Zion shall be redeemed by justice, and those in her who repent, by righteousness. (Isaiah 1:27; ESV)
I have heard that the most popular Bible verse today is Yeshua's words, "Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1; ESV). I can believe this is the most popular verse today due to how often even among people who know nothing about the Bible say either "Don't judge me!" or "I am not judging you." I grew up in the 60s and 70s, and I don't remember ever talking about judging back then. It wasn't an issue. I don't think I judged others. If I did, no one complained about it. But now it's one of society's most treasured values. Everyone is supposed to be free to be who they are and do what they want without fear of being judged.
But from what I can tell, what people are concerned about is not really judging; it's being criticized. The judging that Yeshua refers to has to do with making negative determinations about another person's standing with God; condemning them, in other words. This is God's prerogative and it's the height of arrogance to presume that we can sit in the place of that kind of judgment. I don't think this is what most people who are concerned about being judged are worried about. It's that they don't want any value statements placed on their opinions and actions. They want to say and do whatever they say and do without any negative reactions at all from anyone else. It is difficult to fathom the depths of insecurity required to produce such a resistance to other people's opinions. I wonder if at least some of this is due to more and more people having no clue as to why they do what they do.
It is tragic that even people who claim to value the Bible would be among those upholding these false notions of what judging is all about. Such a perspective creates insurmountable obstacles to understanding much of the Bible, for the majority of its teaching calls into question a good deal of what we might call normal human behavior.
One reason to read the Scriptures is to adjust my thinking and behavior. Paul wrote, "Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2; ESV). This statement assumes that the reader (including you and me) requires transformation and renewal. That must mean we need adjusting, which means there are things in our lives that needs correcting.
Isaiah and the prophets understood this. Almost everything they said was a critique of some kind. Sure, they also provide all sorts of wonderful descriptions of God, designed to truly know him, but such passages also exist to correct common false and destructive notions about God. The constant prophetic call to repent, which means "turn" is a call to change: change direction, change your life.
For some reason many think this kind of critique is contra-love. But nothing is more loving than to help others see the destructive nature of their thoughts and behavior and point them in the right direction. Simply leaving people to themselves and their unhealthy desires when we know better is hatred of the worst kind.
But who are we to claim we know better? That's a good question. I may think that because I have a good understanding of Scripture, I am well equipped to critique your life. But why should you believe me? Maybe you know better than I do. Maybe I am blind to my own selfishness, hurting myself and others as I arrogantly pursue a reckless path. If that is the case, I hope someone tells me before it's too late!