Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged."

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

I preached last night on one of my favorite verses. I love Matthew 11:28 and I often draw strength from that verse when I’m feeling the weariness of a very busy schedule. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Isaiah 40:31 is similar and is another one of my favorites, “But those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I love to hear others share their favorite verses and tell why they are favorites. But, what I’ve observed lately is that you don’t have to be a Christian to have a favorite verse. Even heathens seem to know the Bible. Perhaps the favorite verse of those who are pagan comes from Matthew 7. Verse 1 which reads, “Judge not that you be not judged.” This verse becomes a shield of defense for those who refuse to look honestly at their own beliefs or behavior.

We live in a culture that refuses to accept absolutes. Every decision and behavior is judged in relative terms. “What’s right for you may not be right for me.” The idea that there is a collection of absolute truths in a divine book is unacceptable and threatening to unbelievers. It is impossible to lead another to Christ if they fail to see their need to come to Christ. They will never see a need if they never honestly see themselves as sinful beings. Christ was very upfront when it came to talking about sin because he knew the first step to salvation is admitting sin. When they feel themselves being drawn to consider their sinfulness they pull out the Matthew 7:1 card.

Christians don’t often understand Matthew 7:1 and so when confronted they generally turn another direction. Isn’t it interesting that if you continue to read in the very same chapter (v.6) Jesus says, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine”. If Jesus is demanding that we not judge in verse one is he not clearly declaring we must judge in verse 6? If we are to obey the admonition in this verse we must make a determination if someone is a dog or if someone is a pig.

The true meaning of verse one is NOT that we cannot make a discernment regarding another person. We must use insight to make determinations regarding others lest we make an assumption that all of mankind is right with God and there is no need to evangelize. Christ left his disciples with a great commission, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." How could that commission ever be carried out if we were incapable of determining who is and who is not Christian? Christ taught clearly that we can be fruit inspectors. “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” – Matthew 12:33.

Matthew 7:1 means that we are not to set ourselves up as the final judge of another. We are not to play God. We are not to trespass into that realm that belongs to God alone. The final determination regarding one’s relation to God can never be decide by anyone but God. In that sense, we are never to judge another. But, it is obvious by the context of the chapter that Christ never intended to take from us our ability to discern, in fact, he is teaching that we must foster our skills of discernment.

There are no gray areas here. Christ taught that the fruit is either good or bad. There is no in between. We are either children of God or we are not. When it comes to Christianity, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

The issue is not so much whether we can or cannot make determinations regarding another, the issue is usually that when we do make those determinations they must be done in a Christ-like manner. Christ didn’t mince any words when he let others know where they stood, but he always did it in a most loving and merciful way. We must endeavor to do as Christ did.

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