There is a great deal of hue and cry in the world today about judgmentalism. We are told, for example, that there are certain lifestyle choices that we may not say are sin, or in some cases even talk about at all, in spite of the fact that Scripture condemns such choices. And in support of the notion that we should accept as simply a fact of life what the Bible calls sin, people are quick to quote Jesus in Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”
So what does it mean, “Do not judge”? Are we not supposed to be living our lives in opposition to sin? May we have nothing to say to a world that is dying around us? How are we to live in light of Jesus very clear command?
So, a few questions to guide our discussion.
1)Who has the authority to judge?
The answer is the same entity that had the authority to create the laws or rules. The NFL writes its rules and provides the referees who are empowered to judge play on the field. Our Government, which draws its authority ultimately from us, creates laws and appoints judges to administer them.
Jesus spoke on the same subject when he was asked about paying taxes to Caesar. He was careful to note that whoever made the laws had the power to judge as well. His application of the principle was clear and powerful, “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s.”
If we are speaking about the laws of God, or if we are talking about being Citizens of the Kingdom of God, who wrote the rules and who gets to Judge? Did we write the rules? Were we there before the foundations of the world? Then by what authority do we judge? Do we even have the authority to judge ourselves?
2) What exactly is judgment?
In the context of Jesus’ sermon I think I know what he meant. Remember the sermon was a categorical refutation of Pharisaical Judaism. One of the things the Pharisees were masters at was deciding who was in and who was out of the Kingdom based on the rules as they understood them. The rules to the Pharisees were not just what was in the Torah, the rules encompassed thousands of pages of commentary on the Torah as well. The question of what constituted work on the Sabbath (a rule which Jesus constantly ran afoul of) was extremely complicated in their mind. They argued about when the Sabbath started and ended and what constituted work. And while they could not agree on such a simple thing they were still quick to declare those who was in and who was out of the Kingdom.
So I think he was using judgment in sense of condemnation not in the sense of discernment. Had the Pharisees been using the scripture to discern how they ought to be living their lives, to be able to tell the difference between sin and not sin, Jesus would have had no problem. But condemnation was another matter. Even Jesus said of himself in John 3:17, “For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.”
3) So must we just accept sin when we see it?
If we have read scripture and understood what sin is, then the first place Jesus wants us to apply it is in our own lives. Have we done that? Have we made an honest appraisal of our relationship with God and are we doing what we ought? My suggestion is that if we have insured our relationship with God is in order, then we will not have to worry about our relationship with others. Our love for God and his overwhelming love for us will work itself out in those relationships as well.
But how would that relationship look? After we have honestly appraised ourselves (note that is not cleaned up our lives or become perfect or judged ourselves), we have an obligation to offer the Wisdom of the Kingdom, in love, to those who will accept it. That is the point of the pearls before swine comment. We are not to prejudge those who will or won’t receive the message of the Kingdom, but we are not to force it on those who show no inclination to accept.