By Allen White
The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. 1 Corinthians 2:15; 4:5
If you’ve ever given your money away to an investment advisor, you’ve heard the words “Past performance does not guarantee future results.” But, we went ahead and invested. Enron had a great track record, so did Circuit City and Borders. Bye, bye money.
Our judgment was based on the successful history of the stock, which seemed to promise a bright future. Then, we hear of people who invest in dark horses. They put their money into companies that no one has ever heard of and sometimes they win big. A fledgling company had potential, but not a great track record. Suddenly, they got their act together or invented the next big thing. The company was “on sale,” and now there is a big pay day. The investor either judged rightly or made a lucky guess.
We judge based on what we have experienced. Sometimes we judge based on actual circumstances. Sometimes we judge based on a gut check. Sometimes we judge because our current situation begins to feel a lot like a past situation, then fear kicks in.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians seem to contradict Jesus’ instructions on judgment. Jesus stated very strongly, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Yet, Paul writes, “The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things…judge nothing before the appointed time.” What are we missing?
The key to understanding Paul’s letter is his use of different Greek words for “judge.” Just like the English word “love” is used to translate both eros and phileo, “judge” is used for both discerning and pronouncing final judgement.
Paul tells us that a person empowered by the Holy Spirit should rightly discern their circumstances and other’s motives as well. This type of judgment is sizing up the situation and facing reality. But, there’s a line here.
While the spiritual person should be honest about what’s what, it is not our place to permanently write someone off. “That’s the way he’s always been and that’s how he will always be.” Final judgment is reserved for God alone.
Paul uses a different word in chapter four, “Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time.” This type of judgment is final judgment. The appointed time is the Great White Throne (Revelation 20:11-15), where unbelievers will be judged; and the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10), where Christians will be judged.
Paul’s prohibition against our pronouncing final judgment on someone rings true with Jesus’ words, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Human beings don’t have enough information to pronounce that kind of judgment on another person. Sure, he might have a bad track record, but past performance doesn’t guarantee future results.
As long as people have breath in their body, there is an opportunity for God to change them. It might not seem likely, but nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37).
In the body of Christ, we don’t have the luxury of giving up on people. That doesn’t mean that we have to trust them implicitly, or we have to be in close relationship with them. But, we don’t have the right to dismiss them out of hand. God isn’t finished with them yet. And, by the way, He’s not finished with us either.
Who are you tempted to just leave in the dust? Who has worn you out to the nth degree? Who are you ready to give up on? Maybe you need to redefine your relationship with them, but you can’t give up praying for them. You can’t give up loving them. You can’t give up being kind to them.
But, how much more should I take? As a friend of mine said, “Jesus said to turn the other cheek. My counselor reminded me that I only have two cheeks.” As far as forgiveness goes, the number is 70 times 7 (Matthew 18:22).
As far as the stock market goes, good luck.
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