I recently listened to a lesson that discussed and clarified one of the most well known bible verses in the world among both Christians and non-Christians. Did you think John 3:16? Because if you did, you’re wrong! Oh wait, the title might be a clue, that’s right… It’s Matthew 7:1-2, “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
How often do we use this verse against each other when we perceive that someone is being judgmental? Are we understanding judgement the way Jesus intended when He said these words? Whether you believe in God or Jesus or not, everyone knows and uses these words. Our society seems almost obsessed with whether or not people are being judgmental toward one another or groups of people. But what exactly does it mean to judge? It seems like simply disagreeing with someone means we must be judging them. Then there is the question of types of judgement. Is all judging bad?
Think about it this way. We have judges, magistrates, and mediators in our court systems. We have contest judges. We have instructors and trainers who judge and assess quality of work, learning or performance. Are these forms of judgement bad? If not, then what is the difference between these types of judging and the type of judging that Jesus was talking about in the verse above?
Jesus was not saying all types of judgement are bad. He spoke much of good and appropriate judging as well. Here is the main difference; right judgement is discernment and consideration, wrong judgement is condemnation and dismissal. Good judgement is taking all variables into account and drawing a conclusion about them based on truth, facts and wisdom. Bad judgement is jumping to a conclusion often based on assumptions and using your conclusions as a basis to demonize or reject a person. Even if facts are used, if the end result is condemnation and rejection, then that is the type of judgement about which Jesus was warning people.
It is very much like the instance when the religious leaders of Israel brought an adulteress to Jesus to test him and see if they could find a basis for accusing him. They said she had been caught in the act of adultery and that according to their law she must be stoned to death. They asked Jesus what they should do in this situation. But Jesus turned it back on them and essentially reminded them that they are not innocent of breaking the law either, and if they were to be truly honest, they would have to admit that they all deserved punishment under the law. He basically said that anyone who has never broken the law or had any involvement with wrong-doing can throw the first stone at her. He called out their hypocrisy of demanding she take a penalty that they were not willing to endure themselves for the wrongs they had done. Think of the implications if anyone there had dared to throw a stone. They would be saying that they were perfect, which in itself would be a lie. Not to mention, it would be the witnesses of the act who would likely start throwing first, but if she really was “caught in the act,” wouldn’t that imply they were peeping toms? Or even more hypocritical, the primary “witness” who could vouch that she was actively committing adultery would be the man with whom she was committing it. In which case, he would be deserving of death under their law as well. They tried to condemn her, but could not stand up under the measure by which they were issuing judgement. Jesus showed them first hand that they would have to answer to the same level of expectation and judgement as they were inflicting on the woman. Since they couldn’t claim innocence under that standard, they left, and Jesus showed the woman grace and forgiveness.
On the flip side though, “do not judge” does not mean, “tolerate everything.” It does not mean, “do nothing,” or “let people do whatever they want.” Remember, it is still very important to judge wisely using consideration and discernment. Judging another’s actions to be unhealthy, unethical or otherwise detrimental in some way does not mean we should stand idly by and let them continue. Jesus encouraged approaching one another in love in order to help them understand why what they are doing is not good. It is not for condemning, punishing or rejecting people. It is for helping people. Correction and discipline are given to those we love and care for. Those who receive correction and apply it can grow and improve their lives and potentially avoid a lot of future problems. Taking action in love is beneficial and kind, even if it doesn’t feel good at the time.
Bottom lines; just because a person disagrees with something or someone does not mean they are being judgmental or intolerant. When Jesus commanded, “do not judge,” he was not speaking about healthy criticism or correction, nor about assessing qualities or situational variables. He commanded to use those forms of judgement regularly and with care. When Jesus commanded, “do not judge,” he was referring to condemnation. Do not condemn or reject people, even if you disagree with them or don’t like them. It is not your job to put a label on them. Love and accept them as people with just as much value as yourself, and in kindness offer correction and criticism for their best good, and don’t forget to be open to receiving such correction from others.
Judge RIGHT: Consider & discern
Do not judge WRONG: Condemn & reject
This is how to follow Jesus.
Following Jesus does not mean you have to be Christian. Being Christian does not mean you are following Jesus. Christian should mean, “Christ-like,” but there’s a big difference between a labels and words and actually acting like Christ. As a believer or not, let’s come together and start following Jesus’ example!
Reference: Thank you to the pastors at Southeast Christian Church in Parker, CO for providing some of the content and clarification reviewed in this blog entry! www.southeastcc.org
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