Judge Not

Jesus warned us not to judge others. His specific warning was that if we judge others we will be judged.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

Despite this instruction I find many Christians who think nothing of passing judgement on others. Criticism, fault finding, and condemning seem to be a natural part of culture in many places. It is seen as right that one should point out the faults of others.

This is most notable in the political arena. If those in government have a plan or proposal those in opposition seem duty bound to condemn it. If those in opposition have a plan or criticism those in government seem duty bound to attack and condemn it.

In our polarised culture we have our political divide, with left and right wing ideas, but they are further split among themselves. In science and philosophy we have people taking sides and denigrating others who disagree with them.

The same is true in ethics and morality and many other areas as well.

Thus it is easy for us to learn to be critical and not only judge others but condemn them.

Another dimension of this is spite, where we want to see something negative happen to those who oppose us or who we oppose. People can be terribly unkind in their attitude toward those who offend them or who they see as opposing them and their values.

Jesus’ instruction about not judging and not condemning is part of the bigger picture of blessing those who we would naturally oppose, such as enemies and those who curse us. God is not spiteful and is willing to bless those who hate Him. Jesus calls us to be like our Heavenly Father, and to bless everyone, including those who are our enemies and who hate us.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Luke 6:27,28

“Love your enemies, do good to them, and lend without expecting anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because He is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.” Luke 6:35,36

God allows sunlight and rain to be as generously given to lands where He is hated. God is not spiteful. God calls everyone to repentance, even those we might feel don’t deserve forgiveness.

What gets in the way for us is our tendency to judge others and condemn them. This is what Christ calls us to abandon.

Yes people hate us. Yes people try to do us harm. Yes there are terrible people who do terrible things and who are a threat to us. However, how we respond in our heart toward them is important. If we respond with bitter unforgiveness, spite and condemnation then we are like the wicked.

If we respond with love and seek to bless those who hate us we respond like God.

A key reason for us to respond as God does is given by Jesus further along in his talk about loving our enemies.

“Give, and it will be given to you, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. The measure you use will be used on you.” Luke 6:38

You determine how you are to be treated. If you forgive you will be forgiven. If you judge you will be judged. If you condemn you will be condemned. The measure you use is the one that will be used on you.

Jesus applied this same idea in a practical situation when a woman caught in adultery was brought to Him. Jesus did not oppose stoning the woman, since that was what Moses set in Jewish law. But Jesus added the dimension of our personal stake in the matter when He said those who were sinless should be first to execute the judgement.

“So when they continued asking him, Jesus lifted up himself, and said to them, He that is without sin among you, let him be the first to cast a stone at her.” John 8:7

Jesus challenged them to recognise that if you judge you will be judged. If you choose to kill and condemn those who do wrong then what are you setting up for yourself? Are you perfect? Can you survive being judged and condemned?

Missionary Heidi Baker shares how God challenged her about judging. On one of those occasions when God was challenging her heart over her attitudes she felt God call her on how she judged others. She realised she judged wealthy Christians for not putting their money into needs such as she had with her missionary work. God challenged her that because she was judging them God had to judge her and the judgement was that she would be cut off from the resources of these wealthy Christians.

Her testimony shows how she was judged, cut off from the very thing she wanted, and cut off from those she judged.

Taking that as one way God fulfils His word “you will be judged” it may well be that you are cut off from benefits you would receive from those you judge.

Do you judge your parents, or your children, then find you are cut off from them? Do you find that the things you really want from them are elusive, and only harden your judgement of them? This could be the ‘judge and you will be judged’ cycle at work in your life.

Do you judge other Christians and other churches? Do you judge your government and various government officials?

Do you judge your family and friends? Do you judge your spouse?

Do you judge others in your church or even your pastor or church leaders? Do you judge God?

I challenge you to stop and take stock of what is happening in your heart. You may be the victim of your own sin of judging. Christ warned you, but because of our critical culture you may have allowed yourself to live as the heathen do and not realised the seriousness of Christ’s words.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:37

Addendum: Take note of the distinction between ‘judging’ and ‘discerning’. We are not to judge, but that does not mean we do not perceive things about people. We are not to ignore people’s faults and pretend they aren’t there, but we are to respond to them without bringing judgement upon them ourselves. My daughter Sophia came up with a lovely way to separate the ideas of discerning from judging by seeing our role as that of the ‘jury’, not the ‘judge’. The jury is meant to truthfully and accurately determine whether someone is at fault, but the jury does not do the sentencing or perform any penalty.

We may accurately discern a person’s anger, pride, greed, immorality, or the like, but we are not to take the role of judge against that person.

When we take an attitude of condemnation, spite, vengeance, intolerance, resentment or bitterness, or the like, against one who is out of order we have broken Christ’s instruction that we Judge Not.

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