies of modern time, he sure seems to ignore God’s judgment against wicked when it comes to individual abusers. So I pray for abusers. I pray that God mercifully helps them to feel shame and then to take that shame to the Cross, not to their targets. And I pray that I won’t feel haughty in this, that I will walk in God’s grace and embrace the God given sense of justice, of right and wrong, that helps lead us all to acknowledge and honor Him. It’s not wrong to judge between right and wrong. It’s healthy and honoring to our Savior. And it’s merciful to sinners when we call sin SIN. Participating in minimizing sin is cruel. Call it sin. Avoid haughtiness, not judging.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.