In the really gripping stories, the bad guys have some secret weapon that seems to be overwhelmingly superior in strength to anything the good guys can muster, and with a bit of cunning, the enemy will surely thwart the good guys with their diabolical weapon. In these enthralling stories, the bad guys always have some powerful tool at their disposal that disables and immobilizes even the strongest hero. And while we know the good guys will win somehow, we never know how until nearly the end of the story.
How many times in your life have you had a well-intentioned conversation shut down with a simple, “Jesus said ‘Thou shalt not Judge”? It seems like “who are you to judge me” or “you christian people are so judgmental” is like Kryptonite for modern believers.
In our culture, if you feel the slightest bit uncomfortable with the direction of any conversation, simply cry out, “Don’t judge me” and like a blue-statically-fizzling-forcefield, you will be protected from a distasteful dialogue, you are instantly shielded from anything incriminating and you can go along your merry way. “Don’t judge” is your get-out-of-jail-free card, and oh, here’s your free $200 as you pass Go.
It seems like we are in quite a quandary. They have us up against the wall. Our hands seem tied. Their ace in the hole has, it seems, successfully stifled us. Who are we to judge? What gives us the right to point out the faults in others? Maybe they are right, and we should just mind our own business.
After all, didn’t Jesus clearly say, “Don’t Judge” and didn’t He say something about getting the log out of your own eye before you go fumbling around, swatting at a speck of dust in someone else’s eye? Of course He did. And isn’t it ironic that people will point to one prohibition from Jesus, that being don’t judge, to justify a lifestyle that elsewhere, had they bothered to read, Jesus would clearly denounce? Yes it is.
My goal isn’t to let anyone off the hook here; judgmental people have issues they need to deal with, and the people being “corrected” for messing up their lives have serious issues to fix too. Perhaps the missing piece for most people is the vulnerability factor. Whenever we go down the road of pointing out the faults in others, we invite in some critiquing of ourselves as well. Which after all, is not only fair, it should also be welcomed, as Proverbs 27:17 points out, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Let’s see if we can reconcile this conundrum about do we judge or do we keep our lips sealed, and let’s see if we can remain inline with the heart of Jesus along the way.
Let’s look at what Jesus actually said in Matthew 7:1-6,
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you.”
Number one, there are ways to address people who are screwing up their lives without being critical or harsh or hateful. And frankly, if someone is on the train-tracks and a train is about to run them over, we have an obligation to warn them about the direction they are headed. So, yes, just like the saying, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk,” if we care about someone, sometimes we do have to interject ourselves. Remember, James writes, ” My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” (James 5:19-20)
Also, Jesus’ famous statement “don’t judge” comes within the context where He warns about pigs and dogs, and pearls such things, in other words He requires we make judgement calls about situations and people, without sentencing them eternally. There is a difference between judging someone and making a judgement call. Judging someone entails we know their status with God, and we are assigning them their eternal status in heaven or hell. Making a judgment call, on the other hand, is pointing out an observation on an objective fact without playing God. See the difference?
The “don’t judge me” phrase being tossed around these days forgets, we do have the obligation to discern good from evil, safe from harmful, right from wrong, and this is in the context that we need to do a little self-checking along the way. Jesus never forbids or prohibits us from stating the obvious, He simply says make sure your own lifestyle reflects someone with credibility. Be someone worth listening to. Don’t miss it, Jesus said once your log is out of the way, you’ll see clearly enough to help remove that irritating speck of sawdust from your brother’s eye.
Brother’s eye. Brother’s eye? Does this mean this passage is built on the relationships between believers, and those outside the church aren’t even at stake here? Wouldn’t that be judgmental too, though? Paul wrote in Romans 6:20, “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.” Yet, if someone is outside of Christ, don’t they deserve to hear about His saving grace? From Jude 1:22-23, it looks like yes, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” Perhaps christians should be held to higher standards, but everyone deserves a shot at life.
One thing is clear here, our standards which we have for others will be held up for us to uphold. If we expect perfection from others, Jesus may just expect that out of us. Also, it seems like it’s human nature to point out other people’s mistakes while ignoring our own, this may be one of our greatest character flaws. But also notice, this whole paragraph requires we recognize the significance of sins, i.e., lesser & greater wrongs summed up as sawdust & logs. And, we need to be cautious with whom we distribute holiness to and with whom we share our jewels with. Events could turn bad quickly, and we could be endangered instantaneously if we are unable to make a judgement call.
So, you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a christian who lives like a hypocrite and call out the sins in others, and, you also can’t live like a reprobate pagan and quote Jesus only on the “don’t you judge me” verse. If you want to help others live holier lives, set the example. If you want to use Jesus’ phrase about not judging others, you need to accept the rest of His teachings as well, which call us to submit to Him and live lives of holiness.
The reality of it is, there are consequences from our actions and attitudes. When we live in sinful lifestyles and when we are judgmental, we suffer and other people suffer. I could be wrong, but I think Jesus teaches in this passage that being judgmental might just forfeit our own salvation. I doubt I’m wrong about this, but I’m fairly certain that Jesus teaches several times in the Gospels sin is bad because sin separates us from the Father.
Everyone seems to think Jesus will condone whatever course of action they see fit, at the time. Would Jesus condemn a critical person’s judging of another? Yes, absolutely. Would Jesus let the one being judged off of the hook because they got “judged” by some bible-thumper? Hardly.
Maybe, if we showed more respect, lived lives that displayed unconditional love, and freely offered forgiveness, maybe people would ask us for advice or help more often? And, maybe if we didn’t make stupid choices, people wouldn’t feel obligated to point out our mistakes. Ouch.
Consistency, that’s usually what’s missing whenever we take the words of Jesus out of context and seek license to live however we want or treat others however we want. Seek for better consistency, and maybe you’ll gain the credibility you desire. I’m pretty sure consistency is the way we disarm the evil one’s secret weapon. Now, do we cut the blue wire or the red wire…?