Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” (John 7:24, ESV)
Applying the Law takes judgment. Most people are scared of this because either they don’t have it or they think of it only as condemnation. There is a judging that is outside of God’s Word, and that is wrong judgment. Or there is only a very loose effort to use His Word and we substitute our own knowledge for it. This is the opposite of right judgment. We also have to judge ourselves first, to make sure we are clean and properly prepared for judging with right judgment.
But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:32, ESV)
Some think no one can judge because they misinterpret Scripture. They use John 8:7 (“he who is without sin cast the first stone”) to say that the woman caught in adultery is excused by Jesus because no one can judge due to lack of perfection. This is incorrect. What Jesus was saying is that “right judgment” was not being pursued, therefore the trial was a sham. They were not going by God’s standard of right judgment. If indeed the crowd was a lawful court, and if the guy would’ve been there (hello, wasn’t he supposed to be there too if “caught in the act?”), if there were two or more witnesses, and if God’s other standards were properly applied, then the ruling would’ve been to stone her (and the guy too). That was not the case, so that was why Jesus pointed out that no one was without sin here.
Obviously Jesus tells us it’s okay to judge, and even commands it. But to judge with right judgment means we have to have a standard to judge by. If something is crooked we need a straight edge or ruler to check it against to see what’s out of whack. We who have all of His Words in our hearts, reading all of them and following all of them, are the ones who are equipped to perfectly judge with right judgment. It is those who don’t have His words, or only claim to have them (hypocrites, like the people in the crowd of John 8), that are unqualified to judge.
Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! (1 Corinthians 6:2–3, ESV)
Equally obvious is the fact that the world cannot judge for beans. It is because they do not seek justice, ignore God’s Word, and judge according to appearance. Wealthy people get “more justice,” and poor people not so much. Sometimes skin color is a factor. Sometimes political connections. They are giving themselves permission to sin, because that’s what they want to feed their flesh. This is one of the primary reasons for our society going into the toilet. It is also one of the reasons for the church going into the toilet.
“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand up against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD. (Leviticus 19:15–18, ESV)
Coming in the next few posts: Applications of right judgment using His Standard in the real world.