Judgmentalism and Discernment Pt. 2
Read James 4:1-12
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?”
We live in an age of conflict and hostility. For many today, if you are not with me, you are against me. Whether it be disagreements over politics, Covid-19 protocols, or differences of opinion on current issues, people are divided. However, this is not really all that new. Throughout history, people have struggled with conflicts and broken relationships. It was no different when James wrote his epistle to the Jewish Christian who were dispersed throughout the Roman emperor. Some adhered to the traditions of the Jewish faith and the Old Testament who condemned the Hellenistic Jews who had embraced the Greek culture. The Hellenistic Jews condemned the Gentiles. The Gentiles looked down upon the Jews, and the list goes on. As the early church struggled to become established in new cities and communities, the diversity of people embracing the gospel led inevitably to conflicts. These conflicts were further compounded by self-centeredness and bitterness that quarrels fostered.
To address these conflicts, James first encourages them to look inward and see their own sin that hinders their personal relationship with God and their prayers. He further warns them that these quarrels ultimately came from their cultural accommodation and allegiances rather than their obedience to scripture and the Holy Spirit's guidance.
In verses 11-12, James then gets to the heart of the issue. As we face different viewpoints in the church, we can become critical in our opinions of others. Instead of seeking to encourage one another in our spiritual struggles, we can become unsympathetic and derogatory. We become the judge standing over our fellow believers. By doing so, we are violating the law, which forbids spreading slander (Lev. 19:16) and failing to love and forgive others (Lev. 19:18). The point that James then makes is that when we start judging others, we often do so by a standard that we do not and cannot meet. When we do so, we supplant God as the only one who can be both the lawgiver and the judge. Only God has infinite wisdom to determine what is right. Since he is the only one perfect, he is the only one qualified to judge others. He determines guilt and innocence.
But to understand why we are not to judge, we need to put it in the context of verses 7-10. We are not to judge others because we are sinners ourselves and we fail to recognize our own propensity towards sin. We are double-minded in that we pledge our allegiance to God while affirming our loyalty to the world. This is evident in our attitude towards others. While we condemn the sins of others, we embrace the same thing in our own life. Before we can criticize others, we must first examine our own heart and seek God's forgiveness. Authentic spirituality is not revealed in our awareness of others sins; it begins with the awareness of our own sin and need for God’s grace.