But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire. [Matthew 5:22 ESV]
We are responsible for judging the intent of the thinking of our hearts. Outside of us only God can know what is in a person’s heart. He knows better than the person. Few are honest enough with themselves to know when their thinking and their hearts are bent toward evil or wickedness. Fewer allow guilt to drive them toward God. Without the forgiveness which comes through grace none could survive the conviction of sin. We must admit we sin before we will admit what our sins are. Those who refuse to admit what their sins are face God’s wrath.
Francis Schaeffer has suggested when someone is confronted with their sin and the enormous consequences of their sin they must do one of two things. Either they will go insane in trying to absolve themselves of the consequence through ignoring sin or they will commit suicide. We cannot live with guilt. Either we declare ourselves not guilty or we sentence ourselves to death. Schaeffer knows the third option is to acknowledge God and His ultimate authority and compassion for us through the sacrifice of His Son.
We are responsible for accepting or rejecting the grace offered by God. He commands all to receive His grace, to accept their guilt and admit the truth their death sentence has been fulfilled by the sacrifice of Christ.
From the beginning of man’s history, from Adam in the garden created in the image of God and given a realm in which to serve God, all are commanded to follow and obey Him. It does not matter that sin entered the world when it comes to obeying the commands of God. Sin is not an excuse for disobedience. Adam was commanded to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He was also given permission to eat from any other tree in the garden including the tree of life. Only after he willfully disobeyed God was he driven from the garden so he could not eat from the tree of life. Now all are commanded to eat from the tree of life, which is Christ, and live, but do not. Again, most in the world are in willful rebellion against God refusing to obey His explicit command.
Jeremiah, prophesying against the nation of Judah, compares those who are under God’s grace and know it and those who only think they are God’s yet rebel against Him.
Thus says the LORD:
Cursed is the man who trusts in man
and makes flesh his strength,
whose heart turns away from the LORD.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
in an uninhabited salt land.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it? I the LORD search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds. [Jeremiah 17:5-10 ESV]
God sees the evidence of the thinking of the heart in each person because He intimately knows each person. At the same time it is the responsibility of the individual to recognize the thinking of their own heart and accept responsibility for their thinking and actions. While the thinking of their hearts may be hidden from others their actions and the body language which accompanies their actions are never hidden. Others will see and form judgments based upon what they see. It is easy to judge others. Are we honest and discerning with ourselves concerning our own sin and guilt?
Obedience to God and right relationship with Him brings clarity. All judgment, in order for the judgment to be righteous, must be viewed through a Godly filter which recognizes sin and realizes the consequences of sin and followed by relinquishing control to God. Without doing these three steps, judgment, whether of self or of others, is arbitrary and sinful.
We are responsible for the intent of the thinking of our hearts. It is not our responsibility to judge the intent of the thinking of the hearts of others. It is our responsibility to be discerning, open to the counsel and instruction of the Spirit and confront sin where ever we find sin, whether in ourselves or in others. God commands we love Him and live according to truth. There are no other options.