Monday, July 11, 2011

"Judge not lest ye be judged"?

The following article was provided on at

All too often some Christians will say that while they might disagree with something or someone, the biblical admonition to "judge not lest ye be judged" prohibits them from handing down a moral verdict on someone else's behavior. Please. That's not biblical. That's not ethical. That's not helpful. That's an out. That's the proverbial washing of one's hands. That's moral cowardice.
Setting aside the exegetical fact that the command to "judge not" is in the context of eternal judgment, and ignoring the fact that Jesus elsewhere in the same book describes the necessity of church discipline (which requires moral judgment) and displays righteous indignation (clearing of the temple), the argument just doesn't hold water. Are we as Christians to stand aside and assume that we are to have no say in matters of clear moral importance, matters that the Bible clearly addresses?
The recent "not guilty" verdict on Casey Anthony for the murder of her toddler, Caylee, has shocked the nation. Quite a different verdict was handed down in the trial of Kimberly Trenor. Remember that name? Horrifying details of the beating death of her child came out at her trial too. A plastic container was found in Galveston Bay in October 2007. In it were the decomposed remains of what police would come to call Baby Grace. It turns out the body was that of 2-year-old Riley Ann Sawyers. The child had been clearly beaten to death, fractures to her skull causing the mortal wounds.
Her offense? She didn't say "please" and "yes, sir." For that, her mother and husband proceeded to spank the child with a leather belt. They held her head underwater. They pushed her face into a pillow. All the while, she begged for mercy, crying out to her mother, proclaiming her undying love.
The response? The daylong torture session continued. The abuse ended only after Royce Ziegler, Trenor's husband, threw the child across the room and against the wall several times. After allegedly attempting CPR, Ziegler handed the limp child to her mother who set the child down and watched her die, afraid to call for help, afraid of the consequences for her own action. They then purchased a plastic tub and lid. The placed Riley in her Wal-Mart tomb and set her to sea.
Should we just look the other way? Are we Christians to deny our outrage, to suppress our grief? To ignore the righteous indignation and anger that rightly wells up in the bosom of any normal mother or father? All because we're not supposed to judge one another? Give me a break.
These episodes sicken us to our core because we know in our hearts that murder is wrong. The Bible says so. The accounts of Caylee Anthony's and Baby Grace's murders anger us because sin angers God. Our response is part of our human nature. Made in the image of God, that which angers God angers us. As Christians our response should be all the stronger because we now have the Spirit of God living in us.
To look away from violent tragedy, since we cannot overlook it, is to deny the truthfulness and authority of biblical teaching. To claim that "it's not my place" to judge is to ignore Christ's mandate to love the little children, to care for the orphans, and to clothe the unloved.
The government and a body of jurors judged Kimberly Trenor and Royce Ziegler here on earth. Ultimately, God will judge them. Their eternal fate is in His hands. "Vengeance is mine saith the Lord." He can have it. It's His. We cannot exact revenge for Riley or Caylee. That job is entrusted to our government by God and our own submission.
However, I am not to sit idly by and pretend I'm not allowed to evaluate and judge the morality of the behavior that has taken place.
As a Christian, I am to proclaim as loudly as I can that the death of these children is a violation of the loving will of God. That requires judgment.
As a father, I am to teach my children such behavior is unacceptable. That requires judgment.
As a citizen, I am to do my part to make sure it never happens again. That requires judgment.
I don't have a choice. I don't have the convenience of saying "that's not my job" or "that's above my pay grade." I am to call sin "sin." I am to judge between right and wrong. If I don't I am guilty by implication. Remember Peter's accusation on the day of Pentecost: "This Jesus whom you handed over to be crucified (my paraphrase)." Those people in the crowd didn't bind Jesus. They didn't beat Jesus. They didn't crucify Jesus. They stood by and did nothing to stop it. And, they were found guilty by silent association.
"Judge not lest you be judged?" Please. It doesn't apply and it doesn't fly. I am angry. I am grieved. I am morally outraged. As a Christian, I'm supposed to be.
Peter Beck (Ph.D. Southern Seminary) is assistant professor of religion at Charleston Southern University in Charleston, South Carolina and a former Senior Pastor.

In response to this article, I wrote the following in the comment section. Please feel free to comment on here or reply directly on the article. As you'll notice, I left the reply link on my comment, which would redirect you to the site. Please feel free to comment here as well. 
You're walking a fine line, and Peter Beck. There are far too many people looking for a legitimized reason to hate anyone. Are you sure this is the right article to feature? Consider what I have to say and a question I have to ask.

I agree that "judge not" is taken out of context far too often, but in cases such as this, "judge not" may be appropriate, because of the coverage it's been given and the pre-judgement that was leveled in the media and determined in our society long before the evidence was heard in a court of law. Judging Anthony's character is fair game, but I've found that most Americans assume she's guilty because of her sexual promiscuity, her reaction to her daughter's death (which disturbs us for good reason), the fact that she didn't report her daughter missing (which is the true crux of the case) 
 and her lies (which inflamed the previous points and brought doubt on her credibility). None of these, however, as badly as they reflect on her as a person, convicts of murder in this case. They could, but the facts surrounding each of these power points didn't stand up against the defenses examination.

Since you would still ask us to judge her righteously though, judge this - what if? What if she didn't kill her daughter? I'm not claiming that she didn't, not in this argument, though I could present that argument for consideration. I'm even willing to admit that I don't know. Just consider - "what if" she didn't kill her daughter? Don't bring Scott Peterson into this. Don't bring O.J. into this. Don't bring Kimberly Trenor into this. Let this "what if" stand on it's own and see where it leads.

As Christians, our judgement should not only be righteous but courageous and willing to fight against the tide when it's time. Can you say without a shadow of a doubt that this isn't one of those times? Are you certain that encouraging others to judge Casey Anthony guilty is your calling in this hour? I'm not.

I've been the subject of a homicide investigation. I was charged with 1st degree murder. I once faced the death sentence or life in prison. I was convicted of 2nd degree murder and sent to a maximum security prison with two 30 year consecutive sentences, which was later illegally restructured to a 60, wherein I was then placed under life sentence sanctions in the state of Missouri. 16 years after my arrest and 14 and a half years after I was sent to what was once deemed "The Bloodiest 47 acres in America" as a 19 year old kid, at the age of 34, I was completely exonerated and found innocent. I had maintained and upheld my innocence from the day I was arrested, but I was still "judged" guilty until I was finally "judged" innocent, wherein the Judge blasted those who had previously judged me. Bottom line. I had always been and will always be innocent. Since then, I've been featured on 48hrs Mystery's "The Girl Who Knew Too Much" and On the Case w/ Paula Zahn's "The Long Road Home" and my story's been told in newspapers around the world.

Watch yourselves. Judge not lest you be judged might be the course of action that we need to take. "What if" needs to be considered more often; if not in our country, in our churches. If anything, as reconcilers called of God (2 Corinthians 5:18), it's definitely something we need to be more sensitive to.

Our call isn't to stand with the lynch mobs. It's to reconcile.