by Doy Moyer
“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Matthew 7:2).
“Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1).
These are sobering thoughts. We sometimes wonder how God can be just in condemning anyone who lives by a standard different from what He has revealed, even if they were unaware of His special revelation. Here is a principle to consider. Those who entirely reject God still live by a moral standard with the expectation that others live by that standard. Atheists have moral codes and they judge others based on those codes. This is inevitable. No one escapes the moral sense of ought or the desire to do something about violations of the accepted standard. Think of all the cries for justice in the face of evil acts.
The problem is that none live perfectly consistent with the standard they accept and require of others. They violate that by which they judge and condemn other violators. If then they are judged on the basis of the standards they accept and by which they judge others, they will stand condemned. God would not be unjust in applying the same accepted standard by which unbelievers judge others because they condemn themselves by violating their own rules. Such will be measured back to them, and the problem is that there is no ultimate grace in the application. One might pay for a crime or receive a temporary reprieve, but the guilt remains.
God has a right to judge and He has the ability to do so perfectly and righteously. He has all information at His disposal and understands justice flawlessly. Justice will be given to those who reject Him, and the irony is that the systems of unbelievers are sufficient to condemn them if God simply applies what they have accepted and applied to others. That’s just, and God is not to be blamed for being unfair.
God offers a greater standard, however, and this is what ultimately matters. The beauty of this standard is that grace and forgiveness are found therein. People think God’s standard is harsh and unfair, but it is quite the opposite. The systems of humanity are harsh and unforgiving, and these standards by which people have judged others will be measured back to them. God’s standard, on the other hand, is meant to provide a path to forgiveness so that one need not be finally condemned (Romans 8:1-2). People stand judged and condemned when they reject Jesus because now their judgment will come from a place where forgiveness cannot be found.
“For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:17-18).
If we want to avoid the judgment systems that can only condemn, our only option is to follow Jesus. Yes, we have all violated God’s standards and sinned, but what God has supplied deals with the sin in ways that no system of this world, devised by flawed humans, can match. “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23-24).
One of the primary ways that we can know whether we have accepted God’s standard is through how we extend mercy and forgiveness to others.
“Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
“For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15).
The standard of God is fully seen through Jesus Christ. “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Through Jesus, sin is condemned, God’s holiness is vindicated, and the seriousness of judgment is impressed upon us. But also through Jesus, grace is provided, sin is forgiven, and judgment need not mean our condemnation. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:7-8).
Shall we give ourselves over to the human systems that judge and condemn without providing ultimate mercy and forgiveness, or shall we give ourselves to the standard of God wherein we see the seriousness of sin while also being able to receive His solution? Shall we accept a human standard that will be measured back to us without mercy, or God’s standard with His offer of mercy? The standard we accept and apply makes all the difference.