Q. Why is judging considered wrong?
A. Only a few verses after Jesus says, “Judge not, so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1), he says “By their fruits you will know them” (i.e., the false teachers, Matthew 7:16). That tells us that “Judge not” is not an absolute prohibition. See, for instance, John 7:24, where Jesus commands, “Stop judging superficially. Instead, let your judging be righteous judgments.” When it comes to the teaching of Jesus Christ, we can’t pick and choose, remembering and quoting sayings we like and forgetting or neglecting those we don’t like. In fact, it’s the ones we want to avoid that we should be thinking about the most.
What Jesus seems to mean by “Judge not” is that judging others should not be the A-1 characteristic of your life. It shouldn’t be what people automatically think of when they think of you. You are not supposed to be God’s judge-Nazi, constantly condemning people of sin and taking on the job of drawing fine lines between what is sin and what isn’t.
What follows the rest of the verse, “…so that you will not be judged,” is, “For you yourself will be measured with the very measure you use on others.” How would you like it if people were always looking over your shoulder, ready to pounce on the tiniest mistake you made?
Like Jesus, our mission is not to condemn the world (John 3:17); the world is condemned already, and most people are fairly good at condemning themselves. God wants us to help save the world by sharing the gospel message and by living out the gospel in our lives. We can be faithful to our Lord, we can be loving and patient and gentle, without being self-appointed judges of everyone we meet.
Want to go deeper?
1. In Matthew 18:15-17, Jesus lays out a procedure for restoring someone caught up in persistent sinning. This involves judging, even to the point that you cut off having anything to do with them if they refuse all pleading. Yet this paragraph is within a context of sacrificial love, sandwiched between a good example to imitate—the shepherd who goes out to rescue the lost sheep (vv. 10-14)—and a bad example to avoid—a servant forgiven of a mountain of debt who won’t forgive a trifling amount owed to him (Matthew 18:21-35). Such a context transforms the judging paragraph so that it is a sincere expression of love, not a harsh and cold inquisition.
2. Paul says God has given Christians “the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). The term ‘reconciliation’ involves helping two who are at odds with each other to become friends, and in this context, non-Christians are the enemies of God we are trying to reconcile to Him.
God wants the friendship; He has gone to great lengths to bring it about, including permitting Jesus to carry out His saving mission of dying on the cross, becoming a sin offering for us so that we might receive God’s righteousness (v. 21).
Now God sends out all of us reconciled former enemies to bring in more to the Fellowship of Friends. Our message is, “We plead with you in behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!” (v. 20).
3. Check out this resource:
“Ten ways to confront with integrity and respect” by Tami Heim. This post is specifically directed toward online discussions of the Bible and other religious controversies. We all can use guidance in this area.
Now it’s your turn.
Do you agree that some judging is an important part of what it means to love others? Do you want to share a time when for a time you were a judge-Nazi? What got you out of that mind-set?
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