Many today have gone to the extreme in our overly tolerant culture, to claim that there is absolutely no sense that we can judge another. Those who affirm this are speaking nonsense! An example of this extreme is when one who is supposed to be a Christian says that it cannot be determined whether or not one is saved, or is a Christian. The simple fact of that matter is that God has already set the requirements as to what constitutes a Christian, and those requirements are clearly stated in Acts chapters 2, 8, 10, 16 as well as other scriptures. It can also easily be determined whether one is living as they ought, according to whether or not their life is in conformity with John's instructions to "walk in the light" (1 John 1:7). Paul also urged Christians when they observed another sinning to ". . .restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). Note carefully however, the attitude we are to exemplify in doing this. He instructed us to go in a spirit of "meekness" or "gentleness" according to some translations. He also said we are to consider ourselves lest we also be tempted. Jesus taught a great deal about the hypocrisy of those who always condemned others, but in their own way, were just as bad (Matthew 6:1-7. ch. 23; Romans 2:17-24).

Romans chapter 14 is one of the best commentaries on the type of things we are not to judge another. In the very beginning (vs. 1), Paul shows that often we have to deal with those who may be recent converts, or simply have weak consciences. He also shows that he is instructing us in the areas of indifference, or neutral thingsthat are not sins, nor would they by doing or not doing, make us any the less Christians. The primary examples he uses are the eating of meats, observing days and drinking wine (vss. 5, 2, 14, 21). He also points out that our own personal liberties are limited by those who are weak, as we are not to cause another to stumble by doing things that they cannot conscientiously do themselves (vs. 13). We do want to emphasize that these indifferent or neutral things are the only realm we are to give these liberties, and not in the conditions of salvation, worship, organization of the church or godly living clearly taught in His Word, the Bible, and specifically the New Testament.

We also need to observe the function of our conscience. Paul wrote, "Now the end of the commandment is charity (love) out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (1 Timothy 1:5). Conscience is defined by Strong as "moral consciousness." Although it is clear Biblically that we should not violate our conscience (1 Timothy 4:2) because by "searing" it or violating it, it would eventually cause our conscience to not function as it ought. Conscience isn't the final word on what is right or wrong however, and we need to educate it so that we all understand what God desires us to do. Paul, for example, never violated his conscience (Acts 23:1), yet he described himself as a "blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious" (1 Timothy 1:13). He also says that before he became a Christian, he caused Christians to be cast into prison, and even voted for their death (Acts 26:10). Obviously, conscience cannot be relied upon as an infallible guide, but must be educated by the Word. However, it should not be violated unless we are certain that what we are doing is right.

All of this points out that we should always be careful when we decide that one is wrong, to first of all be sure we understand right from wrong ourselves. We should also be genuine in our own life, and humble enough to be able to approach another from the right frame of mind. Jesus said, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24). We may be mistaken, but God's Word rightly divided (2 Timothy 2:15), is always right.

Ed Rodgers, De Leon, TX