Matthew 7:1-3: “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged. 3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye[c] when you have a log in your own?
“Judge not” is one of the most popular Bible verses in our society, especially among non-Christians.
It seems to fit in with two of our society’s most basic assumptions that—(1) religion is private, and (2) morality is relative.
People love “judge not” because it seems to be a handy way of saying, “You can’t tell me I’m wrong.” Begin to make a public assessment on just about any moral issue, and you’ll see this verse swiftly pulled out as a deflective weapon.
The problem is, Jesus—the one who uttered the words—didn’t share our presuppositions about private religion and relative morality. He was constantly making public judgments, many of them rather striking.
In John 7:7, he told his disciples that the world hates him “because I testify about it that its works are evil.” So he couldn’t have meant that we’re all supposed to just throw up our hands and say, “Hey, to each his own. Who am I to judge?”
You judge someone not when you assess their position but when you dismiss them as a person.
Jesus told people that their works were evil. Yet John 3:17 says that God didn’t send Jesus to condemn the world, but to save it. There is a difference between speaking a harsh truth and condemning.
Condemning goes beyond saying, “This is wrong,” to saying, “I don’t want you around anymore.”
It’s what you do after you tell someone the truth that determines whether or not you are condemning—a.k.a. judging—them. When Jesus told us the harsh truth about our sin, he brought us close. He made us, even as sinners, his friends.
The antidote to judging others is to remember the gospel. Here are some signs you’re judging others (because you’ve forgotten the gospel).
You are judging others if:
1. You are more enraged at someone else’s sin than you are embarrassed by your own.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer said that one of the first signs of Christian maturity is a frustration with the hypocrisy of the church and a desire to separate from it.
But the next sign of growth is recognizing that the same hypocrisy in the church is present in oneself. We continue to confront others in their sin, but always while being painfully aware of our own.
2. You refuse to forgive (or when you forgive, you refuse to forget).
To refuse to forgive someone is to be almost entirely ignorant of the enormity of what God has forgiven you. And to “forgive but not forget” is, as I’ve heard it said, “a distinction without a difference.” It’s just another way of saying, “I’m going to remind you of this all the time and use it as justification for being cold toward you.” In other words, it’s not forgiveness at all.
Forgiveness means absorbing the debt and offering love and goodness in return.