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Be Careful About Condemning

Somepeople assert the mistaken notion none of us ever has a right to judge anyone for anything. But I've noticed they will quickly judge you as judgmental if you do! The non-judgers attempt to bolster that erroneous view by quoting Jesus in Matthew 7:1: "Judge not, that you be not judged." The Lord did say that, and He meant it. But many who quote Jesus here don't mean what He meant. How so? They quote only part of His teaching and divorce it from the clear and forceful verses that follow. Read Matthew 7 verses 1-6 to get the full context of the "do not judge" statement. As you do it becomes clear that the judging Jesus forbids is a hypercritical spirit — religious speck-inspectors who make it their business to go around gouging in other people's eyes (lives), condemning others for the tiny specks that are, indeed, there. Meanwhile the hyper-critic has a floor joist sticking out of his own eye! What a word picture to help us understand we ought not to put ourselves in charge of micro-managing other people's lives, carelessly condemning their tiny faults with no consideration of major faults in our own lives. And yet you will note Jesus turns right around and calls on us in this same text to do some judging. We have to judge if a fault is a "speck" or a "plank" (vs 3-5). And, according to verse 6, we have to judge whether someone is a 'dog" or a "swine" as we discuss spiritual truth with them (read the text)! Meanwhile in John 7:24 Jesus said this: "Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment." The idea that we ought not to ever judge anybody for anything is a judgement in itself, but not a right one. What Jesus taught is that we ought not to be hyper-critical, eager to condemn others.

An incident involving a woman caught in adultery in John 8:1-11 reminds us of the need to judge like Jesus and be slow to condemn. Scribes and Pharisees in that text wanted to stone the woman. After all, she was guilty of adultery, and Moses' law said she ought to be stoned. But Jesus challenged the one who was without sin to throw the first stone, and the Bible said that one by one they were convicted by their own conscience and walked away. Jesus Himself acknowledged the woman was guilty when He told her to "go and sin no more" — but in mercy He also told her He would not condemn her. He later died on a cross so that neither she nor those so eager to condemn her would have to be condemned. (Romans 8:1)

An anonymous poem challenges us to be careful about condemning — I was shocked, confused, bewildered As I entered Heaven's door, Not by the beauty of it all, By the lights or its decor. But it was the folks in heaven Who made me sputter and gasp, People I knew wouldn't make it, People I considered trash. There stood the kid from 7th grade Who swiped my lunch money twice. Next to him my mean old neighbor Who never said anything nice. Leroy, who I always thought, Was rotting away in hell, Was sitting pretty on cloud nine, Looking incredibly well. I asked Jesus, "What's the deal? I want to hear Your take - How'd all these sinners get up here? God must have made a mistake. And why's everyone so quiet, So somber. Please give me a clue." He said, "Hush, child, they're all in shock. No one thought they'd see you."

"There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?" (James 4:12)

Dan Gulley
Smithville church of Christ