Easy Christianity

11. Judge Not!

We are the tolerant society. Nothing much angers us any more. Nothing, that is, except someone who is not as tolerant as we are! We can tolerate anything except the person who won't tolerate anything! No wonder our favorite Bible verse is Matthew 7:1, "Judge not that ye be not judged."

The new "unpardonable sin" is "judging." What a blessing this "new commandment" is to "Easy Christianity." Hypocrites can flaunt their violations of the Word of God and yet parade unchallenged as Christians. No one dares call them hypocrites for ("Oh, Horrors!") that would be "judging them."

Tell anyone nowadays that he or someone else is doing wrong and you will be immediately rebuked, "Don't Judge!" Is such a use of this verse proper? It clearly is not.

It can't mean that we must give up all spiritual discernment in order to be "loving Christians." Five verses later Jesus says, "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine" (Matthew 7:6). This command assumes the exercise of spiritual discernment. A few verses later Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets...You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:15,16,20). Again Jesus demands spiritual discernment. In Jesus' view it is not "judging" to conclude that someone is a false prophet.

Is it, perhaps, our duty to keep such discerning conclusions to ourselves in order to avoid "judging"? Emphatically not! Matthew 7:1 does not teach that it is sinful to confront and, if necessary, publicly expose evil. If this were so, how could Jesus say, "And if you brother sins, go and reprove him...?" How could Jesus go on to say, "And if he refuses to listen...tell it to the church"? (Matthew 18:15,17). How could Jesus' apostle, Paul, say, "Do you not judge those who are within the church?...Remove the wicked man from among yourselves" (1 Corinthians 5:12,13).

Matthew 7:1 does not forbid us either to form or express our opinions about such hypocrites. Jesus expressed such an opinion in this very passage. In Matthew 7:5 He said, "You hypocrite." John the Baptist expressed his opinion of the Pharisees publicly to their faces, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" (Matthew 3:7). We must do the same. Jesus in this very chapter (Matthew 7:15,16,20) commanded, "Beware of false prophets...you will know them by their fruits."

It's time for Christians to stop being bound by such false interpretation and to start dealing with sin. "Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with them" (Proverbs 28:4)

So what does Matthew 7:1 mean? In this context, Jesus is forbidding forming or expressing conclusions about others by those who won't see or deal with their own sins. Matthew 7:3-5 says, "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?...You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to take the speck out of your brother's eye."

If, on the basis of Matthew 7:1, you refuse to form and express (when necessary) moral opinions, you are confessing your refusal to see and deal with your own sins. The refusal to exercise moral discernment is a confession of moral bankruptcy! May God embolden you to stop tolerating sin in yourself and others, to your hurt and to theirs!

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Bill Newcomer, Webservant. Send comments to: mrbill@vor.org. Original WWW publication December A.D. 1995. Moved to vor.org, November, A.D. 1996.