by Richard Mansel, managing editor
In former times, John 3:16 was the most favored verse of Scripture. In our post-modern age, though, we find another verse taking its place.
Often it is angrily hurled at Christians as a poisoned arrow to invoke silence and an end to scrutiny. It is “judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1, NKJV) and its popularity evidences a lack of understanding of what Matthew intended and the increasing immorality of our society.
Judging is not inherently wrong because the Bible tells us that it is, in some situations, required. Courts must judge whether a crime has been committed (Romans 13). Churches must judge whether a member has become disorderly and between sound and false teachers (1 Corinthians 15:1-13; 2 Peter 2:1; Titus 3:10,11; 1 John 4:1).
What people often mean when they hurl this charge is that they feel indicted by something Christians have said or taught and they don’t want to hear it any longer. They do not want anyone telling them they are committing sinful acts.
They want to be able to commit sin without the pangs of guilt. In some cases, their conscience has not yet been trained to appease their feelings.
Forbidden judging puts the worst possible interpretation on the actions of another. We make everyone guilty until proven innocent through hasty, unfounded and slanderous judgment.
Moreover, we must separate someone from their sin. They are a soul made in the image of God that is in need of love and salvation. We should not unjustly judge others, because we may not have all the facts.
Once there was a young man on a passenger train holding an angry baby. An impatient passenger could no longer tolerate the crying infant and demanded to know where the child’s mother was so she could silence the child. Wearily, the young man informed him that the child’s mother was in a coffin in the baggage car and she would never again hold her baby.
Years ago a dog and a child went off into the woods and failed to return that night. As morning came, the parents were forming a search party to find the child when the dog limped into the yard, covered in blood. Furious, the father shot the dog. Later, they found the boy sitting next to the wolf that the family dog had killed to save the child. The dog had simply been coming for help now that the danger was past.
When we commit unrighteous judgment we are judging people by a standard that God will not use to judge us. For example, God will not judge us based on the color of our skin, national heritage, age, gender, intelligence, or level of wealth.
Accordingly, we cannot judge someone’s worth based on these criterion.
“For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged: and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you” (Matthew 7:2).
No one would want to be judged on the day of judgment on the standards we use for others. Would we want a rumor or prejudice to decide our eternal destiny? Instead, we will be judged by the Word of God who knows everything (John 12:48; Revelation 20:11-15).
We need to develop a loving nature and see unrighteous judging as the despicable practice that it is. Furthermore, we need to practice the golden rule and treat others as we would like to be treated.
Of course, no one would dare pretend this is easy to do because it goes against the failings of human nature. However, God’s people are supposed to be transformed and able to rise above the sins of mankind (Romans 12:1-2).