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Judging the Judges           1 Corinthians 4:1-5            February 27, 2011

Tonight is the 83rd annual Academy Awards show, when best actors, directors, films and technicians will receive their Oscars — the prestigious gold statuette given for excellence in cinema.

The show’s host and the red-carpet socializing of Hollywood A-listers is all the buzz before the event. And then there are the “Who wore what?” conversations. Tonight’s evening wear “hits and misses” will be judged either tantalizing or tawdry.
Come Monday morning, the headlines will be dominated by the surprise winners and losers of the shining, gold warrior. But by tomorrow, the films are off the hook and entertainment journalists will turn their rhetoric against the Academy judges and the judges will be judged instead.

Who are the judges?

For the Oscars, the panel of award judges is the actual Academy at large. Six thousand actors, producers and cinema execs comprise the invitation-only voting Academy. They suggested their nominations just after Christmas and made their final votes by the end of last week.

Did a film receive Best Picture because it addressed the right liberal political issue? Was the true Best Director snubbed because he’s a Beast Director to work with?

The 2011 Academy Awards — talent show or popularity contest? The judges will be judged on E! TV, in People magazine and on countless blogs for the rest of next week.

The Oscars are only one example of an entertainment industry dominated by judging.  American Idol. So You Think You Can Dance? America’s Got Talent. Last Comic Standing. America’s Next Top Model.

Sports are ruled by judges, as well, whether it’s at the Super Bowl or the Olympics. …
On a more personal level, public figures, athletes, film stars, even pastors often feel as if they’re living in a glass house much of the time.
(In fact,) the troubling reality is that we all are uncomfortable; we all suffer to differing degrees with the “judges” in our lives. Have you ever felt as if you live in a judgmental world? Well, join the club!
We are all continually judged by others — be they people above us in the corporate hierarchy or neighbors in the community. We’re evaluated in terms of our achievements, our competence, our personality, our looks, our social status; you name it, someone will probably judge you on it.
BUT is there ever a time when judging is appropriate? Who has not heard the phrase “Who made you my judge?” In today’s text Paul is judging all of the judgers. Let’s take a look.

In order to do this text justice, let’s start by clearing up the belief/notion that “Christians shouldn’t judge.” The Greek krinw (pronounced creeno) and its derivatives have three general meanings: to evaluate, to decide, or to condemn. The first two (to evaluate, to decide) are encouraged in believers; the third (to condemn) is forbidden.  

But krinw is almost always translated as the verb “to judge.” The verb “To judge” in English has developed into a negative connotation. “To judge” can be positive, or neutral, not necessarily negative. Addressing the Corinthians, Paul says Christians may, or should, krinw:

• Discerning spiritual truths (2:15), 15 But he who is spiritual judges (evaluates) all things,
• Evaluating ungodly behavior of other believers, not unbelievers (5:12),
• Deciding between two options (7:37),
• Evaluating the truth of teachings (10:15),
• Judging our own sin and motives (11:31). 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

So enough with this “Don’t be judgmental” stuff.  There is a right way to judge, a right time to judge, and occasions where judgment is necessary.
Lewis Smedes, in his article, “Who Are We to Judge?” (Christianity Today, October 1, 2001), says that
“Common sense suggests that if no one ever judged other people, there would be no real human community. In a sinful world, no community can exist for long where nobody is ever held accountable: No teacher would grade a student’s performance; no citizen would sit on a jury or call a failed leader to account. . . .

“I would suggest that, in our day and age, we need more — not less — judgment. Modern Americans suffer from a fear of judging. Passing judgment on the behavior of fellow human beings is considered an act of medieval, undemocratic intolerance.”
(But) in a just society there has to be accountability – or there is no justice.
Now, within the church, Christians have occasion to judge, but never to condemn. The Bible’s answer to thedefensive question “Who made you my judge?” is . . .   “God did.” But, let’s look at the context.

Paul is appropriately judging inappropriate judgers; those causing factions, jealousies, competition or back-biting in church.  
Paul prohibits the same judgments that all Christians should avoid: condemnation. He echoes the Sermon on the Mount: “Do not judge (condemn), so that you may not be judged (condemned)” (Matthew 7:1).

There Jesus describes a completely ridiculous image of one person walking around with an 8-foot two-by-four sticking out of an eye socket. He’s almost decapitating neighbors while he is turning in their direction, suggesting they remove the fleck of sawdust from their eye.

But Jesus and Paul are not condemning judgment per se, just condemnation — something only God can do. We are unable to know the heart, motive and intentions of others. Only God knows the heart.
Yet, there are always those only too willing and ready to pass judgment on others. So what should we do when other people judge or condemn us? We might:

• Confess our need for good evaluation.
• Examine ourselves honestly for any truths we need to hear.
• Choose not to believe unfair condemnation.
• Remind ourselves of who the real Judge is.
Again, from Jesus’ teachings: Forgive those who wrongfully accuse or condemn you.

So what are the implications for us?
·       Shun the condemnation of others and cling to the commendation of God (v. 5). Os Guinness calls this responding only to the Audience of One.
·       It’s a good spiritual discipline to define ourselves with God’s perfect opinion of us. Not others’ opinions. Not even our own.
·       God does not condemn us, but the Holy Spirit does convict us, and God’s conviction is gracious and loving — meant to steer us toward a better and more satisfying way to live.
·       So in the bright-light reminder that God sees all and judges all, what needs to change in us? Let’s take a hard look in some hard areas and work toward being found trustworthy.
Be a good Christian — pass judgment, starting with yourself!  

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