We live in an era and society where ideal community standards have been chopped and customised to suit our own needs. Gone are the days where men have to wear certain clothes, or women have to behave in a certain manner. Some are great, but some are regrettable. This sense of freedom needs to be coupled with a level of wisdom. The mantra of ‘thou shalt not judge’ has been used as a blanket ‘magic phrase’ so much – either within the Christian circles or beyond – so that nobody can rebuke or correct anymore. This has an after-effect of silencing those who can and should rebuke and correct. Christians often forget that verses such as Luke 17:3 and Matthew 18:15 actually encourage us to correct and rebuke each other. Various verses in Proverbs talk about disciplining and how we should not run away from it. Where love is used as the excuse to permit all kinds of behaviour, that standard is broken down even further. Proverbs 29:18 warns that where there is no vision or Godly revelation, the people perish and run amok.
A good discernment – in other words, a good judgment – is actually encouraged in one part of Jesus’ sermons. In Matthew 7:16-20, He says, “You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” This is a good condition for us to filter who we should choose as our mentor, teacher, leader or adviser. Otherwise, how will we know whether they are false teachers or not? Look at his or her life. See the kind of fruit they have produced – beyond what they say they have done. Of course, it’s challenging to cast such judgment upon us, as we may say, “Hang on a minute! Don’t judge me now, but come back and see me next year – or the year after – or three years from now … My life is still a bit messy now but I’m working on something good.”
Sure. That may be true.
However, however long we have lived – whether it’s 17, 34 or 57 – surely we have produced some fruit already. We should be able to see this, especially if we entrust our education or guidance from the person(s). Scrutinise and look at their life, check and discern their fruit. Otherwise, another situation springs to mind when Jesus curses the fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 for not bearing fruit – whether the tree is in or out of season.
You may ask the same question to me. I can’t be an objective judge of what I have done, as either I would be too harsh on myself or I may see things more positively than what you discern. However, I hope and pray that you can see and judge the fruit of my labour. So, before we follow somebody just because he or she looks great, is well-known, sounds nice, or are great mates, judge and discern what kind of fruit that they have produced so far. This is also why as Christians, we are encouraged to rebuke and correct each other – as well as love one another – so that together we can all bear good fruits. By keeping an eye on each other – being corrected and correcting each other – we can also be sure that we are keeping the direction that we should take.
Loving without correcting or rebuking only produces immaturity – and following somebody and disregarding what kind of fruit they produce, could lead us away from where we think we’ll go.