A Clear Vision
Years ago, the best-known text in Scripture was John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ But today, another verse has surpassed this much beloved verse recounting God’s love for sinful humanity. Any guess which Scripture that might be?
Today, the best-known passage (among non-believers) might be Matthew 7:1, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’
Strangely, however, our airwaves and our personal conversations are laden with criticism and invective, yet we also claim to be opposed to judging others. We declare that no one should tell anyone else how to live, and that no one should impose his or her standards on others. ‘Judge not’ is the sort of statement that our culture eagerly embraces, obviously without bothering to discover precisely what Jesus meant by it.
So, what does Jesus mean when he says, “Judge not, that you be not judged”?
We will first consider what this text does not say. It certainly does not command the sons of God, the disciples of Jesus, to be as D.A. Carson writes, ‘amorphous, undiscerning blobs who never under any circumstance whatsoever hold any opinions about right and wrong.’ Carson continues,
“Are we to say nothing about the rights and wrongs of a Hitler, a Stalin, a Nixon? of adultery, economic exploitation, laziness, deceit? The New Testament itself excludes such a fatuous interpretation. A few verses on, the Lord Jesus himself alludes to certain people as pigs and dogs (7:6) – some sort of negative judgment has certainly taken place! A little further on, Jesus warns, ‘Watch out for false prophets. They came to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves’ (7:15). By these words Jesus not only labels certain teachers with the most damning epithets, but demands that his followers recognize such teachers for what they are; and that is certainly an exercise which requires the use of discriminating faculties.”
What then does Jesus mean by his imperative (command) in Matthew 7:1, ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged’? Much of the confusion here is resolved when we consider the meaning of the word translated ‘judge’ this coming Sunday. But, in advance, Carson provides a hint noting, ‘it is perhaps worth adding that Matthew 7:1 forbids judgmentalism, not moral discernment.’
In addition, we will consider the converse danger to the one treated by our Lord in Matthew 7:1-5: the danger of being undiscriminating. It is easy to see how this danger arises. The disciple of Jesus has been told to love his neighbor as himself, and to love his enemies. He is to mirror God’s graciousness, the God who even-handedly sends his rain upon both the just and the unjust. He has just been told never to adopt a judgmental mentality. As a result, ‘he is in chronic danger of becoming wishy-washy, of refusing legitimate distinctions between truth and error, good and evil. He may even try to treat all men in exactly the same way, succumbing to a remarkable lack of discrimination,’ notes Carson.
So, after warning us against judgmentalism, Jesus warns us against being undiscriminating, especially in our choice of people to whom we present the wonderful riches of the gospel. Perhaps now we can understand why Jesus ends this paragraph urging us to persistence in prayer.
Join us this coming Lord’s Day as we look at the basic relationships of a church community. Come and grow in grace with us. See you Sunday.