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Friday, May 20, 2016

Will God judge everyone by the same standard?

A guest post over at Ambassador Watch about the evidence (or lack thereof) available on the Web regarding allegations that a now deceased religious leader (Herbert Armstrong) was guilty of incest (during the early and formative years of his ministry) has generated a lot of commentary. It has also provoked a great deal of thought/reflection by this blogger. Of particular interest to me, was the fact that almost everyone who contributed to the discussion (ranging in opinion from guilty to not guilty - and somewhere in between) attempted to offer a rationale/set of standards for reaching the conclusion he/she arrived at.

That got me to thinking about the way that God judges. Hence, the question: Will God judge everyone by the same standard? I think that most Muslims, Jews and Christians would be inclined to answer that question in the affirmative. Of course, if you dug a little deeper into what that standard might be, you would most likely receive a wide range of opinions.

However, it would be hard for any Christian who professes any degree of confidence in Scripture to answer that question with anything but an emphatic NO! Why? Because it is apparent that many of the authors and characters of the Christian Bible (including Jesus Christ) believed that leaders would be held to a higher standard than the laity.

Jesus said that anyone who wanted to be a leader within the movement he founded would have to be the "servant of all." (Mark 9:36 & 10:44). He also is reported to have said that the scribes and Pharisees occupied Moses' place for that generation and would consequently "receive the greater damnation." (Matthew 23:1-14) Also, in the Parable of the Faithful Steward, Christ is quoted as saying: "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required..." (Luke 12:41-48) Christ had also apparently told his followers that they would be judged by the same standard they employed in judging others. (Matthew 7:2)

This same attitude regarding God differentiating between how the leadership of the community would be judged relative to the average Jack and Jill is evident in the writings of Paul and James. Paul said that he held himself to a higher standard so as to set a good example for others. Indeed, he wrote to the saints at Rome and Corinth that personal conviction and conscience would play a significant role in God's judgment. (Romans 14 & I Corinthians 8-10) Moreover, in his epistle to Timothy, he makes it very clear that leaders must meet a higher standard. (I Timothy 3:1-13) Finally, James said that people should be very careful about pursuing a position of leadership within the community because "we shall receive the greater condemnation" OR, as the NKJV renders it, "we shall receive a stricter judgment." (James 3:1)

In addition to these more stringent requirements for leaders, it is also reasonable to suppose that those folks would also be subject to the same instructions regarding proper Christian conduct which Paul offered to the Thessalonians to "abstain from all appearance of evil." (I Thessalonians 5:22) This fits with the qualifications for a bishop which I've already referenced: "he must have a good report of them which are without..." (I Timothy 3:7)

Hmmm, what do you think? Will Christian leaders be judged by the same standard as their flocks? Does God expect more from them?


  1. Merriam-Webster defines hearsay as "something heard from another person: something that you have been told." Is hearsay considered appropriate evidence for judging matters within the Christian community? Notice Paul's comments concerning allegations of incest within the Corinthian Church: "It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father's side. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed..." (I Corinthians 5:1-3)
    Paul was obviously elsewhere. He was not in Corinth at the time he wrote the letter. In other words, Paul had not personally witnessed the behavior in question. He clearly stated that he heard these reports from other individuals. Do you suppose any of the folks who reported this situation to Paul had actually witnessed the couple in question copulating? Would such reports be considered as acceptable evidence in a court of law? And yet Paul judged this information to be sufficient in determining that the individual in question should be excluded from the congregation! (I Corinthians 5:9-13)
    Is it legitimate to characterize someone who claims to have a higher threshold/standard for determining guilt than Paul (an apostle and author of Scripture) as self-righteous?

  2. I tried to go back and correct all of my phone's corrections before posting the above comment. Obviously, "side" should be "wife" in the quotation of Scripture.