Righteous Judgment (6)
God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Psalm 82.1, 2
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
But such as keep the law contend with them. Proverbs 28.4
Christians are called to judge the world (1 Cor. 6.2). Not to condemn it, but to make choices and decisions, select courses of action, and engage practices that bring the shalom of God into the world. From the beginning of creation, God’s intention has been that His goodness should fill the earth (Gen. 1.31; Ps. 27.13), and the way He has designed for this to happen is through the good works His people do as Jesus fills them and overflows into all our relationships, roles, and responsibilities (Eph. 2.10; Jn. 7.37-39; Eph. 4.7-10).
But this does not occur in a vacuum. Spiritual forces of wickedness are continuously active in the world, sowing lies, spreading deceit, and inciting people to evil. Wherever the goodness of God is not present and increasing, wickedness and evil will make progress (Eph. 5.15-17). Despite Jesus’ victory on the cross and His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, the days in which we live are evil. While the attribution of the famous saying is debated, its truth lines up well with Paul’s teaching: The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.
Or to do the wrong or unjust thing, as the case may be.
Put in terms of our texts, wherever believers fail to exercise righteous judgment, there evil will gain a foothold and increase. If we hesitate to judge righteously, or judge unjustly rather than righteously, we are adding to the flourishing of evil rather than the progress of God’s shalom.
We must not take lightly our calling to judge the world. If we withdraw, hesitate, or turn away in situations where righteous judgment is required, or if we judge any way other than by the righteousness of Christ, we give place to the devil and his wicked schemes. By judging faithfully, as often as is necessary, we resist the devil and send him fleeing; and we gain precious ground for the progress of Christ’s rule of righteousness, shalom, and joy (Jms. 4.7; Rom. 14.17, 18).
And when we bear in mind that all aspects of our lives are continuously watched over by our heavenly Father, this makes judging faithfully a most important duty.
Praise and partiality to wickedness?
As our texts make clear, to fail in exercising righteous judgment is to praise the wicked and give way to their schemes. Psalm 82 should be understood as God calling the rulers of His people together to rebuke them for their failures in exercising sound judgment. Jesus cited this psalm against those who opposed Him, clearly suggesting that they were failing in their duty to judge with righteous judgment, and so were opening themselves to the judgment of God (cf. Jn. 10.34-38).
We who are called to rule our lives according to the righteous judgment of the Lord must understand that God does not sit quietly by while we veer from or avoid the path of righteousness (Heb. 12.3-11). We must judge faithfully whenever judging and judgment is required.
Proverbs 28.4 applies to any believe who, by neglecting the Law of God, hampers his ability to judge with righteous judgment. Whether we fail or falter in judgment, the effect is the same: We miss an opportunity to make the most of our time for bringing goodness and shalom into the world, and we praise and show partiality to wickedness instead.
Contend with wickedness
Judging with righteous judgment is a struggle. In situations requiring righteous judgment, we contend with wickedness – not the frightening, violent, projectile-vomiting kind of wickedness, so often depicted in pop culture. But the wickedness that allows sin to continue, put-downs to go unopposed, cut corners to remain cut, lies and half-truths to prevail, fit and timely words of edification to be left unspoken, opportunities for kindness or beauty or civility to slip by, and the pall of wickedness to remain in place.
We must prepare ourselves for this struggle in all the ways we have discussed in this study and more. But preparation is not enough; we must be ready and committed to faithfulness in judging and judgment, so that when the opportunity arises to fulfill our calling, we will step into it confidently, with grace and truth.
Is there a risk? Of course. There’s always a risk when you take a stand for righteousness. But even when our judgments are opposed, resented, contradicted, or ignored, still, we will have made the effort to stand for righteousness, and God will see. The righteous judgments we make concerning our own lives and choices will contribute to our becoming more like Christ. When we must judge situations or people that come within our purview, at the very least, we make a stand for whatever is right, true, and Christ-like.
We go wrong when we balk at exercising righteous judgment, or when our judgments are other than what Christ Himself would proffer. But we cannot go wrong by judging faithfully, preparing ourselves in study and prayer, and acting graciously and obediently when opportunities for judging and judgment come our way.
1. What do we mean by saying that we do not practice judging and judgment in a vacuum?
2. What can you do to make sure your acts of judging and judgment will be according to righteousness?
3. How can you overcome the temptation notto judge when righteous judgment is required?
Next steps – Preparation: Make sure you begin each day thinking about the people and situations ahead and devoting yourself in prayer to judge with righteous judgment at every opportunity.
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 3 of a 4-part series, To Judge the World. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 3, Righteous Judgment.
An excellent companion to this series is our book, The Ground for Christian Ethics. Here you’ll discover the basis on which Christians learn to judge with righteous judgment. You can order a copy by clicking here.And when you order, we’ll send you a free copy of Bricks and Rungs: Poems on Calling.
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.
- T.M. Moore
- November 23, 2018
Not judging, or judging unjustly, are not options.
Righteous Judgment (6)
T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.