The t-shirt said “Only God Can Judge Me”, though I cannot be sure of his particular reason for wearing it. Apparently, the slogan has become famous enough to put on a t-shirt as the result of a couple of Hip-Hop songs by that title. Such a sentiment, however, is not uncommon today and is often expressed in the defiant question, “Who are you to judge me?” I have spoken about this issue before under what I refer to as “Pop Christianity.” Everyone is familiar with, and I believe this idea originates from, Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:1, though distorted. Taking only that verse into consideration, however, results in a problem since, among other reasons, Jesus also uttered the command to judge of John 7:24.
How does all this apply to the t-shirt? Well, in time past, I might have simply said that the t-shirt is ultimately correct. I do not have the right to judge the wearer in the final sense. I have decided not to make the wholesale judgment, “You are going to hell” to those who live in sin. God is the ultimate judge of the soul, Romans 2:16, 2 Timothy 4:8, Hebrews 12:23.
My thinking, then, is that, though I do not have the right to send a person’s soul to hell, I do have a responsibility to judge with righteous judgment. In what way do I do that? The scriptures dictate the will of God for man. Though Christians are not under a system of law but are under a system of grace, Romans 6:14, Galatians 5:4; the Bible tells us what God expects of us. The word serves as a guide for our behavior so that we may be considered righteous before God by the blood of Jesus, Romans 5:19.
Clarence Johnson, who preached in Marietta until his death, used to say that we are to be fruit inspectors. What did he mean? John the Baptizer spoke of bearing fruits in Matthew 3:8. Jesus said of false teachers that we would know them by their fruits, Matthew 7:16. How do we know anything about a person? We can inspect the fruits that result from his words and deeds. A person who commits sin brings forth the fruits of sin. These fruits are easily seen and can be used to “judge” a person. Read 1 Corinthians 5:11 and see if Paul is not requiring a judgment. It is necessary to judge a person’s fruit in order to help him see the error of his ways so that he may repent.
The t-shirt is correct in that God is the only final judge of a person’s soul; however, the t-shirt is wrong in that Jesus wants us to judge the fruits of a person. The reality is that most of these people who display such slogans or protest with such questions are producing fruit that is ungodly and must be seen as such, judged as such. In our modern society, a homosexual might be inclined to wear such a shirt or shout such a question. And that fruit is clearly seen to be ungodly in the Bible.
Here’s what I would add today, however. Since God is the ultimate judge of a person’s soul and God makes that judgment by comparing a person’s words and deeds with the word that He has given to us, John 12:48; then the reality is that a person who is living in sin, contrary to the will of God, and who refuses to repent has already been judged by the word. The word says that his behavior is unacceptable to God and that, as such, he cannot be seen as righteous, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. God has said the behavior is wrong and means one cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. God has, therefore, already pronounced judgment on the fruit of a sinner.
So, it is true that God will be the final judge; but the reality is that God has already given us the words which will judge us. He has told us what He wants of us and what the consequences of disobedience are. I need not pronounce a final judgment on such a person; God already has. The man who commits adultery or some other such sin and protests that no one but God has a right to judge him as if that makes his actions acceptable does not understand that God has already shown Him the judgment he will receive, Galatians 5:19-21. Isn’t it fair, then, for me to say that the person who is living in sin will be judged by God for that sin; and the judgment is that he will not enter the kingdom of heaven?
It is a sad thing. The person wearing the t-shirt may be living a life of unrepentant sin. He protests that only God can judge him without realizing that God already has. The only way that judgment would be nullified is if he were to repent, something for which we should be working and praying.